How a Walk Down Memory Lane Can Help Your College Student Move Forward

We all want to move forward – especially this year. We have our eyes on the future and we’re anxious to leave this very difficult year behind us.

Sometimes, when children are young, they thrust themselves headlong in one direction while busily watching all that is going on around them. The result? They trip and fall. We admonish them, “Point your nose with your toes! Look where you are going!”

Why then, might we want to help our students look backwards – maybe quite far backwards – in order to move forward?

Because reflection is a clarifying exercise. It helps us think about where we’ve been. It helps us gain perspective. It helps us gather wisdom from the past. It helps us move forward with greater purpose and understanding.

Help your student take a walk down their own memory lane

As your student prepares to head off to college, they are, appropriately, looking to their new life and the fresh start that it brings. This is an ideal time to help them slow down a little and remember how they have come to this place.

You can help guide your student in that reflection. Help them discover the wisdom and understanding they may not realize that they have gained.

By asking some questions and sharing some of your own memories you can guide them through this reflection.

  • What have you learned about yourself through this pandemic year? How have you changed? How can you use that knowledge moving forward?
  • How did you feel when you first began high school and how are you different now? How do you think you will change in the next four years?
  • Who was your favorite teacher? Why? What did you learn from that teacher? How can you apply what you’ve learned when you get to college?
  • If you have already chosen a major or thought about a potential career, when did you first knew that was your interest? How did you know? What can you do to nurture that excitement?
  • Do you remember how you first met or got to know some of the people who are now your best friends? How did you get to know them better?
  • Can you remember a time when you were devastated by some disappointment or failure? How did you handle it? Can you handle future disappointments the same way or will you try something different?
  • What was the hardest thing you’ve ever done?. How did it turn out? How did you feel when it was over?
  • Share some instances of your own memories of when your student demonstrated the qualities that will help them succeed in college or as an independent adult.

Share with your student a walk down a longer memory lane – yours

This can be a little tricky. It’s a bit like walking a tightrope. This is a chance to connect with your student and share a little of your wisdom, but not to prescribe what they should or shouldn’t do.

A little “back in my day” can be fun, and that’s the point. It may be funny for your student to think about you as a college student – and for both of you to think about how different your student’s experiences will be. (Think phone booth at the end of the dorm hall? Computers? Texting?) And if you have pictures you can share, it can be even better!

Asking yourself some of these questions may also help you think about your expectations and assumptions about your student’s experience. (It might also scare you a little when you remember what you were like at your student’s age!)

Here are some questions to ask yourself that might get interesting conversations started. .

  • How did you choose your college? Were you happy with that choice? All of the time?
  • How do you think college has changed since the time you were there? Can you share any stories about the “old days?”
  • What was it like for you when you first went away? Were you homesick? How did you deal with it?
  • What did you enjoy the most/least about your time in college?
  • What was your biggest challenge in college? How did you overcome it – or did you?
  • What extracurricular activities did you most enjoy?
  • Who was your best/worst professor? Why?
  • If you had it to do over again, what would you do differently? What would you be sure not to change?
  • What mistakes did you make that you regret?
  • What do you wish you had known before you started college? Could you have done anything to be better prepared?
  • How did you feel on graduation day?

But what if you never went to college?

If you did not go to college yourself, you still have life wisdom to share with your student – and they may need your support even more as first-in-the-family to attend college. Sharing some of your experiences and feelings about college will help you and your student connect on a different level.

  • If you did not attend college, talk to your student about why not. Did you have a choice? Were you uninterested? Was it financial? Be honest and help your student understand your feelings.
  • Talk to your student about how you feel about them attending college. Are you excited? Perhaps a little scared or worried? Be honest.
  • What one piece of life advice do you hope your student will live by?
  • Do some research together with your student to help you both explore what their college experiences may be like.

A step into the future – with a solid past behind you

Your student’s move to college is a first step into their future. They are looking ahead – with excitement and probably some trepidation. Taking some time, together, to look at the past that has brought them to this point – both their own past and yours – will help give your student a more solid foundation on which to build their new, bright future.

Related articles:

Parents, Write a Commencement Speech

Involving Grandparents in the College Experience

Sending Your Student to College Might Improve Your Relationship


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