Holiday Gifts for Your College Student – 2015

It’s that time of year again.  Black Friday. Small Business Saturday. Cyber Monday.  We’re thinking about family and friends and we’re thinking about gifts.  If you have a college student, or an about-to-be college student, you may be searching for some ideas for useful or fun gifts.

Sometimes, finding just the right gift for your college student may be difficult.  You haven’t seen him in a while and you are less involved in his day-to-day life.  What does he need?  What can he use?

You know your student best, and can tap into his interests and needs, but we’d like to offer some suggestions that may stimulate your imagination.  We’re including some new ideas here, as well as some classic favorites from our lists from previous years.  Check out these ideas, and then let your own creativity take over!

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Book Review: Put College to Work

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.

Parents should read Kat Clowes’ book Put College to Work, but more importantly, they should give a copy to their college students.  Subtitled, How to Use College to the Fullest to Discover Your Strengths and Find a Job You Love Before You Graduate, this book offers practical advice to students in a tone and manner they will read.  The book is clearly written for students, and the author’s chatty, readable style will appeal to these readers.

Clowes begins her book with the timeline of her own life.  She explains clearly to students that she made mistakes, or missed opportunities, and she’s here to help them avoid those same mistakes.  The realism of her story is compelling.  She’s obviously found success – and fulfillment – but it took her a long time to get there.

Put College to Work is divided into four sections, which build upon each other.  The book begins by helping students learn about themselves – Put Yourself to Work.  Students learn the importance of knowing who they are before they can begin to forge their path.  Section two, titled Succeed in School, helps students make the most of their time and experiences in college.  Section three, Succeed After College, gets to the nitty gritty of using the resources of college, such as the career center, internships, conferences, and alumni networks, to move into the world of work.  The final section, Having a Particular Set of Skills, helps students think specifically about how to make the most of job fairs, networking, resumes and cover letters, interviews and social media profiles.

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Don’t Talk to Your Student This Thanksgiving!

Well, at least not right away.

You’ve anxiously awaited Thanksgiving Break to have your student home from college.  You expect that this first real break home will require some adjustments on everyone’s part, but you can’t wait for the chance to talk to your student.

How, then, could we possibly suggest that you not talk to your student?

What we’d like to suggest is that you take more time this break to listen to your student instead of talking.  Try to sit back a little and see what unfolds.  Read your student’s mood. (He’s going to be exhausted, so he may just want to sleep at first.) You might throw in a few questions, but not many.  And keep any questions open-ended and light. Don’t ask about every detail of life at college. (This is going to be hard.) Don’t press for information about grades and classes. (This may be even harder.)

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Colleges Recognize Parents As An Important Part of Student Success

Students head to college, not their parents; and students are, obviously, the main focus of the colleges they attend.  But even when your student goes to college, you are still part of the total picture of your student’s experiences, and colleges are recognizing your importance more and more.  In spite of all of the negative press about “helicopter parents” or “snowplow parents,” your appropriate involvement is important.

As an indication of the importance of parents to the college experience, many schools now have a staff member, or perhaps an entire office, dedicated to working with parents.  Recently, college personnel who work with parents and families at their institutions met in Savannah, GA to compare notes and share ideas at the fourth annual conference of AHEPPP – the Association of Higher Education Parent Program Professionals.  More than 160 colleges and universities are represented in the organization.  Parents, you matter to your students’ institutions!

If you haven’t discovered the Parent Office at your student’s institution, you might want to investigate whether there is one.  This office may communicate regularly with parents, or may be responsible for running events such as Orientation or Parents/Family Weekend.   According to a survey conducted biennially by the University of Minnesota since 2003, 23% of those responding to the survey this year said their office had been newly established in the past five years.

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Sending Your Student to College Might Improve Your Relationship

That moment on Move-in Day when you say your final goodbye to your college student and get in the car to drive away is a moment that will change your relationship with her forever. This is the moment that many parents fear. This is the reason that we try so hard to hold on tightly that last August. This is the reason that some parents hover and earn the “helicopter parent” title. This is the dreaded moment that can elicit tears.

Sending your student off to college is a milestone. And your relationship with your student will change. But that change may not be what you expect – or fear. As most parents worry about their changing relationship with their student, they think about what they may lose. They may not think about that relationship improving and getting better and even more fulfilling.

How can that be? How can your relationship improve if you aren’t there all of the time? Can this really be true?

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