Undecided, Undeclared, Open, Exploring: Your College Student’s Search for a Major

Many students (some say as many as 50%) enter college undecided about their major.

Many students who enter college as undecided experience stress and anxiety about declaring a major and/or finding a career.

Many students who enter college declaring a major are really undecided but have made a choice because they feel pressured.

Many parents of undecided students worry that their student lacks direction and will not find a meaningful career.

Many students, and their parents, are anxious about this seemingly indecisive status.

Who are these undecided students?

Read moreUndecided, Undeclared, Open, Exploring: Your College Student’s Search for a Major


Using Senior Year to Prepare for Success in College: Nine Skills Your Student Needs to Polish

Senior year is a stressful and tricky year for high school students. They face the final stages of the college application process, then the w-a-i-t-i-n-g that seems interminable, and there’s the final decision to be made.  All the while, students are told to keep their grades up so colleges won’t change their mind and so students will be ready for the academic work of college.

But if your senior wants to be successful in college, there’s more work to be done than meets the eye – and many students and their parents may not realize all that they should be doing.  Academic preparation is essential, but it’s only the tip of the iceberg.

Many students come to college well prepared academically yet they struggle through the first year, not because the coursework is too hard, but because they suddenly need to cope with all of life.  They may have taken for granted all that is involved in managing their day-to-day life; never considered, or never mastered those skills.

How do parents fit in?

Many high schools don’t address the life skills that student need to succeed.  Parents can help students use the senior year to learn to manage their lives well – leaving them energy and time to focus on their academic work.  It’s a gradual process, of course.  Don’t present your student with a list at the beginning of senior year – remember that he’s probably already feeling overwhelmed.  But slip some of these skills in as the year goes along – and then take time at the end of the year to remind your student how prepared he now is to manage not only his schoolwork, but himself.

Read moreUsing Senior Year to Prepare for Success in College: Nine Skills Your Student Needs to Polish


How College Parents Can Help Their Student Avoid Sophomore Slump

College administrators, faculty, and parents place a lot of emphasis on the transition to college and the first-year experience.  We all know that these new college students, and their parents, will be undergoing a tremendous change in their lives as they enter the world of college.  Colleges run orientation programs, offer special classes and seminars for first-year students, communicate with these new students with encouragement and reminders, and often have a “let it go” attitude when new students make mistakes or miss deadlines.

Once students complete that tumultuous first year of college, they face sophomore year and the changes that it brings.  Our sophomore students need just as much support from home, even though that need may be less obvious. As college parents, we can help our sophomore students realize that the concept of sophomore slump really does exist.

What is sophomore slump?

Sophomore slump refers to the phenomenon in which a second effort fails to live up to the quality of a first effort.  The term is also used in sports (for second year players) and in music (for second recordings by an artist).  At college, students in their second, or sophomore, year often experience both a let-down and a decrease in their grades.  If the word sophomore means “wise fool,” it is an accurate description of how many second year students feel: they aren’t sure whether they feel wise or foolish at any given moment.

Why does sophomore slump happen?

There are several things that occur during the second year of college that can contribute to the slump that sophomores may encounter.  These are especially troubling if your student is unprepared for the differences during this year of college.  Parents and students need to understand the ways in which this year is different from that first year of college.

Read moreHow College Parents Can Help Their Student Avoid Sophomore Slump


College Parent News and Views

The more that college parents know and understand about the college experience, the less we worry and the better we will be able to help our students to succeed and thrive throughout their college career.  However, there is an overwhelming amount of information out there on the web.   We’d like to help you find some of the information that might be most interesting and useful to you as a college parent.

In News and Views we share recent college related news and sources we’ve found as we do our research.  We hope that this feature will help to introduce you to new ideas and to help you keep up with some of the current issues that may affect your college student – and you.

We invite you to read some of the articles suggested below – and to let us know what you think of some of the ideas included here.

