Archive for August, 2010

The Annual Cycle of Choosing On and Off Grounds Housing

For Off Grounds Housing, you will, I’m sure, soon hear that the lease signing season begins on October 1st.  As hard as that is to believe, it’s a pretty common date for that in the market around most Universities.  Whatever you hear about the cause of that, at it’s root, the push is created by students and parents who believe that they have to be in a particular location or a specific house or apartment, or life just can’t be what it’s supposed to be.

The Property Owners and Managers in Charlottesville are in competition with each other and are in a market that currently has more rental space than we have students, so none of them can afford to get behind each other – this also fuels the rush in October.

When I came to UVa 12 years ago, the market was very different than it is now.  In the summer we had waiting lists of 6-800 students in on Grounds housing.   New students had difficulty finding any space in the off Grounds market.  This meant that landlords could count on renting pretty much anything – no matter how big a dump it was.

Over the past 6-7 years, there have been several thousand new bedrooms added to the rental market.  After the city rezoned areas around grounds for more intense development, there have been a steady stream of new rental properties coming into the market.  Many of these are at the top of the market and are expensive, but they have also upped the standard and forced the crummy landlords to upgrade their properties or get out of the student rental market.  That has been a good thing.

It also means that there is no reason to ever panic and feel that you have to sign a lease before you are ready.  There are always properties available to rent within a reasonable distance from grounds.  You can go out today and find a place to live immediately..  Life has also gotten much easier for you because you can go to several different web sites and look over pretty much everything available without leaving your room.

I think that they hardest part of the process – and the most critical – is deciding who you will live with.  Do you go with friends from home or do you go with people you’ve just met and and have only known for a month.  No one can answer those questions for you.  It is tragic though to commit to a lease now and find out later in the year that you are no longer friends with your future apartmentmates.  You have time.  If you aren’t sure, don’t rush it.

Don’t sign a lease anywhere until you know that that is where you want to live -and until it is with the people you are sure you want to live with.  Please don’t ever sign more than one lease, no matter what you want.  It is a legally binding contract…. more on that later.

The on Grounds deadline that matters for most people is December 1st.  If you are in upperclass housing you have until then to re-sign to stay in the same room.

If you are a first year student, that is the date for you to complete an application.  You will receive an offer before break in December and you have until you return in January to make a decision.

We will have all of the dates related to the process and a more complete description of the process out soon.

Keeping in Touch with your Parents

Managing your communication with your parents is important.  While I hope that you are learning to be more independent and make your own.  I hope that as you move down that road, you can give your parents enough information so that they can be comfortable with what you are doing. 

I think that students many times go to one extreme or the other, and so do parents (and their expectations).  Over the years I hear all kinds of stories, from the parent (true story) who drove the roommate nuts because they called every morning to make sure their child gets up for class and called every night until they catch up with him/her to make sure they’re going to bed at a reasonable hour, to students who call a parent at least twice an hour.

As a parent, when my oldest son went to college, he had some struggles and to me it felt like the consequences of him screwing up were suddenly much larger – that they could have lifelong kind of implications if his academic career tanked.  It was much harder for me to deal with than any previous stage in his life. 

Please find a general kind of schedule to contact your parents so that they don’t feel like they’re begging you for information about your life.  If you keep them comfortable that you are in control, it will make everything easier for you in your relationship with them.  Don’t lie to them… if you are having difficulty, let them know that and talk with them… or find someone here that you can talk to that can help you -and let your parents know that you are taking action on whatever the issue is. 

Keep your parents in the loop…….. If you want them to treat you as an adult, you need to show them that you are making the right kind of decisions and have the skills you need, so that they don’t have to worry about everything you’re doing.  That is something that you have to earn from them — don’t expect them to quit being concerned if you are making bad choices and just want to demand that they trust you.

Hopefully, as you change this year, your parents will feel and see it in how you act and in how you relate to them.  If you don’t let them know how you’re changing, you can’t expect them to understand and accept it.

