PAFA Perspectives

A monthly feature for parents by parents.
Written by PAFA Board Chairs Roseann and Jeff Gapusan
Roseann and Jeff Gapusan - PAFA Board Chairs

May- Senior Parent Spotlight

As you stand on the brink of your children's graduation, reflection of the journey you’ve all been on together is inevitable. Your seniors began their Vanderbilt experience in the midst of the unprecedented challenges brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020. It was a time of uncertainty, upheaval, and adaptation unlike any other. Yet, despite the trials they faced, your children emerged stronger, wiser, and more resilient than ever before.

The past four years have been a rollercoaster of emotions for all of us, but especially for you. Our daughter graduated in 2021 and we have a current junior. We have witnessed your seniors experience significant changes in normalcy, grappling with the loss of traditional experiences and milestones. But in the face of adversity, they have also found opportunities for growth, development, and personal transformation. Your children have flourished academically, intellectually, and socially, thanks to your unwavering support and the guidance of the Vanderbilt community. They have navigated virtual classes, adapted to hybrid learning models, and embraced new ways of connecting with their peers and professors. Through it all, they have demonstrated remarkable courage, perseverance, and determination. We stand in awe.

Today, as you prepare to celebrate their graduation from Vanderbilt University, we hope you couldn't be prouder of the world-class education they have earned. They have not only earned a prestigious degree but have also gained invaluable skills, knowledge, and experiences that will propel them forward into the world as leaders and innovators.

As parents, you have played a crucial role in your children's journey, providing love, encouragement, and support every step of the way. You have cheered them on through triumphs and setbacks, celebrated their achievements, and comforted them in moments of disappointment. You have modeled strength in the face of challenges and positivity in the wave of negativity. Your own sacrifices and dedication have been instrumental in their success, and for that, you deserve to share in the pride and joy of this momentous occasion. As you reflect on the past four years with incredible pride and accomplishment, cherish the memories created together as a Vanderbilt family. Celebrate the resilience, determination, and spirit of the graduating seniors, knowing that they are well-equipped to make a positive impact on the world. We all look forward to the bright future that awaits every one of them

Looking ahead, we know that your children's futures are bright and promising. Vanderbilt will always be there for them as they navigate the next chapter of their lives. We encourage them to stay connected to their alma mater by joining the Vanderbilt Alumni Association and participating in city chapters (all over the world) and Hubs around the country (Atlanta, New York, South Florida, Houston). They will always have a community of Vanderbilt alumni to support and uplift them. They are Commodores for life.

Congratulations to the Vanderbilt Class of 2024 and their proud parents. May their journey ahead be filled with success, happiness, and fulfillment. Because, come what may, they’ve got this!

May - Starting Summer

As our students wrap up exams and complete the academic year, We would like to extend a heartfelt congratulations to all of you. Each year brings its own set of challenges, and this one has been no exception. As they pack up dorm rooms and look forward to summer, we encourage you to give them all the space and time they need to recharge and care for themselves. Here are a few things to keep in mind for parents.

This year has been a significant transition, especially for freshmen. It's remarkable how quickly time flies—just nine months ago, you wondered how your student would fare "on their own." Many of you may be preoccupied about internships, jobs and graduate schools. The rigor of academics and social involvement is still taking a toll as they end the semester. So it's important to decompress and reflect on their achievements together. Allow them to share their thoughts and savor them. Point out the glows and objectively think about grows. Are there any lessons learned? Celebrate what they are proud of, even if you have to highlight it for them. Students can be quite humble and self deprecating.

Regardless of where you are in this journey, enjoy some well-deserved time off with your students. There will be opportunities to network, polish off that resume, or take a summer class. But block off some time in the calendar where conversations about college or life after college DON’T occur. Dare we say, disconnect from Vanderbilt (gasp)! New roles and responsibilities can wait. Because in a short time, your students will be back in Nashville, ready to dive into their studies. And when that time comes, the Vanderbilt community will be there to encourage, support and challenge them! Jeff and I are honored to continue writing the Parent Perspective for SY 24-25. We hope the topics have been informative and useful. You may connect with us through our Official Parent Facebook page throughout the summer. After that, we'll pick up again in August. Until then, we wish you a happy and restful summer!

April - Important End of Semester Information

It's hard to believe how quickly the spring semester has flown by. As we approach the end of another enriching academic year here at Vanderbilt University, I wanted to touch base with you regarding some important dates and details to help ensure a smooth transition for your student.

Although letting go is hard to do, encouraging your student to take ownership of their end-of-semester responsibilities will be an invaluable opportunity for them to demonstrate their independence and resilience. This time can understandably be hectic. Exams, preparations for next steps, packing up and organizing belongings can be daunting tasks. So, you may be surprised at how many of our students get the job done, independently of parents. Move-out is structured to allow students ample time to prepare.