Read moreCollege Parent News and Views


As We Send Them Off – – and Let Them Go: 25 Quotes to Guide You

It’s an interesting moment in time.  As we send our students off to college, we’re filled with pride at their accomplishments, excited for the future that awaits them, nervous (maybe even downright scared) about their success, celebrating our freedom from the daily caretaking responsibilities, and feeling the emptiness of the hole they are leaving in our daily lives.

In the swirl of student emotions and the sometimes chaotic preparations to move away, we sometimes forget to honor our own feelings – and to embrace the new adventure that awaits us as well as our student.

Take a moment (or two).  Breathe.  Honor your feelings, but don’t dwell on them.  Find for yourself a perspective that allows you to savor this time – and to move into the next moment.

Here are some quotes that may help.  Not all of them will resonate with you, but find some that do.  Keep them.  Come back to them. Find your own new path.

Congratulations on your new role!  It’s an exciting adventure.

Read moreAs We Send Them Off – – and Let Them Go: 25 Quotes to Guide You


Book Review – There Is Life After College

From time to time, we like to review some of the books available for parents of college students.  There is a wealth of literature available to help parents cope with the transition to college and the changes that occur throughout the college years.  We’ve offered some recommended reading, and there is something for everyone. See the Recommended Reading section of our Resources page for more suggestions.

The problem with There Is Life After College, by Jeffrey Selingo, is the title.  This sounds like a good book for a college senior to pick up for after graduation advice.  The subtitle helps: What Parents and Students Should Know About Navigating School to Prepare for the Jobs of Tomorrow. If parents and students take time to read the subtitle, they will understand that this is a book that should be read well before college graduation.  It is a book that both parents and students should read, and talk about together, while they are in high school – and then again several times during college.

One of the things we like about There Is Life After College is that it is a book for everyone.  High school students should read it to understand that, as the author states, “What you do in college is more important than where you go to college.” During that stressful college decision time, students would do well to think about how they plan to maximize their experience at the colleges they are considering.  College students and recent graduates should consider, “To thrive in your career, don’t treat college or your job as a spectator sport.” As parents read There Is Life After College, they should think about their student’s strengths and challenges.  The many specific descriptions in the book will help them to understand, and then motivate, their student. Parents will also be reminded that the world of college and career today is not the world they entered.

Read moreBook Review – There Is Life After College


Should My College Student Have a Job at School?

Many students head off to college knowing that, in addition to their academic work – and possibly their sports or other activities – they will need to have a job. The costs of attending college are high – and growing.  In addition to tuition and room and board, there are extra fees, expensive textbooks, and living expenses.  We can help our students think through factors to consider as they decide what kind of job they may want – and a major question of whether to work on campus or off campus.

Thinking about a job at college

The first, and most important, caution is for your student to remember that, if he is a full-time student, he has made a major commitment to his schoolwork.  Although he may be spending relatively few hours in class, a full-time student has taken on the equivalent of a full-time job.

A general rule of thumb is that students should expect to spend two hours on coursework for each hour that they spend in class.  So, for example, if your college student is registered for 15 credits (approximately 15 hours/week in class) then he should be doing approximately 30 hours of work outside of class – for a total of 45 hours of schoolwork.  Of course, this is an average and the demands will vary each week, but when considering how many hours per week he can commit to a job, he needs to be realistic about his schedule.  If he is playing a sport, or involved in some other major activity, he will need to consider that time commitment as well.  Several studies have suggested that students who work more than 20 hours a week may have a lower GPA.

Here are some factors your student should think about as he considers work opportunities.

Read moreShould My College Student Have a Job at School?


15 Tips to Help You and Your Student Cope with Change

Greek philosopher Heraclitus is reported to have said, “There is nothing permanent except change.”  Over 2500 years later, the only thing that hasn’t changed is the truth of his statement.

As you send your student off to college, the word change takes on a new and very real meaning for your student – and for you.  As parents, we may be so focused on the big changes our students will face that we forget (or deny?) that we are experiencing change as well.

