As parents, we want the best for our children. We want them to succeed. When our children become college students, the definition of success is sometimes more elusive. We want our students to receive good grades. We want our students to feel good about themselves. We want our students to make friends and have a fulfilling social life. We want our students to be able to get a job after graduation.
It may seem as though taking difficult or hard courses might not be the best choice for your student. Hard courses take a lot of time. Hard courses can be frustrating. Hard courses may not boost your student’s GPA. But there are some compelling reasons why taking some of those more difficult courses may benefit your student in many important ways.
Of course, your student needs to needs to keep his schedule in balance and needs to keep everything in perspective. Taking all difficult courses, or all easy courses, does not make a balanced schedule. And one student’s definition of difficult is another student’s easy course. Knowing his own strengths and learning style is helpful. But with all of this in mind, here are eight reasons why a few difficult courses can benefit your student.
- Taking a difficult course helps your student learn how to do difficult things. As simplistic as this may sound, students who have not attempted something difficult, or who have been protected from too many challenges, may not have the coping skills necessary when they confront something difficult in the future. While a difficult course may be a struggle right now, your student will learn important coping skills and strategies.
- Your student will get his (or your) money’s worth out of college. Hopefully, your student is attending college to learn. Avoiding difficult courses may mean that he also misses a great deal of knowledge, experience, and exposure to some great professors.
- Your student won’t be bored if she is being intellectually challenged. Sticking to easier, more comfortable courses may mean that she will also be bored by repetition and lack of challenge.
- Your student may discover new abilities as she challenges her limits. She may learn that she is capable of more than she thought. She may discover new interests or passions as she throws herself into her coursework.
- Your student will feel good about himself when he succeeds. There is nothing quite as satisfying as accomplishing something that you thought you might not be able to do. Your student’s self-esteem will grow.
- Hopefully, it won’t happen often, but if your student should not succeed, he will learn how to cope with failure. Students who never attempt something difficult, and so never fail, never learn how to deal with failure. Learning how to handle failure at this point, learning to deal with it emotionally, to bounce back, and to strategize a new plan, will help him when he faces the possibility in some future situation. He will not be intimidated by challenges in the future.
- A few difficult courses look good on your student’s transcript, and a future employer will notice. Your student should remember that employers look at more than the GPA, and they will recognize that your student has been willing to take on challenges.
- Your student will know that he was able to put all of his effort into something, pull his resources together, and prove something to himself. Attempting a difficult course, taking on a challenge, should be something that your student does for himself, not for anyone else. The satisfaction that he will experience in discovering his capabilities is irreplaceable.
Your student will need to make her own choices about courses. She will need to evaluate her goals, her needs and the appropriate balance of courses. She will need to work with her academic advisor to choose the courses that are best for her at each stage of her college career. As a parent, you can encourage her not to shy away from those difficult courses that may provide numerous benefits for her now and in the future.