End of Year Key Dates:

  • Undergraduate classes end Monday, April 22, 2024
  • Undergraduate examinations and reading days: Tuesday, April 23 – Thursday, May 2, 2024
  • Commencement: Friday, May 10, 2024
  • Residence halls close for freshmen, sophomores and juniors: Saturday, May 4, 2024, at 9:00 am
  • Residence halls close for graduating students: Saturday, May 11, 2024, at 1:00 pm

Here is the schedule of exams. Your student can leave campus whenever they are done.

There are three ways to move out of the dorms. First, do it yourself and move it all back home by driving or shipping it back. Second, do it yourself and move items to self-storage. Many students hire a rideshare or ask a friend with a car to get the items to the storage unit. They then do the same in August to move it all back to the dorm. Third, hire movers that move the items to storage in May and back in August. If you do the third option, I recommend taking pictures of everything packed up and labeled with name, university and count (box 1 or 8, box 2 of 8, etc.). For recommendations on storage units and moving/storage companies, do a search on our Vanderbilt Parents & Families Official Facebook Group. Many parents have shared experiences about this.

If you know ahead of time about extenuating circumstances that will prevent your student from moving out by these deadlines, have your student go to the YES portal to fill out a housing form and speak to their RA about it.

Remind your student to prioritize self-care during this busy period. Nothing else can be accomplished if mental and emotional well-being fall to the wayside. Encourage them to take breaks, get plenty of rest, and reach out for support if needed. The Center for Student Wellbeing provides many activities and programming during this time of year. Many parents send care packages to provide some stress relief and joy during this busy time. Try to have conversations with your student focusing on encouragement, affirmation and support, rather than focusing on grades, exams and summer opportunities. If any local residents have friendly pets, consider bringing them to campus. Research has shown that petting and playing with animals can significantly reduce stress levels. Previously, parents have coordinated on the Facebook group regarding locations, dates, and times, and have kindly brought their pets to campus to the delight of our students. Your contribution to fostering a supportive and stress-relieving environment for our students is greatly appreciated.

If your student will be staying in Nashville for the summer and is looking for housing, tell them there are many students that sublet apartments for the summer, they just have to ask around (maybe beyond their circle). Belmont students also do the same. Vanderbilt rents out dorm rooms and there are Airbnb’s that might be options as well.

May and Summer Semesters Dates:

  • Maymester Move Out: Maymester participants will have until Saturday, June 1, 2024, 9:00 am
  • Summer Session 1 Move In: Students participating in Summer Session 1 can move in starting on Sunday, June 2, 2024, at 12:00 pm.
  • Summer Session 1 Move Out: Summer Session 1 concludes on Saturday, July 6, 2024, at 9:00 am.
  • Summer Session 2 Move In: Students in Summer Session 2 can move in beginning on Sunday, July 7, 2024, at 12:00 pm.

Summer Session 2 students who are residing in summer housing will be permitted to move directly into their fall on-campus housing assignments as early as Saturday, August 3 (dependent on spaces being ready for occupancy). Students with fall assignments in buildings utilized for the summer or undergoing summer facilities projects may be unable to move until Saturday, August 10 or Sunday, August 11. Additional information will be provided to students in July.

As we enter this final stretch, we wish everyone a strong finish, a sense of well-being and satisfaction in their accomplishments for the school year. And, that goes for parents, too! Remember, you are doing a great job!

March - Spring Fever

As spring fever takes hold, it's not uncommon for students to think others are doing better than they are. Emotions run high as the semester draws to a close. If you observe campus life, you'll find every conceivable emotion. How is your student responding to this phase of their journey? Let's put some perspective on some of these gnawing emotions. 

It’s March, a poignant time for seniors as they begin to recognize their “lasts” and shift their focus toward life after Vanderbilt. Many are grappling with feelings of anxiety, heartbreak and fear as they navigate the job market or await acceptance into graduate programs. Seeing peers celebrate their successes can exacerbate these emotions, leading to questions of why they haven’t reached the same milestones. Meanwhile, sophomores and juniors are feeling pressure to secure summer internships, which can add to the sense of urgency and comparison. First-year students, too, may be silently struggling with imposter syndrome, feeling overwhelmed by academic and social challenges.

Comparison is the thief of all joy. For some seniors, the contrast between those who secured job offers months ago and those still searching can be stark, amplifying stress levels for both students and parents. However, our role is to provide support without adding to their stress. We must remind them—and ourselves—not to succumb to the trap of comparison and to trust in their own journey. Model calmness and be their anchor (pun not intended) amid all the emotion. Vanderbilt students do find jobs and get into grad schools. It is not a race, nor does it mean the sooner you secure this, the better you are. Every door and window closed only clears the path to what was meant to be. And let’s be real: When, where or what your offer is does not define the rest of your life. Let’s take a step back and enjoy the last semester, graduation plans and celebrations. Above all, let’s remind our students—and ourselves—to focus on living in the present moment, finding joy in the journey, and trusting that their paths will unfold as they’re meant to.

