Parent & Family Newsletter, Spring 2018, Issue 2

Employee helping student.

Academic Mentoring – Staying on Track

A supportive resource available for your Penn College student from our Academic Success Center is Academic Mentoring. Academic Mentoring is available to any Penn College student, and it is designed to be flexible in meeting each student’s unique academic needs. Most students who request mentoring say they need help with managing their time or getting organized, but it’s different for every student. Students who request an academic mentor are paired with a staff or faculty member who will meet with them to discuss an academic plan for the semester (or an upcoming semester). Together, they decide how often to schedule any follow up meetings. Individual sessions may include, but are not limited to, goal setting, time management, campus involvement and social adjustment, classroom expectations, test taking strategies, test anxiety, and stress management.

Students can log into the myPCT portal site for more information or to register for this service.

Students Helping Students

Penn Pals is a peer mentoring program designed to help any first-year student transition smoothly into Penn College. Current students volunteer for the Penn Pal program and receive training in the spring semester. Then, over the summer months and into the fall semester, new students can request to be paired up with these Penn Pals. New students can ask questions about on-campus living, classroom expectations, and any other issues that might be on their mind as they get ready for their Penn College experience. The pairs interact during the summer via email or text messaging and then may connect face-to-face when they arrive on campus. Penn Pals may serve as a first crucial contact on campus until new students can begin to build a bigger social circle. These experienced student volunteers often say they wish they had a Penn Pal when they started out to help ease the stress and confusion often experienced during those first few weeks. In fact, each semester several of our volunteers are doing so because they had a Penn Pal when they first began their education here and recognize the value it added to their experience.

Please encourage your student to consider requesting a Penn Pal; it can be a helpful and very fun experience. Students can request a Penn Pal by completing a request form or by emailing Melissa Stocum.

What SIS Can Tell You

Your student and, if s/he gives you guest access, you, can learn a lot about the status of your student’s 2018-19 FAFSA status and financial aid awards from the College’s Student Information System (SIS). Note that different types of aid are awarded at different times; refer to this timeline for details.

After accessing SIS:

  • Go to ‘Financial Information’ 
  • Proceed to ‘View Financial Aid Information’ 
  • ‘Continue’ to the’ Financial Aid Award Summary’ for 2018-19 

Here you can learn about the following information:

  • FAFSA
    • 'Received' or 'Not Received'
    • 'Complete' or 'Incomplete'
  • Federal Verification
    • ‘Verification Required,’ ‘Verification Received,’ ‘Verification Processing,’ or 'Verification Complete'
    • Federal Direct Loan and Private Loan Status 
    • 'Received' or 'Not Received' 
  • Federal Direct Parent PLUS Loan
    • Credit check: 'Approved,' 'Denied,' or 'Not Received'
    • Master Promissory Note (MPN): 'Received' or 'Not Received'
  • Grants, loans, scholarships, and veterans benefits award amounts once they have been awarded 
    • Click on 'Grants' and then 'PHEAA (PA State Grant)' to learn if and why a PHEAA Grant is on a 'Hold' status
  • Estimated Cost of Attendance (COA)
    • Before scheduling classes, semester tuition and fees are estimated for 15 credits a semester
    • After scheduling classes, semester tuition and fees are estimated for the number of scheduled credits

Encourage your student to always check SIS before contacting the Financial Aid Office. Your student can give you guest access to SIS so you can check his or her financial aid status. 

Pennsylvania Residents and PA State Grant News - Updated 5/11

During May, Early June, the Pennsylvania Higher Education Assistance Agency (PHEAA) will notify students with a complete FAFSA about their 2018-19 state grant eligibility. First-time students must also have completed their Pennsylvania State Grant Form in order for PHEAA to determine eligibility. During May PHEAA will email students and parents via email addresses provided on the FAFSA or on PHEAA’s records. The PHEAA emails will direct students to its secure Account Access site to learn about eligibility. Later in May, During June, after PHEAA notifies all students, the Financial Aid Office will receive students’ PHEAA State Grant award and eligibility information, which students can then view via SIS.

Per PHEAA regulations, the Financial Aid Office must then do further review of all students awarded by PHEAA. If we determine a student does not satisfy all policies, we must inform PHEAA, which will then reduce or remove the award. The most common PHEAA policies are:

Now is a good time for first-time students to make sure that their State Grant Form is complete by logging on to Account Access. If not complete, follow the directions as quickly as possible.

Students beyond the first year are sometimes selected for a PHEAA process called ‘Validation’ or PHEAA may have questions that need answered before it can determine eligibility. When this happens, PHEAA will email or send a paper letter that states what is needed. If you or your student have any questions about the State Grant Form or Account Access or any communication from PHEAA, contact PHEAA at 800-692-7392.

Also, note that the email 'domain' that PHEAA uses is @pheaa.org. You and your student should “whitelist” this domain in both of your email accounts so PHEAA messages will not go to Spam or Junk folders.

In past years, PHEAA has had a distance education policy that made distance students ineligible for a PHEAA Grant, although a five-year ‘Pilot’ program that Penn College participated in allowed most of our distance students who met all other eligibility criteria to receive PHEAA Pilot awards. Starting with Fall 2018 Semester, PHEAA’s distance education policy will cease to exist which means that distance students can be awarded ‘regular’ PHEAA Grants as long as they satisfy all eligibility criteria.
 

Parent Access to Student Records

Pennsylvania College of Technology supports the privacy of student records, as required by the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA). In compliance with FERPA, the College limits the disclosure of personally identifiable information from educational records without the student’s prior consent.

At the same time, we understand that students may wish to share such information with parents and guests interested in supporting their educational experience. As a result, Penn College developed a “Grant Parent/Guest Access” option in the Student Information System (SIS) to allow students an easy, one-stop method to release key educational information to parents, legal guardians, and guests.

