Seven Actions Your College Student Should Take Now to Make This the Best Semester Ever

A new year.  A new semester.  For some transfer students or spring starts students, a new college.  January marks a season of beginnings for many of us — and especially for college students.  Some students are anxious for this new beginning because their previous semester did not go as well as they had hoped.  Other students are eager for the chance to take their already good college experiences to the next level.  But just wishing for a better semester won’t necessarily mean that anything will be different.

New beginnings require new approaches.  Here are seven relatively simple actions that your student can take now to increase the chances that this semester will be a great one.

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Book Review: When Will My Grown-Up Kid Grow Up?

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.

When Will My Grown-Up Kid Grow Up?: Loving and Understanding Your Emerging Adult is, in some respects, a sequel to Dr. Arnett’s book, Emerging Adulthood: The Winding Road from the Late Teens through the Twenties.  This groundbreaking book describes the lives of our ”children” from late teens through the late twenties (later than many of us might have thought) as a unique time in their lives — more than adolescents yet not quite adults.  It is a wonderful description of this stage of life and for many parents describes exactly the life and mental attitude of their children.

When Will My Grown-Up Kid Grow Up? Picks up this story more specifically for parents.  We especially like that this book addresses, in chapter two, parents’ development as well.  We often focus so much on our children at this stage that we forget that we are experiencing a new phase of life as well.  ”OK, now that you know your kids may not be fully grown up until about age 30, what about you?  This is a book not just about your kids’ development, but about your development, too, as you enter a new stage of life.”

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What Your Student Should Know About Beginning College Mid-Year

Obviously, most college students begin their college careers in the fall.  But for a growing number of college students and their families, January marks not only the beginning of a new calendar year, but also the beginning of their college experience.

Some students receive admissions decisions that admit them to college not for fall semester, but for spring admission.  This relatively new trend in college admission helps colleges fill openings that may occur for second term, and may provide a welcome break for students between high school and college.  Other students opt out of fall admission after being accepted and choose to defer their enrollment until second semester.  Still other students may have life experiences that intervene and force them to delay beginning their college career a semester, or they may have applied late.

Whatever your student’s reason for beginning college at mid-year, it is important that he think about both the advantages and potential challenges of stepping into college at the midpoint of the year.

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How to Tackle Tough Conversations with Your College Student

There are many reasons you might need to have a difficult conversation with your college student, and the middle or end of the year is often a time when that conversation needs to happen.  It might have to do with a poor semester academically, poor social decisions, financial issues, or many other possible situations.  Whatever the topic, chances are that you probably dread the conversation.  It’s important, it’s necessary, but you know that there are so many ways that it could go badly.

There is no getting around the fact that the conversation is probably going to be uncomfortable, but there are a few things that you can do to help it go more smoothly and to help both you and your student be more comfortable with the outcome.  Before you sit down to have that tough conversation with your student, consider a few things.

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Conversations With Your College Student: What’s Your Listening Position?

There are many kinds of conversations that you need to have with your college student.  Some conversations come easily, and at other times it’s a struggle to get your student to make time and/or to participate in the conversation.  Some students share readily and others seem to resist our attempts to communicate.

Are you listening?

One of the first questions we, as parents, need to ask ourselves is how much we are actually listening to our students?  Do we see these important conversations as simply opportunities to give our opinion?  Is our definition of a ”conversation” too one-sided?  We may ask for reactions or opinions, or for students to share information, but do we actually listen to what they say?  If we aren’t listening, are we surprised that they are less willing to share?

We’ve written some earlier posts about the importance of listening to your college student, and about some good habits to develop as a listener.  If you want to hear more from your student, these earlier posts may help you get started.

OK, you’re listening, but how?

What we’d like to consider in this post is not whether you are listening, or even whether you are listening well, but how you listen.  What’s your listening position?  What’s your attitude as you listen?  Not all conversations call for the same type of listening.  We actually need to listen differently depending on the subject or the situation.

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Helping Your College Student Evaluate the Past Semester

Most college students get a ”restart” at least twice a year.  (If students have shorter terms such as trimesters or quarters, then they get even more.)  Each new semester brings a kind of New Year experience.  It is a chance to reflect on the past and look ahead with new goals and visions for the future.  (We hesitate to call them resolutions because we know how seldom we keep those resolutions.)

As we approach the beginning of a calendar year and also a semester, this is a good time for your student to reflect on the semester that has just passed.  This is especially important if you have a new college student and this was her first semester.  That first semester is an important learning time (in so many more ways than just academics) but the learning is most meaningful if your student takes time to reflect.

We’d like to offer some questions to share with your student.  These are important ways to look back and consider the past semester — an essential step before looking ahead and thinking about how to make the new semester even better.  Suggest that your student think about some of these questions — but don’t expect him to answer them for you.  While he might want to share some experiences and reflections with you, it is most important that he be completely honest with himself.  If he feels the need to filter any answers for your benefit, it may not be as helpful.

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New Year’s Resolutions 2014: For Soon-to-Be College Parents and Their Students

This year we are focusing our New Year’s Resolutions on high school parents and their students.  If your student will be heading off to college in the fall, this is a big year for you, with significant changes ahead.  In one sense, you’ll have two opportunities for a New Year this year.  January, of course, brings the beginning of the calendar year, but September will mark a new beginning as well.

Now is the time to make some resolutions to help both you and your student through the next few months leading up to the ”big send-off” in August or September.  Perhaps you’ll make some new resolutions to get you through the final few months of the year then.

We shared some of these resolutions several years ago.  They haven’t changed, and in some ways their importance has increased, so we’re sharing them again.  We’ve included some resolutions for students as well.  Parents, consider sharing this list with your student.  Perhaps together you’ll be able to make the final few months of senior year not only more comfortable for everyone, but also more productive.

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