Now for some practical advice: Network, network, network. There is no shame in networking, and like it or not, it’s what fuels economies. You and your student can network within the Vanderbilt community. Speak to everyone, ask pertinent questions and practice—yes, practice—the art of networking both digitally and face-to-face. Refer to the PAFA Perspectives January 2024 edition with more tips and leads on job hunting and internships.

Sophomores and juniors, driven by their high-achieving nature, are actively seeking internships. It’s true that the journey begins early, typically in the fall semester. Ultimately, it’s all about networking and immersing oneself in opportunities. It involves navigating an intricate landscape of events hosted by the Career Center, on-campus company information sessions, professional society and club-sponsored public events, and utilizing platforms such as Handshake and LinkedIn. Furthermore, the pervasive habit of comparing oneself to others compounds the process. Don’t get too worked up about what others have or are doing. Encourage your student to remain focused on their own path and timeline.

First-year students, and students at all levels, often experience imposter syndrome, or what some psychologists call “duck syndrome.” This refers to the idea that individuals may appear calm and composed on the surface, much like a duck gliding smoothly on water, but underneath they are paddling furiously to keep up with the demands and pressures they face. It’s important to recognize that there’s no shame in admitting this and seeking help.

As a parent, it can be heart-wrenching when your student reaches out, feeling lost and struggling to find their place. Whether it’s difficulty forming friendships, keeping up academically or facing rejection from a desired club or organization, it’s tough to witness them grappling with disappointment and self-doubt. Rejection, especially during events like Greek rush, can feel deeply personal and deliver a significant blow to their self-esteem. They may start to question themselves and all the choices they have made.

In these moments, it’s crucial to resist the urge to swoop in and fix everything. All we can do is watch and encourage from the sidelines (and that is hard). We want to see them, hug them and feed them. Instead, encourage your student to confront their challenges head-on. While it may be tempting to visit campus frequently or bring them home often, it’s important for them to learn to navigate these difficulties independently and utilize the resources available to them. Indeed, too much interference can suggest we don’t have confidence in them to figure it out for themselves and could contribute to feelings of inadequacy.

Encourage them to immerse themselves in social activities, even if it means stepping out of their comfort zone and trying again and again. Joining clubs and organizations can provide valuable opportunities for connection and personal growth. Encourage them to be bold and open in choosing clubs. Websites like AnchorLink offer a comprehensive list of available clubs, while resources like the Vanderbilt Parents and Families Facebook group can offer support and advice.

Academically, encourage them to seek assistance from teaching assistants and professors, take advantage of office hours and consider forming study groups with classmates. Additional support for writing and tutoring are available through resources such as the Vanderbilt Writing Studio and Tutoring Services.

If they’re struggling with their well-being, encourage them to reach out to Student Care Coordination, even if appointments are initially booked up. This office helps students navigate and connect with campus and community resources that will address challenges that relate to academic, personal, emotional, medical, financial or any other needs.

Parenting young adults involves a shift in roles. While we may want to shield our children from life’s challenges, ultimately our role becomes one of support, encouragement, and providing a foundation for growth. It’s about cheering them on, being a stable presence, and allowing them the space to navigate life’s difficulties and emerge stronger on the other side. Happy spring!

February - Spring Break

Spring break this year is March 9–17. Some students participate in Alternative Spring Break, while others go on trips with other students. If your student is going on a spring break trip with friends, it is normal to worry about their safety and decision-making. If it is your student’s first time traveling for spring break, perhaps having a conversation about expectations and precautions can help both you and your student feel more confident about their travels. Encourage them to participate in Safe Spring Break Week (March 4–8) which centers around safety relating to drugs, alcohol, etc. For added peace of mind, gather the contact information of fellow trip-goers and details about their accommodations. If your student is 18 or older, ensure they have copies of their Health Care Proxy on their phone in case of emergencies.

While there may be concerns, remember spring break is part of the American college experience. For decades, thousands have participated and come home with happy stories to share. Many students make fond memories and solidify friendships during these days.

If parties with large groups are not your student’s vibe, or they have been there, done that, talk to them about Alternative Spring Break. ASB programs at many universities all over the country allow your student to get away for the week while also doing good in an area they feel passionate about. There are ASB trips that focus on work with refugees, preservation projects and more.

Going home or staying on campus are perfectly valid choices too—there is no pressure to have a flashy experience. It is all about doing what feels right for them. “Do you” is what we say to ours.

One separate note: Admissions for the Class of 2028 are in full swing. Prospective students are receiving notifications and making decisions about their next four years. Please commit to attending an admissions event in your local area. Engage with prospective families and offer your experience as a guide for them in making this major decision. Welcome those who have committed to be Commodores, and relive the joy of the end of senior year!

