Welcome parents and guardians of our newest Middlebury students! Thank you for everything you have done to support your student in obtaining this achievement.

Our professional and supportive staff in the Class Deans Office works diligently throughout the academic year to help guide your students during this transition to college.

Below you’ll find some details about how we do that—and how you can support your student as well.

Here to Help

One of the fundamental goals of the work we do is to promote the courage and agency needed for students to embrace the challenge associated with transitioning to college as an opportunity for growth. 

While being a new college student can be fun and exciting, it can also lead to moments of uncertainty or self-doubt as many students are away from home for the first time, working to find new friend groups and forging their new “college student” identities.

Meet Your Class Dean

Sabrina Durand

The Dean of the First Year Experience, Sabrina Durand, is an accessible source of support and guidance for students as they navigate their transition to college. The First Year Dean helps students learn more about the vast opportunities available to them as they begin charting a personalized path to exploring their interests, trying new things, and achieving their dreams. Our office space provides a haven of relaxation, rejuvenation, and support.  

Our office also oversees the peer orientation leaders, who provide a student-centered perspective to life on our campus and are accessible resources throughout the academic year.

If you have a concern about your student, you are always welcome to call your student’s Class Dean, but we ask that you first approach your student and encourage them to have a conversation with their Dean before you make that call. Class Deans value transparency with students and will share when we speak with a student’s parent or guardian. Part of our shared work is also to help students develop the tools necessary to successfully navigate challenges after graduation. We prefer students to be full participants in all aspects of our work with them.

Tips for Families

As you no doubt know, you are also an important source of support and guidance for your student, and often the first person they will call when they are feeling uncertain.

Here are a few ideas for how you might consider supporting your student during this important transition.


  • First and foremost, know that your student is going to miss you!  And you are going to miss your student! Talk about how you are going to communicate with each other—and how frequently—so that everyone has the same expectations and no one has hurt feelings. And understand that this might change over the course of your student’s first semester away. You might not get a reply to every message sent, and that is okay. Don’t forget, you can always send care packages to let your student know you are thinking of them.   
  • Chances are, you will receive a tearful phone call home during the first few weeks. It may be that your student needs to get some emotions off their chest, and you are likely the person they feel most comfortable doing this with. Many students pressure themselves to appear “perfect” for their professors and peers, which is both exhausting and incredibly unrealistic. (Listen to this short interview Why College Freshmen May Feel Like Impostors On Campus.)
  • Remember, your student is here to learn and was admitted to Middlebury College because we know they can be successful! The best thing you can do is listen and offer perspective. 

When Problems Arise

If it does seem as though there is a problem that needs to be addressed, try to approach your conversation objectively. Instead of telling your student what to do, ask them about the campus resources that are available.  

  • “Have you reached out to your Residence Director to ask for help with your roommate issues?”
  • “Are you attending your professor’s office hours for help with an assignment or course material?” (Office hours are listed on the course syllabus, department website and their professor’s office door.)
  • “Have you made an appointment at the Center for Teaching, Learning and Research for help with time management, study skills, writing, foreign language, math or discipline specific tutoring?”
  • “Have you thought about meeting with a health coach for help with healthy sleep habits, eating patterns, or relationships in their new environment?”
  • “Have you reached out to the Disability Resource Center to discuss and activate academic or residential accommodations?” (These supports work best when they are put in place early so that students aren’t struggling to find paperwork when their classes are in full swing.)

CARE Managers

If your student has a long list of things they know they need to do but they don’t seem to know where or how to start, CARE Managers can work with students to articulate and prioritize goals, formulate action steps, and serve as supportive forms of accountability. 

Students can schedule appointments with CARE Managers by emailing MiddCARES@middlebury.edu or by stopping by their office in Stewart Hall.

Tempering Expectations

Students tend to attach high expectations to their first year of college. This can lead to an unrealistic view of what college should be like. Help your student temper expectations by letting them know that it takes everyone a while to settle in and connect with new friend groups. Once on campus, encourage your student to reach out to classmates to form study groups, participate in floor meetings so they can meet the people they are living with, and check out clubs and student activities to find others with similar interests. And if possible, avoid the phrase “these are the best years of your life,” which can unwittingly reinforce the perception that students have to be “perfect” to belong.

Your Opinion Matters

Your opinion of your student matters more than you may realize, and your student does not want to disappoint you. 

It can be tempting to ask about grades and intended majors, but it is important to recognize just how much change happens these first few years of college. Instead of focusing on performance, ask about the big ideas that your student is learning about in class and how their understanding of these ideas has changed over time. 

A great question to ask is:

“If you could change one thing in this world, what would it be and why?”

Research shows that students who are focused on these big picture ideas—and who value process over performance—do better academically than those who think they must identify a major and career early in their education or be good at something before they’ve had a chance to learn it. It is also perfectly natural for students to change majors and career goals and feel uncertain about it along the way. Having a source of judgment-free support that they can check in with during these times of uncertainty can give students the confidence they need to take advantage of new opportunities and formulate new goals without second guessing themselves.


Make time to have some important conversations with your student about self-care, sexual readiness, sexual assault, and alcohol and drug use before they leave for Middlebury—and while they are here. Our Center for Health and Wellness has several programs related to these topics, but an initial conversation from you might help your student better understand the importance of them. This article from Psychology Today offers ideas for what you might want to discuss.

Planning Travel

One final piece of practical advice.  Please wait to book flights and make travel arrangements for students to return home until after the final exam schedule is out and students know their finalized schedules.  Many professors schedule exams on the last class before extended breaks (even Thanksgiving) and Class Deans are unable to move exams, including final exams, based on travel plans.  Save your student from this unnecessary anxiety by waiting to book those nonrefundable tickets!