Being Back Here
Particularly in the cases of College, Medical, and conditional Dean’s Leaves, the Deans weigh your request for permission to return very intentionally. A decision to permit you to return means that the available evidence suggests you are well positioned to fulfill your potential at Haverford.
Nevertheless, students have a variety of experiences in returning to college. Many will resume positive old routines and will soon perform academically as well as (or better than) they ever did. However, most students will need to navigate through a period of adjustment. For many, this will be brief, but it will take others a semester to fully realize the benefits of being away and to feel they are ready to fly more autonomously.
Returning students should try to be as aware of—but not fixated on—the rhythm of the semester as should current students:
- in the first week or two, it can feel exhilarating, if strange, to be back in the swing of things;
- then it starts to get busier and busier, and as it does, students can start to feel some stress from the sudden increase of velocity and expectation;
- in the weeks before and immediately following the mid-semester break, it can feel as though one is constantly catching up;
- as the next quarter begins, the same pattern that prevailed in the first quarter begins to recur.
This rhythm, which is normal if challenging, can sometimes shake the confidence of returning students. In addition, if the first few grades are not what returning students had anticipated, this can also shake their confidence since it is natural to assume that being ready to return means that everything is going to be absolutely fine from hereon.
We mention this because knowing what might happen can insulate you from dismay and setback and will instead enhance your resilience. In addition, there are ways to ensure that the potential challenges of being back here do not impede your ability to begin performing as you can:
Your Dean would be more than willing to set up check-in meetings with you over the course of the semester. These informal and wholly voluntary meetings will give you an opportunity to sound out your Dean about whether what you are experiencing sounds normal and, if it is not, then they help you develop a strategy for responding to the challenges you face.
Many students feel uncomfortable with this suggestion, as they assume that scheduling such meetings might imply that you or we anticipate that things will not go well. However, “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure,” and our experience is that students will sometimes wait too long, until they think something is indisputably wrong, before they consult their Deans. In contrast, it is simply normal and prudent to seek advice and perspective proactively, and not just when things are already somehow going in a worrisome direction.
In addition, if you have an appointment with your Dean and there is nothing to report, or if you have nothing but good news, then fine, as it will take only a few minutes of our time, and sharing good news can be reaffirming. Setting up periodic check-in meetings with your Dean during your first semester is, in short, very low-cost insurance against the possibility that small bumps susceptible to easy fixes might turn into thornier problems.
Set appropriate expectations. Haverford is a very challenging college, everyone experiences a process of building on their strengths progressively here, progress is incremental, not linear, and everyone hits bumps. Savor your victories and learn from them. Nothing is ever perfect, and the business of better approximating our potential typically takes time. If you happen to do extremely well, and all goes without encountering any significant challenges, fine, but if not, recognize bumps for what they are: merely temporary impediments that need to be surmounted by dispassionately making aggressive use of all help resources.
As this implies, help resources—your Dean, your advisor, the OAR, peer tutoring, CAPS, the various departmental help centers, the Writing Center, informal study groups—do not exist for students who are doing poorly.
These resources exist for all students regardless of how they are faring, and the most successful students—including many who have not gone on leave—use some or all of these resources proactively, from the first day of class, each semester, and not simply when the going gets rough.
In short, successful students see help resources simply as tools for maximizing success. If you embrace this attitude, you will greatly increase your odds of not only a smooth return, but a progressively more profitable experience in each succeeding semester at Haverford College.