January - Life After Vanderbilt

Hello, and welcome back! The spring semester marks a shift in focus to all things summer. For Vanderbilt parents and students, this may mean a well-deserved break, a summer job, or the start of their post-Vandy lives.

By college graduation, our students have developed the independence we have been hoping for throughout their young lives. For parents, this can also be daunting as it may signify the first time they will make “adult” (read major, real-life) decisions without us being the primary influence.

Fortunately, our students are in one of the best places to not only prepare for life after college but to thrive. That high school senior you sent to Nashville now has a wealth of information about evolving workplaces and industries - of which we may know little.

Our students’ pathway to an internship or landing that first job is very different from the one many of us took. This month’s article focuses on how our students prepare for this part of college life. Read on for insights from alumni and parents that are taking an active role in helping our students with internships and jobs. Perhaps these insights can help guide your dialogue when speaking to your student or other students at Vanderbilt about this topic. And then, not to be overlooked, we will also reference the university’s on-campus resources. As you speak to your student or other students at Vanderbilt about this topic, perhaps these insights can help guide your dialogue.

Vanderbilt Community Engagement

During your student’s time at Vanderbilt, you will meet other parents and alumni who are doing wonderful things when it comes to helping our students. Some of those people contributed their thoughts here. They have recruited for their respective companies and helped some of our students with internships or their first jobs. So, meet alumni and fellow parents. Attend those socials and model networking for your student.

A View from Recruiters and Human Resources

Maddie Gapusan (Human and Organizational Development, 2021) is a Human Resource Business Partner at Procter & Gamble. Since graduating, Maddie has remained active with Vanderbilt in several ways, including returning to campus to recruit students for internship and full-time opportunities.

She says networking is a crucial piece of the recruitment puzzle. In addition to the many events hosted by the Career Center, Maddie highlighted the abundance of public career events hosted by the professional societies and clubs on campus. Often these events have been coordinated with alumni participants who come to campus to educate and scout future co-workers.

Maddie highly recommends setting up Handshake and maximizing its offerings. “It is a student’s direct access to recruiters and jobs recruited exclusively at campuses. When leveraged properly, it is one of the most important tools at their disposal."

She adds, another tool that has become integral for new job seekers is LinkedIn. Establishing a working profile on LinkedIn has become the online equivalent of posting a near real-time resume. In many industries and companies, LinkedIn may be the first stop for hiring managers and business unit heads to do their due diligence on prospective hires.

Lastly, she recommends students being themselves during the process: “Ask lots of questions, ask peers for advice, do lots of research, keep an open mind.” She also addressed a challenge that we’ve seen and heard time and time again– an early, career version of "keeping up with the Joneses". “Don’t get distracted or stressed out by what everyone else is doing. Focus on what will fulfill and inspire you. What is impactful, meaningful, rewarding to YOU?”

The Value of Internships
It is no doubt that Vanderbilt alumni are highly sought after by some of the highest paying career fields. In fact, 38% of undergraduates from 2018-2022 eventually went into Accounting & Finance (ie Deloitte, Capital One, JPMorgan Chase, and Goldman Sachs) or Consulting & Management (Bain & Company, McKinsey & Company). For students seeking roles in these fields, internships are a common pathway to determining if this the right choice for them. Parents of underclassmen should encourage their students to be mindful of the timing and deadlines for internship opportunities as companies seek to engage students earlier and earlier in their careers.

“Students do not need to have a grand plan. It’s okay to take this time to explore, and internships are a great way to do that. I did not find my passion for accounting until a couple of years into my college experience when I took my first accounting course and decided to pursue my first internship with a professional services firm,” says Dipti Gulati (Parent, '25 and accounting professional). “The nature of an internship in professional services in particular, is it allows you to explore a variety of disciplines and industries to get a better sense on where you’d like to focus. My advice to students is use this time of exploration to invest in and grow your network, go to campus recruiting events, and ask questions.”


Getting Started in Finance

Glenn Schorr (Parent, 2022 & 2025) is a Senior Managing Director and Senior Research Analyst at Evercore, a New York-based boutique investment bank and research firm. Glenn has been heavily involved with exposing opportunities in finance to Vanderbilt students. Over the past two years, Glenn has been the driving force behind Vandy Meets the Street, a networking and educational event held annually in New York. Working with the Career Center, Development and Alumni Relations, he assembles a panel of Vanderbilt alumni to speak to current undergraduates about finance, including the trends on Wall Street and best practices.

Finding a career in finance starts with networking. “It is never too early to start networking and asking a lot of questions. The world of finance is fascinating and is a whole lot bigger than just investment banking. The more you know about the various parts of the industry, the greater the chance you’ll find an area you are interested in.”

