Switching schools can be stressful, especially if that switch takes place midway through the year. Fortunately, Oliverian’s counseling team is equipped to ease the transition.
Many students enter Oliverian feeling anxious or overwhelmed — after all, they’re teenagers, and they may be away from home for the first time. But for students who transfer to Oli midway through the school year, those feelings are often compounded by a sense of loneliness, or the feeling that they’re late to the party. Not only are they going through a monumental and potentially difficult transition, they’re entering at a time when most other students have already cemented their friend groups and started to feel at home.
Here at Oli, we understand how isolating and difficult a mid-year transfer can be. That’s why we have robust resources in place to ease that transition. One of those resources is our counseling department, which goes above and beyond to ensure that each student feels heard and cared for from the moment they arrive on campus.
According to Director of Student Support Julie Tracy-Prieboy, the Oli counseling department provides “scaffolding” — or support and encouragement on multiple levels — to new students. “We know that it’s going to be difficult, and it’s important to be honest about those struggles on the front end,” Tracy-Prieboy explains. “So we have scaffolding already in place to support that transition.”
The counseling department’s support begins before a new student even steps on campus. Tracy-Prieboy and her colleagues reach out to incoming transfer students prior to their arrival to ensure they’re aware of all of Oliverian’s counseling resources and how to access them if needed. “We also make sure to spend extra time doing crossover calls with the existing therapeutic provider so that the student feels as connected as possible with the therapist they’ll be working with at Oli,” she says.
In addition, the counseling department will conduct informal interviews with incoming transfer students about their interests and preferred activities. This way, Oli will be able to facilitate students’ involvement in campus life from the second they arrive. “We try to provide opportunities for kids to be hopeful about Oliverian really quickly,” Tracy-Prieboy says. “We often integrate students into activities they’ll enjoy without them even realizing that we did.”
After the student has arrived on campus, the counseling department will partner with dorm parents and academic advisors to help facilitate a smooth academic and social transition. “That means the counselor, dorm parents, and academic advisor are all going to make sure that we get we the new students involved so that they’re feeling integrated socially,” says Tracy-Prieboy. “We’ll often pair these students with a peer mentor, as well.”
The new student will also be enrolled in Oliverian’s ongoing counseling program, which typically consists of a weekly individual hour-long session with a counselor. However, for new students, the program is more flexible; as they get to know their new counselor, they may not feel comfortable with a full hour of one-on-one time yet. Session duration and frequency can be adjusted as needed, and counselors are available 24/7 should a student feel that they need extra support due to a crisis or perceived crisis need.
Parents can help ease their child’s mid-year transition to Oliverian with proactive preparation. Tracy-Prieboy advises that parents communicate with any existing care providers to make sure there aren’t any gaps in care when the student first arrives at Oli. That will require checking that prescriptions are refilled and up-to-date, transferring records as soon as possible, and communicating with staff at Oli early on.
Parents also need to be aware that students may be quite homesick when they first arrive at Oli. Consider talking to your child about what items they can bring from home that will comfort them when they’re away. A favorite stuffed animal from childhood or a collection of family photos may help an unfamiliar dorm feel a little more like home. As Tracy-Prieboy says, “we want to get a student to a place where they’re more comfortable in a setting, and then they’re able to recognize that they’re going to be okay.”