What Does My Student Mean By Alternative Spring Break?

College spring break activities are legendary.  Many students travel – often to warmer climates – and party, drink, and generally carry on.  Many parents take these activities in stride, and many parents worry about their students during this time.  However, in recent years, many students are talking about, and engaging in, an “alternative spring break”.  This is the phenomenon of spending the week of spring break participating in some type of organized volunteer effort.

The idea of spending spring break in a volunteer effort has been around for a while, but it gained popularity and publicity following hurricanes Katrina and Rita.  Many college students spent their spring break traveling to hurricane torn areas of the country to help clean up and rebuild.  One estimate is that by 2006, more than 30,000 students participated in some sort of alternative spring break experience.

Read moreWhat Does My Student Mean By Alternative Spring Break?


How Your College Student Can Benefit from Studying the Arts

Many students have grown up studying the arts.  Children take dance lessons, music lessons, and participate in drama or choral performances.  Hopefully, these children and young adults participate in these activities because they love them. Unfortunately, the arts are often seen as add-ons to a student’s education.   However, students reap many benefits from these activities which will serve them well when they get to college, and as they continue throughout their lives.

I am pleased to have a guest post this week on DanceAdvantage.net about some of the benefits of a dance education for college students.  Although the post was specifically written about dance, the principles apply to any study of performing arts.  If your student participates in the arts in any way, or has participated in the past, please visit DanceAdvantage and read Ten Credits Dancers Take With Them to College. In the article we discuss some of the qualities which dancers (or any student of the arts) have which will give them an advantage when they get to college.

If you have a student who dances, you’ll want to spend some time looking around DanceAdvantage.net.  Writer and dancer Nichelle Strzepek has put together a wonderful site that is chock full of information for dancers, parents and teachers.

Ten Credits Dancers Take With Them to College on DanceAdvantage.net


College Spring Break: Another “Letting Go” Experience for Parents

If it is spring semester, spring break is on the minds of most students – and many of their parents.  Students have been hard at work since the fall, many have had a winter break at home with their families, and many students look forward to that mid-point of spring semester when they can let off steam.  Sending your student off to college as a first-year student was a sometimes frightening “letting go” experience for many parents.  One of the next major steps of independence for many students may be heading off on a trip for spring break.

Not all students travel for spring break.  The reality is that many of those students who do head for the typical spring break destinations receive a lot of publicity, but these students represent only a portion of the number of college students in the country.  Many students cannot afford expensive spring break trips.  Many students head home for some quality down time with family, or extra study time. Some students spend break working to increase income.   Increasingly, many students opt to spend an alternative spring break traveling and doing community service work.  More and more colleges are offering organized alternatives to their students.  College athletes may travel with a team.  Some students spend the break doing internships.  And some students choose to travel – but not to prime student destinations.

If your student is coming home for break, remember that, just like winter break, your student probably needs some down time.  That may mean that she may spend much of the week sleeping, doing laundry, eating, catching up on TV, and possibly sleeping some more.  This is a vacation for your student.  She has likely just finished midterm exams, and she knows that she has a lot of work ahead of her when she returns to school.  Be patient with her student hours, her apparent lack of motivation, and her need for sleep.

Read moreCollege Spring Break: Another “Letting Go” Experience for Parents


How – and Why – to Help Your College Student Create a Budget

College is expensive.  Both parents and students know that they are investing a lot of money in a college education.  Some families have pieced together significant scholarships, grants and loans in order to pay for a college education.  This article is not about those bigger financial issues that make a college education possible.  It is about helping your student create and live by a daily budget for their living expenses.  Whether your student must pay for their own expenses, or whether you partially or fully fund those expenses, college is the ideal time for your student to learn to manage money carefully.

Working together with your student to help establish a budget may provide an opportunity for you to talk with them about priorities, needs and wants, interests, and goals.  You will get to know your student even better.  You will be helping them to establish an important skill for after graduation, as well as helping your student understand where their money goes now.  Your student may already understand, or may be surprised to discover, how quickly little expenses add up.  Your student’s budget will be more and more realistic each semester that they spend at college as they learn what true costs are and what opportunities they may have to save.  If your student is just starting college, their budget may be only an estimate and they will need to be flexible as they fine tune.

Thinking About Budgeting

Hopefully, your college student will be interested and willing to work at setting up a budget.  If they resist, try to gently insist.  Help your student understand the importance of knowing where their money goes.  Convince them that if they want or need more money, or more independence, later, then they will have a more solid argument if they can demonstrate that they are spending responsibly.  Creating a daily budget is another step toward the responsible independence that both you and your student seek.