Talk to your student about using the Grant Parent/Guest Access option to give you the ability to review his or her educational records through SIS. All your student needs to do is set you up with a User ID and password. If you lose your User ID and/or password, your student can access that information for you through the “Grant Parent/Guest Access” option on the SIS.

End of Year On-Campus Residence Hall Closing Procedures

Saturday, May 5 -  The residence halls close at 10 a.m. for all students or 24 hours after a student’s last final exam (whichever comes first).

At the end of the academic year, residents are expected to follow standard procedures for closing down their room/apartment and checking out. Failure to follow closing procedures may result in charges being assessed to the residents of a particular room/apartment. The closing process begins a few weeks prior to the end of the spring semester and concludes after residents vacate the room/apartment. The closing process involves the following steps:

  1. Resident Assistants meet with each room/apartment to complete a closing agreement and to perform a pre-inspection of the room/apartment (the last few weeks of the spring semester).
  2. Cleaning: All rooms/apartments should be cleaned prior to move-out to avoid cleaning charges. Cleaning supplies are available in complex offices.
  3. Checkout Options:
    • A. Express Checkout - Residents drop off their keys at a designated location when they are ready to leave. Residents who choose an express checkout waive the right to appeal damage and cleaning charges.
    • B. Long Checkout - Residents schedule an appointment for a room/apartment inspection with a Resident Assistant 24 hours prior to the time they plan on leaving.
  4. Post Inspection: All rooms/apartments are inspected by Residence Life staff after residents vacate the apartment.

Students living on campus receive information on closing procedures in the weeks leading up to closing. Students who have questions on the closing procedures should speak with their Resident Assistant or stop by the Residence Life Office (Dauphin Hall 1039).

Connected or Disconnected? Students and Social Media Use

Instagram, Snapchat, Tinder, and Facebook – like it or not, social media is here to stay. If you were to walk around the Penn College campus on any given afternoon, you would notice many students looking down at their screens rather than looking forward, or perhaps more importantly, looking at one another. Often, students are engaging on one of many platforms collectively referred to as “social media”— looking at photos of their friends from over the weekend, taking stock of how many peers “liked” their new post, and/or searching dating sites for a potential romance. While students may indicate that social media helps them to connect with others, the quality of these relationships, and other outcomes that may result from overuse of social media, paint a less than positive picture.

As social interactions move largely online, several aspects of “traditional” communication are lost. Face-to-face communication has been largely replaced by email and text messaging. Although convenient, these modes of communication decrease the time students spend interacting with their peers and instructors. It may be no surprise that we see many students experiencing increased anxiety when in social settings. This anxiety may prevent them from engaging with peers and attending events that connect them with others. In extreme cases, it may contribute to missing classes.

Relatedly, excessive time on social media has been linked with depression and even suicidal ideation (Twenge et al., 2017). Although students may believe that social media helps them foster relationships with others, many report that viewing the lives of others from “the outside in” causes them to feel left out. This may result in a situation referred to as “FOMO,” or the fear of missing out on the fun others are having. Students naturally compare themselves to one another, and social media has made this easier to do with many students reporting that their lives simply don’t stack up compared to those they see portrayed online. Students may also be inclined to evaluate their self-worth based upon how many people “like” or “follow” their posts online.

Although social media likely doesn’t cause anxiety and depression, it may exacerbate them. Anxiety and depression are complicated syndromes with many causes. However, excessive time spent on social media may impact undergrads in several ways. Time that is being used on social media is not being used in academic endeavors, and achievement may suffer. Students who spend a great deal of time on social media are also not pausing to engage in self-reflection and/or exploration of their own feelings. This can make it increasingly difficult for students to describe their own emotions. Finally, when students are online, they are not connecting with one another. This may lead to social isolation, which can further exacerbate anxiety and depression.

How can we help?

Encourage students to limit time on social media and spend time in activities that will increase their sense of belongingness, as well as allow them to practice social skills.

Spend time discussing with your student the ways that social media impacts their lives—the positive and the negative.

Look for signs of distress that may accompany excessive use of social media. Has your student become more withdrawn? Has their mood or behavior recently changed?

Encourage support services through Counseling Services at Penn College. We offer confidential psychological services at no additional charge that can help students to not only address symptoms of anxiety and depression, but to further consider the ways in which social media may impact their well-being. Counseling Services staff can also work collaboratively with students to facilitate change, including increased social skills and connections with others.

Life is a complex and rich journey—one that should be lived by students in real-time, and not just viewed vicariously on a screen!

References:

Twenge, Joiner, Rogers, & Martin. (2017). Increases in depressive symptoms, suicide-related outcomes, and suicide rates among U.S. adolescents after 2010 and links to increased new media screen time. Clinical Psychological Science, 6 (1), 3-17.





Plan a road trip to Penn College this summer
for one of our campus visit experiences!



 

Summer Preview Days: June 23, July 13, and July 28

During Summer Preview Day, students and their guests will have the opportunity to explore their major of interest, connect with Admissions & Financial Aid, tour our residence halls, speak with Athletics and Student Activities, and much more! This is a great visit experience for students who are still in the early stages of their college search.

Academic Tours: Held throughout the summer months

During an academic tour, students and their guests will have the opportunity to tour the labs & facilities of their intended major with one of our experienced faculty members. Admission Office staff will be on hand to discuss the application and enrollment process with all interested students. This is a great visit experience for students who have selected their major and are interested in learning about next steps at Penn College.

Checking out colleges is fun for the whole family, and we can’t wait to see you on our campus soon!

To learn more about all of our summer visit opportunities, please visit us online or contact the Admissions Office at 570-327-4761.

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