“Talk to anyone involved in finance– a professor, upper classmen, alumni, parents, friends of parents. Learn about how they went about their search or career. What do they like most about finance? What are the downsides?”

The Rise of Technology and Computer Science

Many of us are inundated with daily reminders of the growing importance of technology in our everyday lives. Our students and the university have certainly taken notice. Through the efforts of Destination Vanderbilt, the school has bolstered its relevance in Computer Science. Since its launch, the Computer Science department has hired 14 new tenure-track professors (doubling its previous ranks). In July 2022, the department’s online MS of Computer Science was ranked No. 1 by Fortune magazine. By fall of 2022, there were 757 undergraduates majoring in Computer Science (including double majors). Impressive considering that there were only 11 Computer Science majors at Vanderbilt in the Fall 2011!

Wallace Suleiman (Parent, 2027) is a VP of Multi Cloud Engineering at SAS. He has recruited technology interns and new hires for several years. With the growing popularity of the field, Wallace highlights the need for technical students to differentiate themselves. Students should, “reflect on what makes them stand out and what they will bring to the table.”

“Ask questions in interviews that show curiosity, highlight research in the company, and an interest to work with team members.”

Like Maddie and Glenn, Wallace stresses the importance of networking. “Reach out on LinkedIn to see if contacts can share about what the team culture is like, how they got into the company/field, and any tips they have.”

Vanderbilt Career Center

The Vanderbilt Career Center serves enrolled full-time undergraduate students in the Blair School of Music, College of Arts and Science, School of Engineering and Peabody College, and graduate students. Additionally, the Center provides career coaching to postdoctoral fellows and recent graduates (0-2 years) after graduation. While a little over a quarter (27% of graduates between 2018-2022) will move on to graduate school or continuing education, the majority of students move on to their first jobs. For many of our students, the Career Center is often the first stop they will make when they start thinking about life after Vanderbilt. During our Commodores’ time at Vanderbilt, have seen some remarkable evolutions in this space.

During our “Conversation with the Chancellor,” at Fall 2023 Family Weekend, Chancellor Diermeier discussed the evolution of Career Services since 2020. Noting the early challenges and the improvements taken since then, he stressed the importance of Career Services in not only helping our students find a [career] path, but to find a job (something I am sure all of us parents can appreciate!) Over those three years, Chancellor Diermeier has elevated the importance of Career Services and aligned its operations with different departments, including Admissions, Student Life, and Development among others to achieve this mission. Yet another example of that radical collaboration we hear so much about.

Corporate Relations

Deeper engagement with the companies is a major part of the Career Services effort. Several efforts have been put in place to not only broaden the appeal of Vanderbilt graduates to a larger number of companies but to bring internship opportunities that allow our students to learn about the industries and companies they may soon join.

The Chancellor’s commitment to corporate engagement manifests itself in many ways. This fall, he participated in a conference call with Vanderbilt alumni at Deloitte (the Class of 2022’s top employer) to learn more about enhancing an already strong relationship for future alumni.

Regional Hubs

One of the most exciting and significant investments in corporate and community engagement has been the establishment of Regional Hubs to connect the university with prospective and current students, parents, alumni and its corporate partners. The first four Hubs opened in 2023 in Atlanta, New York City, Houston, and South Florida.

This past year, we were personally involved with activities at the Atlanta hub including an Immersive Trek that brought current students to Atlanta to meet with Atlanta’s top employers, a partnership between the Hub’s Corporate Partnerships team and the Career Center.

Life After Vanderbilt

While we cherish our students’ time in Nashville, life after Vanderbilt does not have to be daunting. We are fortunate that the university places a tremendous emphasis on resources that will prepare our students. Likewise, the engagement of other stakeholders in the Vanderbilt community has broadened the opportunities our students can leverage. If you can think of ways that may contribute to that effort, the university welcomes the advice and assistance. For those with students that are in a search process, whether it is for an internship or a first job, happy hunting!

December - Academic Advising and Registration

As we seek to support our students at Vanderbilt, I wanted to share some information about registration and the unique approaches to academic advising across four undergraduate schools. It is important to note that each school handles advising differently. However, they all utilize the Undergraduate Catalog to guide students. The Undergraduate Catalog is a wealth of information regarding courses of study at Vanderbilt.  

Registration is by periods of seniority (seniors first and so on), so while it looks as if some classes are full, there are seats held for the following periods. Our junior says if students find a class truly full, they should get on the waitlist, email the professor, and in some cases attend the first day of class to speak to said professor. When registering, be online early and ready with all class selections in the cart. Have several backup classes. Build your schedule with enough time to walk to class, manage meal times and busy periods. Unlike many universities, Vanderbilt students graduate in 4 years. They always get the classes they need to graduate. Students may have to adjust and be flexible with time and professor, and/or class electives, but they do graduate on time.  