Why is change so difficult?

Change is a word we use all of the time, but we may not have thought much about what it actually means.  Definitions sometimes give us clarity.  To change something is to make it different from what it would be if left alone, to transform or become different.

Change can be hard.  It means a lack of certainty and predictability. Change is necessary for growth, but it is normal to fear that we won’t be able to cope with it.  So if both you and your student are feeling a little apprehensive right now about what changes might be coming, know that you’re in good company.  The first step is acknowledging that change is inevitable, and then you decide how you will respond to it.

Fight or flight – or go with the flow?

Often our first reaction to something that scares us is the fight or flight response.  We fight it and try to stop it, or we take flight and try to run away.  We may try to prevent change or we may try to avoid or deny that it is happening.  Facing change as we send our student off to college is the first step toward making it a positive experience for everyone.  Don’t fight it or ignore it.  Make sure that you maintain a positive attitude and prepare to go with the flow.

Read more15 Tips to Help You and Your Student Cope with Change


College Parent News and Views

The more that college parents know and understand about the college experience, the less we worry and the better we will be able to help our students to succeed and thrive throughout their college career.  However, there is an overwhelming amount of information out there on the web.   We’d like to help you find some of the information that might be most interesting and useful to you as a college parent.

In News and Views we share recent college related news and sources we’ve found as we do our research.  We hope that this feature will help to introduce you to new ideas and to help you keep up with some of the current issues that may affect your college student – and you.

We invite you to read some of the articles suggested below – and to let us know what you think of some of the ideas included here.

Read moreCollege Parent News and Views


How Parents Can Help Make College Move-in Day a Success

As you and your student navigate your way through the summer before college, you will have many ups and downs.  There is much to be done, and tensions may run high at times.  It is a summer of excitement and emotion.  There are several things that you can do throughout the summer to help to ease the transition to college.  However, as the actual move-in day approaches, there are some specific things that you, as a college parent to be, can do to help the move go smoothly.

Preparing for the move to college

  • Be informed.  Read all of the material that you have received from the college.  Don’t be caught off guard at the last minute because you’ve forgotten something urgent.  Know college policies.  Can your student bring a microwave or refrigerator?  Are pets allowed?  Can he bring his own bed or mattress?  How much extra furniture is allowed? What paperwork will he be expected to bring with him?
  • Check specific information about arrival time. Some schools designate a specific time for you to arrive.  If they tell you to come at noon, don’t expect to be allowed to move in at 7 a.m.
  • If you are a long distance from the college, consider traveling the day before move-in and staying overnight.  Early arrival for move-in day is helpful and it can be an exhausting day.  It may be easier on everyone if you do your traveling the day before.  If you plan to do this, make arrangements early.  Local hotels may fill early.
  • Help your student make a checklist of everything he needs to pack.  Use this checklist as you pack the car.  Do the thinking ahead of time when everyone is more relaxed rather than at the last minute.
  • Gather all important paperwork in one place and leave it accessible.  If your student knows what residence hall he will be in, have that information.  If he will need to turn in health forms or financial forms, etc., make sure that they are packed on top.
  • Try to help your student not to become overwhelmed.  (This means you shouldn’t become overwhelmed!)  Take things one step at a time.
  • Remember that your student will be able to buy some things once he is at school.  It may make sense to wait to see what may be needed or to check with a roommate once he arrives.  You may take your student to a local store – or he will go on his own.  You can also bring some things next time you come to campus. Chances are, he may not need snow boots or skis until after Family Weekend.
  • Be prepared to be “dismissed” by your student.  It may be important to him that he prepare and pack on his own.  Step back from the process when necessary, but be prepared to help out if asked.
  • Be patient with procrastination.  Packing may seem overwhelming.  And packing makes the whole prospect of college and leaving home finally very real.  Many students wait until the last moments to actually pack.  Be patient.  You are not alone.

Read moreHow Parents Can Help Make College Move-in Day a Success