Does Your College Student Know How to Advocate for What They Need?

There are a lot of skills that college students need to learn and practice.  Perhaps one of the most essential of those skills is self-advocacy, knowing how to ask for and get the things that you need to be successful.  The term self-advocacy is very often used in the context of students with learning disabilities or learning differences, but it is an important skill for any college student.  In this article, we use the term generically, as a skill that is important for any student.  The more that your student is able to recognize and ask for what they need, the better their chances of success.

Students who may have relied on others to advocate for them in the past now have to learn to communicate their own needs to others.  They need to learn to speak up for themselves and to be assertive.  Taking responsibility and control is not always an easy thing to accomplish.  As a college parent, you may need to help your student learn this important skill.  Although it may seem easier to do things yourself, and you may feel that you are better able to get the results that you feel are necessary, helping your student to learn how to advocate may be one of the best things that you can do for your college student.

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Is Your College Student Preparing for the World of Work?

For many students, college life is a wonderful time living an ideal existence.  It is, in some ways, an escape from the real world.  In spite of the stress that many students experience over various issues, real financial worries, occasional social drama, and worries about career decisions once they graduate, college life has some benefits.  For many students, meals are prepared for them in a dining hall, someone cleans up after them in residence halls, someone else is responsible for shoveling, raking and mowing, their commute may consist of walking across the quad, friends live just down the hall and are available 24/7, and much entertainment is free on campus.  College life for some students is an idyllic bubble that lasts for a few years.

However, most college students do graduate, and then they face the reality of the world of work.  Is there anything in that idyllic life of college that prepares them for the expectations that will exist once they graduate?  For students who give some thought to a work ethic and to their college experiences, there are many lessons they can take away.  As a college parent, you may be able to help your student equate some of his college experiences to his future work life.  Students who recognize these college experiences as preparation and practice for later work expectations will not only experience more success in college, but will be better prepared later.

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Should My Student Choose a Double Major in College?

Many students have difficulty choosing a major in college.  Some of those students who have difficulty cannot decide on a single major in which they are interested.  Others may have difficulty narrowing their choices down to one major.  Those students with multiple interests may consider opting for a double major or dual major.  You may be wondering whether this is a good choice for your student.  The answer is, it depends.  As with so many other decisions surrounding college, there is no clear answer.  It is important that your student consider carefully her reasons for the double major option, and the implications of choosing this path.

Why is your student making the double major choice?

Students may opt for a double major for a number of reasons.  Not being able to make up your mind between two majors may not be a very good reason — but it might be.  Your student should ask himself why he can’t make up his mind.  Is he truly, equally interested in both?  Does he feel an obligation to major in one area, but a passion to major in another?  Do the two majors fit together or complement each other?  Would a major in one area and a minor in the other serve the same purpose or satisfy the same needs?  (A minor often involves half of the number of courses of a major.)  Is your student considering a double major because one major satisfies his head (intellect) and one satisfies his heart (passion)?  Is he making this choice because he is considering graduate school and wants multiple options?  Will the double major give your student a broader perspective and added flexibility?

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Book Review: Launching: Parenting to College & Beyond

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. Check out our Resources and Tools page for suggestions.

Launching: Parenting Your Child to College and Beyond is a brief, 50+ page handbook that should prove helpful for parents of teens and for those about to send a student off to college.  The book is divided into two sections.  The first section deals with the transition into adulthood and should be helpful to parents as they try to understand their child.  The second section of the book deals with the parents’ transition to a new role as they deal with their changing child.

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When Should My College Student Choose a Major?

The short answer to when your college student should choose a major is when they are ready.  However, as we all realize, it may not be as simple as that.  Some students may be ready to choose a major early in their college career, or even well before they get to college.  Other students may have great difficulty settling on a single major.  And still other students may be ready to choose a major, but may not realize it.

Perhaps one of the first and most important conversations you should have with your college student about choosing a major is that choosing a major is not the same thing as choosing a career.  Many students are reluctant, or even fearful, of choosing a major because they worry that this choice will lock them into a career.  Students think career first, and then major.  You may need to help your student understand that a specific major may lead to many careers, and that several majors may lead to the same career.  Students should also be reminded that most people today may change careers several times during their working life, and may finally settle on a career quite far removed from their college major. If your student does not yet have a specific career path in mind, that should not inhibit them from choosing a field of study in which they are interested.  The more your student studies and learns about their area, the more career direction they will have.

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Using Senior Year to Prepare Your Student for College Success

As college parents, or potential college parents, we want our students to have a successful college career.  We hope that our student’s transition to college will go smoothly, that they will excel academically, make friends, be happy socially, and ultimately graduate to find a fulfilling career.  During the senior year of high school we may already be visualizing that next commencement ceremony.  Having the dream and the vision for our student is important — it may be what keeps us going through all of those tuition payments.  But is there anything that you can do, while your student is still in high school, and beyond the admissions process,  to help move them toward the success that you hope for?

There is a lot of material available to students about preparing for college.  There are countless books, websites, programs, lectures, and consulting services offered to help students as they move toward college.  Many of these services help students decide what high school classes to take, how to prepare for the SAT or ACT, how to select colleges and conduct college visits, how to finance an education and acquire loans.  There are lists and lists available of what to bring to college and how to furnish the ultimate dorm room.  However, there are some less tangible, less obvious ways in which parents can help their students be prepared for all that college entails.

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Will Your College Student Graduate On Time?

The question of whether your college student will graduate on time is a loaded question.  It’s an important question, and it’s a tricky question.  As parents, we send our students off to college hoping that all will go without a hitch and that they will graduate in the expected four years.  We often do our careful financial planning based on the four-year timetable.  As we examine the question of graduating on time, there are two important things that we need to consider before we discuss time to graduation.

  • The first thing that we need to consider is what we mean by ”on time”. Although most of us still consider four years to be the norm for an undergraduate degree, according to the U.S. Department of Education National Center for Educational Statistics (NCES), the percentage of students who graduate in four years is approximately 36%.  The percentage who finish in six years is 57.5%.  This is approximately 10% less than the figure for the 1960’s.  Colleges have historically measured graduation rates which include those who graduate in 150% of the normal time — 6 years for a ”4-year degree.”  With the reauthorization of the Higher Education Act in 2008, colleges now measure graduation rates with 200% of time — 8 years for a ”4-year degree.”  So we may need to question whether a ”4-year degree” is the norm.

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