Our alumna has some words of wisdom for your Commodore regarding registration and class selection. She says, “I took lots of classes I did not plan on. But I always opted to do the interesting, fascinating, and unique elective, as opposed to the easy A or cop-out classes. They always ended up being super challenging. I stressed over dropping some of them and vented a lot to my parents. But I hung in there, and now, these random elective classes left more of an impression on me than most. What I learned in these classes has been most valuable for real life post-Vanderbilt. Classes such as Philosophy of Religion challenged me to think critically and in different ways. Because of this class that I took my freshman year, I became a better writer and conversationalist. I grew in confidence because of it. Ancient Grains in Latin America afforded me the ability to share knowledge and insight whenever I eat or travel. Food has a new dimension now. We learned about human civilizations and their cultural development with food. I registered for Korean Film Study since Hallyu is such a big thing. My mom even thought we might watch the films together and discuss. Nope. That class was so demanding I nearly gave up several times. The professor pulled, teased out and stretched what I thought were my limits of analysis and evaluation. It forever changed the way I watch movies, tell stories, and think about history and culture. So, the next time you sit in front of the computer ready to submit your class selection, remember; you only go to Vanderbilt once. You are only a student once. Do not waste the opportunity to learn something totally and completely out of your comfort zone. Be open and seek out the random.” 

With regards to core classes, advisers can be necessary. The adviser assignment is visible in YES in the “Academic Record”. Below is the academic advising information about each school. Across Vanderbilt, an adviser should contact a new student sometime in the summer before they register for classes.  

The College of Arts and Science  

The College of Arts and Science provides academic advising for first-time students through the College of Arts and Science Pre-Major Academic Resource (CASPAR) until they declare their majors their sophomore year. Once a student declares their major, they are assigned to a faculty adviser within their academic department (i.e., a student with a declared Political Science major would be assigned to an adviser from the Political Science faculty). The faculty advisers work closely with students to help guide them on their course selection until they graduate. Transfer students are typically assigned directly to faculty advisers. 

Any student assigned to a CASPAR adviser has many opportunities and platforms to connect with their adviser. If this is not the case, a student is always welcome to contact Lill Haber, Interim Associate Director, CASPAR, 

Blair School of Music 

Students are assigned a faculty adviser. If a student does not hear from the adviser assigned to them, they should contact Prof. Brian Utley, Head of academic advising at the Blair School, 

If a student is doing a second major at the Blair School, they will be advised by Prof. Russell Platt, Coordinator of Music as a Second Major, 

Non-Blair students often reach out if they are considering a second major or minor at Blair. Contacts for those students are Professors Russell Platt or Jama Reagan, 

School of Engineering 

Incoming students are assigned a faculty adviser chosen from the faculty in the student’s intended major. If a student changes majors, they will be assigned a different adviser from their newly chosen field. Students will remain with their adviser throughout their time in the School of Engineering. The Office of Academic Services recommends perusing The Undergraduate Catalog. It has an example curriculum which is a recommended schedule for each semester at Vanderbilt by major. Students typically meet with their faculty adviser prior to enrolling in courses to help select courses. In addition, the Office of Academic Services has counselors who serve as backup advisers for all engineering students. Although they do not replace the faculty advisers, they serve as a supplement for the advising relationship and help students find their way.  

Peabody College of Education 

Similarly, Peabody assigns advisers who will contact students. If for any reason a student has concerns and does not find satisfactory answers from their adviser or they would like more information, they can contact Peabody’s Office of Academic Services. In the unlikely case a new adviser is needed, they can contact Malina C. Halman-Peguillan, M.Ed., Assistant Dean for Academic Services, malina.c.halman@Vanderbilt.Edu. 

For additional questions about advising at Peabody, contact the director of undergraduate studies for the particular department they are in: 

Human and Org Development: HOD Advising Team – 

Psychology and Human Dev: Professor Leigh Wadsworth-Scheer - 

Special Education: Professor Andrea Capizzi - andrea.capizzi@Vanderbilt.Edu 

Teaching and Learning: Professor Catherine McTamaney - 

As parents, your support is invaluable. We hope this information helps you understand the diverse academic advising approaches as well as the array of courses of study at Vanderbilt. As the end of the semester arrives and the holidays approach, we wish you and your family a peaceful and happy season. Whatever you celebrate, may you experience all that brings you hope and joy. May your student find strength, fulfillment and resilience as they end the semester. And when they return in January bring with them a renewed spirit to contribute their unique talents to the Vanderbilt community. 

November - Study Abroad/Ending the Fall Semester

We know we are preaching to the choir when we say that a Vanderbilt education extends far beyond the classroom. Our students possess a diverse range of talents and interests they are eager to pursue. Immersion Vanderbilt empowers students to transform their passions and curiosities into immersive experiences that not only deepen their understanding but also allow them to share their enthusiasm with others. When it was first introduced as a graduation requirement in 2018, some may have seen it as just another task on the to-do list. However, we quickly realized that this was not the case. Students take what they are already passionate about and apply thoughtful consideration before and after their experience in order to share it. What Immersion Experience will your student pursue? Perhaps your student will leverage it as an opportunity to study abroad as it is a qualifying experience for Immersion Vanderbilt!

