Although colleges and universities have different schedules, for many college students early November is past the mid-point in the semester, but there are still a few weeks of study remaining. Thanksgiving break is looming, but it isn’t quite here yet. Finals are on the horizon. Winter break still seems a long way off, but for many students the prospect of being at home for several weeks comes with its own stress.
This is a time of semester, for some students, of turning inward. There is nothing wrong with this. For some students, this is a time of self-examination – “Am I studying enough?” “Will I have the final grades I had hoped for?” “What will it be like when I get back together with my high school friends?” “What will it be like living with my family again over break?” “Am I in the correct major for me?” “Will I be able to get the courses that I want next semester?” Self-examination is almost always a good thing, and parents may want to encourage their college student to think about some of these issues. But these questions bring stress for many students.
This intense time of semester, which forces many students to turn inward, may also cause some students to focus too much on themselves and their problems/concerns/worries. It may be a good time of semester to encourage your student to take a bit of time – perhaps a day or perhaps just a few hours – to turn outward rather than inward. As your student focuses, appropriately, on himself, he may benefit from turning outward and reminding himself to think about others as well.
Of course, many college students are actively and continually engaged in community service projects. Some are required to participate in service projects by their institution and others are just naturally drawn to working with and for others. This is a growing trend among students and is an exciting thing to see. But taking a bit of time, right now, at a particularly stressful time of the semester, to turn outward rather than inward, may help your student maintain perspective and balance.
As you talk to your student, suggest that she consider taking a few hours and doing something that will help her think about others. As we approach the holiday season, there are many opportunities available to your student. She may also be able to be creative and think of something on her own. Your student might participate in a fundraising walk or run, help collect food for a local pantry, participate in a community or campus clean-up, volunteer for the local humane society for a day, hold a campus bottle and can drive and donate to a local organization, or simply buy a toy and donate it to a toy drive. Gathering with a group of friends and brainstorming ideas may be part of the fun – and benefit. If your student likes the notion of doing something but is stumped, the website www.dosomething.org may give her some ideas.
This is a busy time of semester, and your student may not have time to undertake a major project. This makes sense. But a few hours of thinking about others right now may be just the thing to help your student feel better about himself and relieve some of his stress. He’ll return to his studies with new focus and perspective.
Talk to your student about taking a moment for others and reaching outward.