Welcome, parents and guardians, to the Queen’s University community. Your students are engaging in intellectual and personal growth that will shape the rest of their lives.
Your students have many resources at Queen’s to help them have a positive university experience, but they will look to you for support and encouragement. One way you can provide these is to encourage your students to use our resources at SASS.
At SASS, we support students’ academic growth by helping them develop skills in writing and learning via online resources, workshops, and appointments. Our service is free, confidential, and supportive of undergraduate and graduate students in all programs and years. We help struggling students as well as highly achieving students. Please explore our website to learn more about how we can help your students achieve their academic potential.
- Our Academics 101 resource is a good place to start. This series of online tutorials provides instruction about academic expectations, essential skills and habits, and developing a plan for the first six weeks for first-year students.
- You may like to see our resources for students who have English as an additional language.
- Student Affairs also has additional resources for students at Queen’s.
Please note that confidentiality of academic, personal, health and other information about your student is strictly enforced throughout the University. We can share information about your student with you only if your student has given us specific written permission.
Please also note that the SASS website deliberately uses the pronoun “they” in its singular form, to be gender-inclusive.
My student is coming to Queen’s in September! What can they do to prepare themselves academically?
A good starting point is Academics 101. This series of interactive online tutorials takes students through essential academic expectations, essential skills and habits, and resources for first-year students. Your student may also like to see our online resources for students who have English as an additional language.
Can I book a SASS appointment for my student, or register them for a SASS workshop?
When they arrive at Queen’s, students can register for appointments with our online booking system; it’s easy and quick for them to do. Students can visit our workshops page for information about our popular academic skills workshops. As a parent or guardian, you can help your student by reminding them of these resources and encouraging them to sign up for themselves.
Can you confirm if my student attends a SASS appointment or a workshop?
We do not confirm registration or attendance to parents / guardians. SASS follows the University’s confidentiality policy regarding academic, personal, health and other student information. We can share information about students only when they have given us specific written permission. We encourage students and their parents / guardians to communicate directly with each other.
Parents/guardians with serious concerns about their students may contact the Director of SASS.
Does SASS help only students who are getting low marks?
No. SASS helps all students—struggling, high-achieving, and everyone in between—from their first year of undergraduate studies through to PhD level. Students come to us for many reasons and from many different contexts. Our objective is to help students develop skills, strategies and confidence for their individual circumstances.
My student had an IEP / accessibility accommodation in high school. How can you help?
SASS works with all students to support them in their academic skill development, but we do not specialize in working with students with disabilities or accommodations; we refer students with questions about accessibility or accommodations to Queen’s Student Accessibility Services (QSAS).
My student seems overwhelmed and stressed by their studies. How can I help them?
Academic demands can certainly feel stressful at times. Learning to recognize the signs of stress and to manage their stress is an important skill your student can develop. We recommend that you review our very thorough online resource on academic stress, and encourage your student to do the same. You can use this resource as a starting point for talking about how your student is doing and how they might take steps to manage their stress. This resource includes links to a variety of helpful resources at Queen’s; students can use these links to seek help.
Parents/guardians with serious concerns about their students may contact the Director of SASS.
My student did not get the mark they were hoping for on an assignment, and now they are worried that their marks won’t be high enough to let them into a particular program. How can SASS help?
Students who would like to study in a particular program should meet with their academic advisor; most undergraduate students can find their academic advisor listed on the ArtSci, Engineering, Nursing, or Business pages.
Students who would like to understand “where they went wrong” on an assignment or exam can meet with their professor / TA.
Students who would like feedback on their writing can book a writing appointment at SASS; our writing consultants cannot comment on marks or comments from professors or TAs, but they can review a piece of writing with a student to identify areas of strength and weakness, and work with the student to help them develop their skills.
Similarly, many students benefit from learning skills appointments, in which they can learn new strategies and habits that can support their academic success.
Another possible starting point is our Subject-Specific Academic Resources listing.
My student has received a fine from SASS.
You can find information about fines and our appointment policies here.
Not surprisingly, university is different from high school in terms of academic expectations, classroom routines, assessment procedures, and more. You can help your student adjust to these changes by helping them understand that they may need to try different academic strategies to succeed in this new context, and also to seek help early if they have questions or are having difficulty.
Workload and time
- A student’s weekly schedule may have lots of apparently open spaces that at first glance may seem like free time.
- As a rough guide, we recommend that students spend 8-10 hours on each course every week (including time in class, labs, or tutorials, doing homework, etc.). Therefore, a student taking five courses should expect to spend about 45 hours total per week on their academics.
- Readings may range from none to a few hundred pages weekly, and lab reports may take 6-10 hours to complete.
- Professors structure their courses independently of other instructors, so the workload might vary from week to week.
- Research indicates that adequate sleep, exercise, and nutrition, as well as relaxation time, all support academic success; you may like to talk with your student about finding a healthy balance in these areas. SASS can also help.
- All these points add up to more responsibility and independence for students; they need to develop great time management skills so they can succeed in their studies and stay healthy and happy.