Students have dedicated advisors to guide them through the Immersion process. If the Immersion requirement is new to you, please take a moment to visit the Immersion website for more information and to explore the four milestones of this enriching experience. 

While studying abroad is becoming increasingly common across universities in the US, Vanderbilt stands out. With 120-plus programs in 40 countries, 776 students studied abroad on Vanderbilt-approved summer, Maymester and academic year programs during the 2022-2023 academic year. Students can record their study abroad experience, along with other experiences they engage in for Immersion. The students will then choose one experience they have recorded to go on their transcript to be visible to graduate schools and employers. Declaring study abroad for Immersion can qualify students for additional Immersion-related funding opportunities.

Initially, we did not think it was feasible for our son to study abroad given his mechanical engineering major's demanding course schedule. He also did not want to overwhelm himself with multiple challenging courses in a single semester. However, with the assistance of advisors and careful planning, he found a program that seamlessly fit his needs without disrupting his course progression or wasting credits. We have heard that students from various majors, as well as athletes, ROTC participants, and performing arts students, face similar challenges. We are here to tell you that it's not impossible or inconvenient. Planning and conversations with advisors, professors, and deans can work wonders. Worried about the cost? Do not lose hope; financial aid follows students and additional scholarships can be available. Discuss this with your student and explore. Speaking from experience, I highly suggest you start the process as a freshman (even if you do not think your student will ultimately go). It is better to be prepared in the event a window opens, such as it did for our son. Do not be caught in the stress of renewing a passport like us. It is important to note that at a minimum, a passport must be valid through the semester abroad and in many cases at least six months after the program ends. Processing time for renewal of passports is 8-11 weeks, not including mailing time. Keep in mind that traveling abroad may be impossible in the months leading up to the study abroad application since you may have to surrender your passport for a visa application.

Speaking of visas, many, but not all, Vanderbilt study-abroad destination countries require an entry visa for US passport holders. If a visa is required, the study abroad program provider will offer guidance and resources for the visa application process after the student has been accepted into their program. The visa application process, materials, and timeline vary widely by country based on the nationality of the student’s passport, and some require an in-person appearance at a consulate.

Group visa processing services are currently offered for programs in Spain. Students opting into the Spanish group visa processing service do not need to travel to a Spanish consulate. However, for us, since my son was in the middle of renewing a passport that would expire one month after the program ends, he could not make the group visa processing service deadline. He now has to apply individually and may be required to appear in person for a consulate appointment. All of this could have been avoided if we had renewed the passport a year ago. We are crossing our fingers that everything will come together in time for the departure. Stay tuned.

In all our frantic web research, emails, calls and follow ups, we learned that countries other than Spain may also require in-person consulate appearance as part of the visa application. Students will need to work closely with their program providers and should read through all provided instructions carefully before beginning the visa application process. International students should also consult the International Student and Scholar Services Office regarding U.S. re-entry requirements. We know we are not the only parents who have received panic-inducing calls and are scrambling to renew passports and get visas in time, so we hope this information will save you that experience.

The Global Eduation Office website has details on programs, costs, timelines, and more. While the deadline for Spring 2023 applications has passed, opportunities for Maymester and Summer/Fall 2024 remain open. We encourage you to empower your student to take the lead throughout the study abroad process, and to begin their study abroad planning early. We hope your student can seize the life-enriching experience of studying abroad during their undergraduate years.

A final note, as we approach the end of the Fall 2023 semester - Thanksgiving is just around the corner, and many families are eagerly anticipating their students' return home. If you are a parent of a freshman, this may be their first time back since starting their college journey. What can you expect from them? Laundry, hearty meals, and plenty of sleep – they will want to catch up on rest. When they are not sleeping, they may be eager to reconnect with high school friends who have also returned home. While it is natural for us parents to feel a bit left out and wonder, "What about us?" – consider this advice: proactively schedule family time and meal "appointments" with your student in advance, but also leave room for them to spend time with friends. Keep in mind that they have gotten used to staying out late and imposing a high school curfew might not go over well. It is a good idea to negotiate this before they return. I wish someone had told me this when my oldest came home for the first-time years ago; it would have saved me a lot of frustration.

Vanderbilt University enrolls many international and home-challenged students who will not be leaving campus for Thanksgiving break. If you are in a position to host a meal or offer a weekend stay, consider inviting a student or two. The International Student & Scholar Services office also runs a program called EAT! that allows families a chance to share their home and a meal with international students throughout the school year. We wish you a wonderful Thanksgiving break filled with cherished family moments, laughter, and, of course, a victorious Vanderbilt football game against Tennessee– Anchor Down!"

