How Does Your College Student Feel About Their First Job?

Of course, the best answer to the question of how your college student feels about his first job is to ask him.  Every student is different.  Every student has different goals and ambitions, different strategies, different needs.  Hopefully, as your student has maneuvered his way through his college career, you’ve had opportunities to talk about his dreams and ambitions, and about the realities he will face when he hits the job market.

In spite of all of the individual differences, however, there are trends today in college graduates’ attitudes and approaches toward their first post-college job.  If you haven’t already had some conversations with your college student about his career thinking, some of the following information may be a good beginning point for discussion.  This information comes from the 2010 annual survey of college students conducted by the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE).  Between February and April of 2010, NACE surveyed more than 12,000 graduating seniors at over 400 colleges throughout the United States.  Here are some of the things that they found.

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Reasons Why Your College Student Might Not Graduate in Four Years

According to national statistics, the average for students graduating from college is now five years rather than four years.  Objectively, we may hear that statistic and find it moderately interesting.  However, when it is our college student who may take more than four years to complete their college education, we may become not only very interested, but alarmed.  We may have seen this coming or we may be taken by surprise.  We may understand the reasons or we may not.  We may consider the reasons sensible or we may find them ridiculous.  We may take the news in stride or we may be angry and upset.

If it becomes clear that your student will need more than the perceived ”normal” four years to complete their college degree, you and they will probably need to have a conversation.  Whether the extra time is intentional or takes you both by surprise, you’ll need to make some plans that may include some strategizing and altering of financial or other considerations.  There are many factors that might cause a student to need extra time to complete a degree.  Understanding some of the factors may help you to realize what has happened, or may help you and your student anticipate or prevent a delay. Here are a few factors that might affect your student’s time to completion of their degree.

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Keeping the Dialogue Open With Your College Student

Before your college student headed off to school, you may have had some good conversations about both their expectations and your expectations, and about both of your hopes — for grades, for money management, for behavior, or for other things important to both of you.  At the midpoint in the semester or year, or just a little past that point, both you and your student may be reevaluating how things are going.  Your student has settled in, more or less, has made some friends, has developed habits of behavior, and has likely received some midterm or first semester grades or indications of academic progress.

This is a good time to revisit some of your earlier conversations about hopes, dreams, and expectations.  Your college student has weathered tremendous transitions during the past few weeks.  They have had to adjust academically and socially, and had to create a their place in this new world.  You may have had lots of communication with your student, and you may know exactly how things are going, or you may be wondering how the adjustment process has gone.  This is a good time to check in again with your student.

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College Parenting With the College Calendar

As a college parent, or pre-college parent, you probably used the calendar diligently to watch the deadlines for college fairs and open houses, college applications, financial aid forms, deposit deadlines, and housing deadlines. Now that your student is actually in college, you may be thinking largely in terms of first and last days and breaks when your student will be home.

Hopefully, your college student is paying attention to important dates on the college calendar, and on his class syllabi, to keep track of his own important deadlines.  For parents, however, keeping an eye on the college calendar will help gather a sense of the rhythm of the college semester and year.  Taking note of important dates will help spark important conversations with your college student and give you a snapshot of some of his activities.

Your student’s college may send a copy of the year’s calendar home, but it is also almost always posted on the college’s website.  Many colleges update the online calendar frequently and include all of the activities happening on campus.  Try to make it a habit to check the calendar, and to use the information there to help you understand your student’s world.  Here are a few suggestions of things to watch for and think about.

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When Your College Student Changes Majors

It may come during a phone call.  It may come through an e-mail.  Or it may come during a visit home.  Your college student lets you know that they are changing their major.  Although some parents may quietly celebrate, for many other parents this is disconcerting, if not frightening, news.  The most important thing to remember is — don’t panic!

A change of major may be a small step, or it may be a giant leap.  Your student may have chosen their original major for many reasons — some better than others — and they may be changing for many reasons — some better than others.  It also matters what the majors are and when the change is happening.  Obviously, a change of direction in the first or second year of college is different than a shift during senior year – but senior year isn’t out of the question.

It may help if parents understand that most college students, some studies suggest a figure as high as 80%, change their major at least once.  The average may be as high as changing majors three times during the college years. It also helps to consider why students may choose their majors in the first place.  According to a study conducted by NACE (National Association of Colleges and Employers), 66% of students choose their major based on a career in which they are interested, 12% say they ”drifted” into a major, 9% say they were inspired by a particular teacher or professor, 7% chose a major based on earning potential, and 6% say they were influenced by friends and family.  Clearly many choices are being made for reasons other than following the student’s heart and mind.

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Book Review: Emerging Adulthood: The Winding Road from the Late Teens through the Twenties

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 created lists of recommended reading, and there is something for everyone.  See our Resources and Tools page for suggestions.

Emerging Adulthood by Jeffrey Arnett is slightly different from many of the other books we recommend for college parent reading.  This book was not written specifically for college parents, but is of value and interest to parents, students, and college faculty and administrators alike. Dr Arnett, a researcher at Clark University, has focused his research on adolescents and young adults.  His research has led him to propose a new phase of development for this age group — what he calls ”Emerging Adulthood”.

According to Arnett, the years between approximately 18 to 25 mark a unique phase of development, as long or longer than any other stage of development in childhood or adolescence.  He advocates recognizing this phase as a distinct period.  Arnett recognizes that college students today often define criteria for adulthood differently than their parents’ generation did.  For today’s students the psychological markers of accepting responsibility for one’s actions, making independent decisions, and becoming financially independent become more important criteria than the sociological markers of finishing their education, entering the workforce, marrying or parenting.

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Fall Preparations for Your College Senior’s Transition Out of School

It probably seems like only yesterday that you and your college student were worrying about Freshman Orientation, Move-in Day, understanding the world of college, and getting started in the right direction.  Now your college student is approaching the end of their college career.  Hopefully, you’ve watched your student grow and blossom throughout the college years, and they’re now managing more on their own.  However, you likely still worry at times, and wonder how your student will fare in this new transition to come.

Although for many seniors graduation still seems a long way off, there are some important things that your student can and should do in the fall to prepare for a successful finale in the spring.  It may be helpful for you to have some conversations with your senior now to help them get on track.  Here are some things that you might suggest.

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