You and your college student have survived the transitional first semester of college. For some students, the transition goes smoothly. Other students may struggle, either academically, socially, or emotionally. Whatever happened, you’ve made it to the second semester. This may be more of a milestone than you and your student realize. The second semester is a wonderful opportunity for your student to make a fresh start – or take the college experience to the next level.
The beginning of the second semester of college is a more thoughtful return to college. Your student has a better idea of what to expect, and that may make the semester ahead seem especially long and hard. Your student may return with some mixed feelings. The novelty has worn off and there is less build up this semester. Everyone assumes that your student is now settled in. Several friends from first semester may not be returning for the second semester. A feeling of let-down or “second semester blues” is normal.
Your student may have spent a relatively long winter break at home with friends. Your student and her friends may have shared many of their college stories, and chances are other students shared their best experiences and not necessarily their worst. Your student may return to college with a bit of a “grass is greener” mentality. Returning from a long, sometimes relaxing or unstructured break may also be more difficult than your student anticipated. It is not unusual for many students to consider transferring at this point in their college experience. It may be important that you help your student process those feelings.
Second semester of college brings some new stresses for your college student. There may be interest – or some pressure – to participate in a Spring Break trip with friends. This may or may not be something that you are comfortable with. You and your student will need to talk about options, realities and expectations. Second semester also brings the stress of moving toward a decision about a major or change of major. Your student may begin to be anxious about housing for next year and also wonder about summer plans. Be prepared for some new concerns this semester and begin talking about and acting on these issues early.
But second semester isn’t all concerns and stress. There are some wonderful benefits of the second semester. Your student will return to college with a wealth of “college knowledge.” He may not realize how much he learned last semester about how to survive and thrive at school. Even if the first semester was less than successful, those mistakes made were important learning opportunities and bring their own wisdom. The second semester is a new beginning, a fresh start, with new classes, new professors, and sometimes new friends.
Your student should start the semester by taking stock of what was learned last semester and how he can build upon successes. This is an opportunity to be more in control of his experiences. He may want to consider more balance, more involvement, stepping up to leadership opportunities.
As a college parent, you may also begin to feel like a college veteran. Help your student process her growth while you consider your own changes. Recognizing that the second semester of college has a character all its own will help both you and your student make the most of it. Congratulations on this milestone!