October - Supporting Your Student from Home

Midterms! Typically, at this point, Vanderbilt students are at the peak of their academic stress. They see this as a "no turning back" milestone for the semester. In addition, they may still be learning to navigate and become self-sufficient in nearly every aspect of their lives at Vanderbilt. Your student might be hundreds or thousands of miles away, making it challenging to continue to support their academic and overall well-being. You can still be an anchor for them.  

Check in with your student regularly. Celebrate their achievements. Knowing you are thinking of them, encouraging, and celebrating them, makes all the difference. Explore avenues to remain engaged with them and the university to open doors for meaningful conversations with your student. Additionally, gestures like heartfelt notes and thoughtful care packages have the power to bring joy and surprise your student. 

Your student might encounter challenges in areas of their life that they never have before, spanning academics, social dynamics, and emotional well-being. Upperclassmen could face additional pressures like studying abroad, fulfilling graduation requirements, securing internships, and applying for graduate school or jobs. Fortunately, Vanderbilt offers a diverse array of resources to provide assistance. Encourage them to arrange a session with the Student Care Network to access services like counseling and well-being coaching. 

It is crucial to emphasize that seeking help is not a sign of weakness. Encourage them to advocate for themselves and maintain open communication with professors and teaching assistants. They could also join or create study groups. They might also consider tapping into resources provided by Vanderbilt's academic services, like writing help and tutoring 

As parents, we may experience emotions twice as intensely as our students do. It is important to keep in mind that often when a student reaches out to vent, we carry their frustration, anxiety, and worry with us throughout the entire day and night. While they may have moved on from those emotions, we find ourselves still holding onto them. Keep in mind that very little falls within our direct control, but a larger portion is within our sphere of influence—where we can provide support and empower them to help themselves. So, whether they are approaching midterms with trepidation or with the confidence of Rocky Balboa, pause, take a breath, and have faith that everything they need for their success at Vanderbilt is within their reach. 

September - Campus Engagement

For many parents, the prospect of their children receiving a college education is taken for granted. For some, it represents a lifelong dream to be able to contribute to this opportunity. Meanwhile, for others, it signifies an achievement unprecedented within the family. Yet, once students set foot on campus, they encounter a shared challenge: discovering their place within the Vanderbilt community. Enrolling at Vanderbilt means more than just acquiring a world-class education. A genuine Vanderbilt experience involves active participation in campus organizations and activities. This engagement enables them to expand their perspectives, cultivate social and leadership proficiencies, uncover passions, and foster meaningful relationships. Your student was admitted to attend because they have something special to give and enrich those around them. The college experience is beneficial beyond academics, our students connecting with others and finding their passions is just as important to their collegiate success! Numerous studies and scientific data establish a clear positive correlation: active student engagement not only fosters improved well-being and mental health but also enhances classroom success.

The start of a new school year means new opportunities for our students to get involved in the flourishing campus-life at Vanderbilt. Anchor Link is the website your students should bookmark. It lists all student organizations and contact information along with upcoming activities. You can find all the events, news, and announcements pertaining to campus on this website. With 500+ student organizations and events happening daily, there is something for everyone at Vanderbilt. If your student is struggling to find their place or branch out on campus, have conversations with them around their interests and where they fit into different student organizations. They can't seem to find a match? Encourage them to create a brand new student organization!

Events @ Vanderbilt is one of our favorite sites. It compiles all Vanderbilt events worldwide and is a one stop calendar for all Vanderbilt divisions. As parents, you are able to participate in many of these.

Finally, Family Weekend is a Vanderbilt tradition that brings together students and families from all over the country for a weekend of community, learning and celebration. There is something for everyone. Families get to connect with others, learn about campus and academic updates, and cheer on the 'Dores football team! We have attended 6 consecutive Family Weekends and we can say the events get better and better. Our favorite event is the Fall for the Arts at Commons on Friday, as well as the Farewell Breakfast on Sunday. To register and see the schedule of events visit the Family Weekend website. The website is updated regularly, so check back often. We hope to meet many of you there.

August - Introduction

We are very excited to announce that, for the first time since its inception, the Commodore Connection Newsletter will have a parent’s section in every issue. This section will be for parents, by parents, and it will serve to share any announcements, insight and tips. In a few short days, our students will be moving to campus, and we will welcome in a new school year! The years at Vanderbilt fly by, so if you have not participated with the Parents and Family Association and/or other Vanderbilt events, THIS is the year. Parents and families are part of the Vanderbilt community, and everyone is welcome. Look ahead to Family Weekend and make necessary arrangements to attend on Oct. 13–15. We are looking forward to an amazing year as we continue to celebrate 150 years of Vanderbilt. Anchor Down!