Read moreHow – and Why – to Help Your College Student Create a Budget


Communicating With Your College Student: Is the Climate Right?

When your child leaves home for college, you worry about losing contact.  She will be living at college, and perhaps not returning home for several weeks or months, so you worry.  However, with some effort on your part, your communication with your student may become even more meaningful than when she was home.

This is the fifth and final post in a series that may give you food for thought about how you communicate with your college student.  Some of our suggestions may be common sense reminders, and some may be new ideas for you.  Obviously, communication skills are interrelated, so please consider all of these suggestions together.  Our first post concerned how you listen to your student, our second looked at nonverbal communication, our third discussed perception checking, and our fourth applied some interviewing principles.  In this post we consider how to frame some of your messages so your student may be willing to listen.  We hope that thinking about how you listen and talk to your student may help you to keep all of your communication doors wide open.

Communication with your college student is important.  You work hard at it.  You provide opportunities, listen to your student, try to be aware of what is being said between the lines, you ask the right questions, and yet you sometimes may feel as though your student becomes defensive or reluctant to tell you about his thoughts and feelings.  Yes, it is possible that your student just may not want, or be able, to talk to you right now.  But it is also possible that you might be able to do more to create a supportive and open climate that will encourage your student to share her feelings.  Communication researcher Jack Gibb has suggested six areas in which we sometimes create a defensive communication climate rather than the supportive one that we desire.  We’d like to share some of these potential pitfalls and offer some suggestions for you to increase your positive communication.

Read moreCommunicating With Your College Student: Is the Climate Right?


9 Ways to Help Your College Student Get a Fresh Start for Second Semester

Your student’s return to college for a second semester is a very different from heading off to college last fall.  Students heading back to school for their second semester bring their wisdom and their mistakes, their college knowledge and their new life experiences with them.  For some students, the anticipation and worry may not be as high as first semester.  For other students, who may not have had the best first semester, their concerns are significant and real.  But all students should recognize that the start of the second semester of college is another new beginning.  Parents can help their college students prepare for their second semester by helping them think about it and plan a few goals before they return to school.  Share some of these ideas with your student and ask what might help.

Read more9 Ways to Help Your College Student Get a Fresh Start for Second Semester


Communicating With Your College Student: Six Principles to Help You Make the Most of Opportunities

When your child leaves home for college, you worry about losing contact.  She will be living at college, and perhaps not returning home for several weeks or months, so you worry.  However, with some effort on your part, your communication with your student may become even more meaningful than when she was home.

This post is the fourth in a series of five posts that may give you food for thought about how you communicate with your college student.  Some of our suggestions may be common sense reminders, and some may be new ideas for you.  Obviously, communication skills are interrelated, so please consider all of these suggestions together.  Our first post concerned how you listen to your student, our second looked at nonverbal communication, and our third discussed perception checking.  In this post we consider how to ask the most helpful questions and how to apply some interviewing principles.  In our final post we’ll look at how to frame some of your messages so your student may be willing to listen.  We hope that thinking about how you listen and talk to your student may help you to keep all of your communication doors wide open.

A conversation is not an interview, and we don’t like conversations that begin to feel like interviews – or worse, interrogations.  However, those of us who have experienced well conducted interviews know that a good interview can feel like friendly conversation – and can elicit extremely helpful information.  Thinking about, and applying, a few basic principles of good interviewing may help you make your conversations with your student more productive.

We don’t want to suggest that you should strategize every exchange with your student – that’s obviously not the kind of communication that you want.  However, these principles may be most helpful when you need to have a serious or directed conversation with your student.

Read moreCommunicating With Your College Student: Six Principles to Help You Make the Most of Opportunities


How Parents Can Help Their College Student in Difficulty

When your college student began college you both had high hopes and expectations.  You knew that there would be challenges ahead, but you both did everything that you could to prepare.  Now your student seems to be struggling and having difficulty at college.  You may be feeling helpless and concerned for her.  Perhaps she hasn’t applied herself to studying, or perhaps she doesn’t understand what is required to succeed in college, or perhaps she has worked hard but is still unable to accomplish what she needs to do.

Whatever the reasons may be, your college student is now struggling and you want to know what you can do to help.  Obviously, every situation is different and every family dynamic is different, but here are some posts that may help you as you try to decide how you can help support your student as he works to improve his situation.

Read moreHow Parents Can Help Their College Student in Difficulty


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