Cell Phone Coverage

ITC has just created a new web page that allows students to report cell phone coverage problems for people using AT&T, T-Mobile or Verizon/Alltel services.  This web page is accessible at http://itc.virginia.edu/commserv/telephone/cell.html

Clicking on the information for students leads to a web page showing the residence halls with in-building coverage that ITC installed.  At the bottom of this page is a link to a form to report problems or ask questions.

Alcohol – it’s not what all the other students are doing!

If to you it seems that all the students you know are choosing to drink and you don’t seem to know anyone that isn’t spending their time at parties and drinking, then maybe you need to stop, take a deep breath and look a little harder.  By self-reported survey data, approximately 35% of students here don’t drink -at all.  I haven’t looked up all of the stat’s today, but the vast majority of students attending the University, don’t drink to excess. 

The pattern I see in the data also shows that at least in on Grounds housing, the number of students that are heavy drinkers goes down significantly after the first year….  My guess is that #1 they are no longer enrolled at the University. #2 is that they moved off Grounds.

Please think hard about how you use alcohol -if you choose to.  Don’t make choices that are going to make it impossible -or much harder, for you to be successful here.  Don’t passively let others drag you down with them..  I know that you’ve had practice with these same dynamics in high school. 

You can choose not to drink, or not to get drunk -and you won’t be alone.  Most students do not engage in binge drinking.  Almost all of the bad things that seem to happen to students, happens when they have had too much to drink.  Bad things that can have long term consequences…  Even things as simple as ignoring personal safety by walking home alone while impaired can lead you into issues you’d rather avoid.

If you feel stress or start having problems, talk to someone… don’t let your semester get away from you.

We do want you to be here for your graduation….. and a good life after you leave.

Don’t Get FMS (aFraid of Missing Something)

There are a lot of activities to choose from as you begin the year – you can’t go to everything or be a part of every group that interests you.  As classes start, I hope that you’ve already realized this and are starting to narrow down what you are trying to do…  At some point you do have to get on a regular schedule – the sooner, the better.  You need to balance the fun with the serious stuff.  You also need to sleep enough and eat well enough so that you can keep functioning for the long haul.  Life will be a lot less stressful if you get off to a good start with your classes and professors.  There is time for fun, but don’t let it distract you from the real reason that you’re here.

Room Change Period Begins on Sept. 7

We still have students arriving to check in.  That will continue for the next few days yet.  In order for us to really be sure that we know who is here and who did not arrive, we ask the Resident Staff members in the halls to contact all of the students to confirm that they are here.  It is important that we have everyone stay put until we can complete that process.

For upperclass students, room changes are done on a first come -first served basis.  If you come to the Accommodations Office in Page House, starting at 8:00 a.m. on September 7th, you will be able to choose from the spaces that are available in the system (except for single room spaces -there is a waiting list for them that you can call and put yourself on now.).  We currently have 95 vacant spaces across grounds, so there is a selection of spaces to choose from.

For First Year students, room change requests are coordinated by the three First Year Area Coordinators.  There are a limited number of spaces available so the ACs have to work with all of the requests they receive and see if it’s possible to meet the requests that they receive.  The first priority however is to get first year student pairs to work through their issues.  One of the primary goals of the first year experience is to help students learn to live with someone who is different from themselves and to help students learn the skills to constructively work through conflicts.

Recycling – be responsible for your own stuff

During Opening it’s always amazing to see the amount of packing materials – cardboard in particular – that is a part of what students bring to grounds.  It used to be that colleges were where families old furniture and appliances lived out their last days – now almost everything is new. 

Recycling is a big part of live on Grounds.  Please take your trash and recyclable materials out of the buildings.  It is a trip and fire hazard if you leave it in the hallway, stairwell or anywhere other than where it should go.  Please take any plastic wrapping off and take out any styrofoam packing materials and flatten the cardboard boxes yourself.  This will help the recycling crew get their work done and get the area cleaned up quickly.

Thank you.