Professors’ and teaching assistants’ expectations
- Students should come to class / labs prepared, having reviewed lecture notes posted on the course website, skimmed lab procedures, or finished the assigned readings.
- Students should read each course’s syllabus (course outline) thoroughly. The syllabus is usually posted on the course website.
- Professors and TAs expect students to seek them out if they have questions or need help; students can email them or, better, talk to them in person during their posted office hours.
- If a student does not understand clearly what is required in an assignment, they are expected to talk to the professor or TA well before the assignment is due.
- Professors want their students to do well, and are typically approachable and helpful, but they will not usually approach students to check in; students must take the initiative themselves, preferably early in the term.
- Students should learn how to communicate with their professors and TAs.
Lectures, labs and tutorials
- Many lectures in first year have several hundred students. Students may have little interaction with professors during lectures, although questions are generally welcome.
- The much smaller tutorials or labs scheduled in many courses are a great opportunity to connect with TAs and get help or ask questions about course content; a lot of learning happens in these groups.
- Students should attend all lectures, labs and tutorials. Generally, they are expected to complete assigned readings, read lab instructions, do homework questions, or preview posted lecture slides or notes before attending classes, but students should ask their professor / TA about this expectation; it can vary by course.
- Students should listen, take notes, and participate in lectures / tutorials / labs.
- Students might take online courses or courses that offer a blend of online and in-person lecture delivery.
- Half-credit courses are about 12 weeks long. At the end of the course, students usually have about a week of free study time before their final exam schedule begins.
Assessment or grading
- In first year, marks are largely based on tests, exams, and essays, depending on the course.
- Mid-term and final exams take a variety of forms (multiple-choice, essay, short answer, etc.) and may test students on a variety of types of content (concepts, details, theories, applications, etc.); students can adopt different strategies to meet these challenges. SASS offers workshops, appointments, and online resources about exams.
- In upper years, assessment may change to more project-based, seminar and essay formats.
- Many students experience a drop in their grade average in first year; often, what worked as a learning approach in high school doesn’t work as well in university. SASS can help students adjust their approaches.
- Students with documented disabilities who require accommodations to acquire and demonstrate their knowledge are encouraged to contact Queen’s Student Accessibility Services (QSAS).
- Your student’s classmates may be similar to your student in their academic achievements, as Queen’s students often were the “top of the class” in their high schools. It is often an adjustment to students when they suddenly see themselves as one of many, and they may doubt themselves. Parents can listen to their student’s concerns in this area and offer reassurance and encouragement. SASS can work with students to help them develop their own academic goals and understanding of success in the context of the university’s academic expectations.
- Queen’s and SASS value and celebrate the diversity in our community, and we encourage students to recognize that diversity offers rich learning and collaborative opportunities, and potential lifelong friendships. One excellent resource for you and your student to refer to on this topic is the Inclusive Queen’s page.
According to Harvard educational psychologist William G. Perry, Jr., students engage in the following types of thinking as they proceed through university, and beyond.
- Students in first and second year often rely on dualistic thinking, characterized by the belief that knowledge is absolute and knowable. Students at this stage may hold fairly fixed attitudes and opinions, which reflect an “all or nothing” or “right or wrong” style of thinking. This development relates to shifting one’s level of thinking from memorizing and understanding to analyzing, applying and evaluating (Bloom, 2002).
- Students in upper years tend to shift to multiplistic thinking, recognizing that knowledge is diverse and uncertain. Students may express greater interest in viewing an issue from many perspectives and engaging in complex, uncertain questions that may have no simple, correct answers.
- Graduate students often develop relativistic thinking; context or circumstances take on greater importance. There is often more thoughtful evaluation of opposing views, including opinions that may differ from family or cultural values and ethics.
- Some mature adults in the upper years of graduate school or in careers may achieve integrated thinking based on constructed knowledge. Their past experiences, personal awareness of priorities and values, and accumulated knowledge enable individuals to think in rich and creative ways and to accept the possibility of incomplete understanding. If the individual develops a world view or follows an approach to solving problems that is consistent with their beliefs, they demonstrate what educational researcher Arthur W. Chickering, in his theory of identity development, refers to as integrity.
You might like to apply Perry’s, Bloom’s, and Chickering’s ideas to understand changes in how your student thinks and understands their world. For example, first-year students are often dismayed by a growing sense that, compared to high school, they are less intellectually able to “learn it all.” You can reassure your student that their uncertainty is an important sign of growth and development. Similarly, your student may also change their views of their professors as “authorit[ies] as the source of ‘Truth’ to authorit[ies] as a resource with specific expertise to share” or of themselves as a student, “moving from a passive receptor of facts to an active agent in defining arguments and creating new knowledge” (see Perry Network, accessed June 10, 2019). This scholarly journey can feel risky to students but your encouragement will help them.
Over the years, as students continue to develop intellectually, they will shift from a sense of certainty in what they know, to recognizing what they don’t yet know, to understanding that they will never know for sure, and then grow into the perspective that they make their own meaning and choose their own contributions to the world based on their knowledge, sense of identity, and moral/ethical position.