Tell Deanie: A brief survey for SMU families

ask-deanie-sm.jpg Dr. Deanie Kepler is director of Parent & Family Programs at SMU:

As we develop publications and materials for families of the incoming Class of 2022, we are asking current SMU families to share their thoughts on the SMU Family Handbook, Family Calendar and other materials distributed during orientation and Move-In Day.

Please click on this link to take a brief survey. We appreciate your insights on materials that were helpful to you when your family joined the SMU community.

Question for Deanie? Ask Deanie at or 214-768-4797.

Ask Deanie: A Spring Break message to SMU families

ask-deanie-sm.jpg Dr. Deanie Kepler is director of Parent & Family Programs at SMU:

Spring Break is nearly upon us! Whether your student is staying on campus next week, traveling home to sleep in their own bed, or heading out for parts unknown, Spring Break is a great time to check in with your student.

For students planning to stay on campus during the break, there are plenty of opportunities for fun and relaxation on campus and in Dallas. Options include exercising at the Dedman Center for Lifetime Sports, visits to the Meadows Museum at SMU or Dallas museums, and movies at nearby theaters. I encourage all students to take a walk or bike ride near campus. The trees are starting to bud and are gorgeous! For those wanting to catch up on studies, Fondren Library will be open March 12-17 from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m.

If your student is traveling in the United States or abroad, it can be helpful to have the contact information for the location where your student is visiting, as well as the names and cell numbers of the people with whom they’re traveling. Travel is always a good opportunity to discuss safety with your student, including the health and legal risks of using alcohol or illicit drugs. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention provide health and safety information about spring break travel.

As always, students with safety questions or concerns can call SMU Police 24/7 at 214-768-3333 or anonymously at 214-768-2TIP. SMU Police urge all campus community members: If you see something, say something.

For all students, this break from classes at the midpoint of the semester can provide time to assess progress toward academic, personal and professional goals. This can be a good time to remind students of the resources here to support them, including tutors at the Altshuler Learning Enhancement Center, confidential counselors at Counseling Services and the Chaplain’s Office, and career counselors at the Hegi Family Career Development Center.

Many lasting memories can be made over Spring Break. Students can catch up on lost sleep and home cooking, or bond with friends during a trip. A grade in a class can be “pulled up” through hard work and extra effort. The opportunity to serve in the community can be life-changing. Regardless of what your student has chosen to do, we wish them a healthy and safe break, and we look forward to seeing them back in class March 19!

Question for Deanie? Ask Deanie at or 214-768-4797.

Supporting students during final exams

With the end of the fall term quickly approaching, Deanie Kepler, the Director of Parent and Family Programs, and Christi Contreras, the Director of Parent Giving, share information from SMU resources about ways to support students during final exams and as they prepare for the spring semester:

Learning specialists at SMU’s Altshuler Learning Enhancement Center (A-LEC) encourage students to develop a plan for the end of the term, including setting realistic short-term goals, creating a daily study schedule, using library resources and meeting with professors during office hours.

If parents would like to show support for students during exams, the A-LEC suggests sending encouraging messages and a reminder of your student’s strengths and past successes. At the A-LEC, students can obtain free tutoring, take workshops and review essays with English faculty members.

Winter break is a good time to plan for learning experiences beyond the classroom, such as Engaged Learning projects, internships through the Hegi Family Career Development Center and SMU Abroad programs. The winter and summer breaks also offer opportunities to earn credits through SMU JanTerm, MayTerm and other Summer Studies courses, both on the main Dallas campus and at SMU-in-Taos. The University Advising Center can help students plan ahead.

Find more information from campus resources below:

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Ask Deanie: Wrapping up the academic year

ask-deanie.jpg What should students do before they depart campus in May? I hope these tips will help make the transition to summer a bit easier.

Forward mail to summer address.
Pay fines for any overdue library books.
• Resell textbooks back to the bookstore.
• Clean their residence hall room or apartment to avoid penalty fees.
Return all keys in the proper manner to avoid penalty fees.
• After finals, get a good night’s sleep before driving long distances home.
• If your student needs to store items over the summer, see “Summer storage” below.

Graduating seniors should do all of the above, PLUS:

• Request a refund on any remaining Pony Cash dollars. (Dollars roll over for all undergraduates.)
• Pick up robes for Commencement.
• See SMU’s Commencement Web site for complete graduation information.
• If you have student loans, check with Enrollment Services for the repayment schedule.
• Complete the Graduation Survey that was emailed to you by May 12. If you have any questions about the survey, send them to

Continue reading for summer storage information:

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Ask Deanie: How Can My Student Kick-Start the New Term?

ask-deanie-sm.jpg There is no better time than the start of a new year and new term for your student to fully and honestly assess how the first semester went.

Were they satisfied or disappointed with their grades from the first semester? Are they willing to take responsibility for their successes and their failures? In case of a less than satisfactory GPA, is everything someone else’s fault or do they hold themselves accountable?

The Altshuler Learning Enhancement Center (A-LEC) offers one-on-one counseling, one time or on a regular basis, for students looking to focus – or in some cases refocus – their efforts. First-semester “disasters” do not have to mean a disastrous college career. Call 214-768-3648 for an appointment.

Read tips for the new term from SMU’s learning and library experts at the Altshuler Learning Enhancement Center and Central University Libraries.

Regardless of students’ GPA, most everything said in August still applies:

1. Go to class;
2. Get to know the professors for each class; and
3. Take advantage of the resources on campus (hint: the A-LEC has free tutoring, academic counseling and a writing lab).

Every GPA from the fall can be improved upon with some “sweat equity”:

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Ask Deanie: Prepare for Next Year and Give Us Your Feedback

ask-deanie-sm.jpg Finishing the first year in college is a big deal, so if you haven’t done so already, now is a great opportunity to celebrate your student’s accomplishments.

Don’t be surprised to learn that a student with a year of college under his or her belt is not the same one you moved to campus a short 10 months ago. Though they still may seem like “kids,” they’re well on their way to adulthood.

So now that you have them home again, what can you do to help them prepare for next year? Find some suggestions below.

Also, we’d like to hear from you to help us prepare for next year: How do you like to receive information from us?

> Would you prefer to receive SMU resources in print or posted online?
> Do you like to learn about SMU news by email or by mail, and how often?

Please let me know at or 214-768-4797, and then get back to enjoying your summer!

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Ask Deanie: The Holidays Are Upon Us

ask-deanie-sm.jpg Parents, it is time to mark your calendars. Thanksgiving is upon us, followed immediately by finals and the end of the semester.

Two of the most important school days of the entire semester are the Monday and Tuesday before the Thanksgiving holiday – encourage your son or daughter to be in class! These two days enable students to ask questions about pending papers and upcoming tests while demonstrating to the professor their interest in the classroom material.

After Thanksgiving, there are only a few days of class before reading/study days and final exams. Check dates on the academic calendar. If your son or daughter is staying on campus over Thanksgiving, be sure they tell their RA and Hall Director that they will be in the residence hall. There is always staff on call.
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Ask Deanie: My Student Is Struggling With Grades

ask-deanie-sm.jpgAll of the things students may be feeling now are very normal. A myriad of emotions comes with the transition to college. Your student may be worried that the transition to college has been more difficult than anticipated and that they have fallen behind. Their writing may not yet be the quality their professors are looking for. They do not understand what the professor is talking about in class. They are working so many hours outside of class that it is cutting into their study time.

For all of these questions and concerns, I recommend four things:

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