5 Words to Share with Your Student for the New Year

It’s almost here. A new year. 2022.

In the past we’ve offered some resolution suggestions for college parents and students. We’ve offered some suggestions for high school parents and students. We’ve thought about what makes a good resolution.  We’ve suggested activities for the new year, people to thank, and even offered a few “one-and-done” resolutions. There’s no shortage of plans that we can all make.

This year we’re changing it up a bit and looking at the WOTY approach. Perhaps you’ve been doing this for years, or it may be new to you. With Word Of The Year you choose a single word as a reflection or mantra to guide you throughout the year. You use this word to help you focus and visualize a feeling, aspiration, or theme, (not a specific goal) and to provide motivation and help you channel your energy and resources throughout the year.

For many people this approach is more helpful than making several resolutions that may not last more than a few weeks. If you’ve ever found yourself in February with a list of stale resolutions, you know it can happen.

One of the keys to this approach is the process of choosing your word. It is important to give careful thought to the quality, value or feeling that you want to focus on for an entire year. It may not be an easy task.

Because your word of the year is so personal, it is impossible to suggest a word to someone else, but we’d like to offer five words as examples for your student — and for you as well. We offer these as options, but more importantly, as ideas to open a discussion with your student.

Here we go.  See what you think.


For students — Getting into college is top-of-mind for many students and their parents. But equally important is making sure students are ready for college — academically, socially, and with the life skills necessary to thrive. Unfortunately, lack of readiness is challenging many students as they transition to college. Choosing this word can remind your student to do at least one small thing each day to be sure they not just working at getting into college, but also preparing to be ready for college.

For parents – Remember that when your student enters college you will be transitioning as well. Focus on what you are doing to prepare. How will your life change? How are you getting ready for your new role as a college parent?


For students — As your student transitions to college life, they need to take control of their success and their decisions. They will be responsible for making choices, managing their time, and piloting their direction. Your student can focus on this word to remind themselves to take control of their life and practice the responsibility that goes along with it.

For parents — As your student works on assuming control over their life, it is important for you to relinquish some of that control. This is easier for some of us than others. Are there situations where you are comfortable letting go? Find those times when you can move out of the driver’s seat and let your student practice driving. As difficult as it may be, awareness and focus on the goal will help.


For students — Health has been on everyone’s mind for nearly two years. A focus on healthy choices and habits is an essential element of college success. If your student chooses to focus on health this year, they can reflect on their food choices, exercise, decisions involving drinking and drugs, the often-ignored importance of getting enough sleep, and maintaining their mental health.

For parents — As parents, most of us are busy — with work, kids, home, with life. Sometimes our own health moves to the back burner. Choosing to focus on your own health this year will model habits for your student as well as help you feel better and find more energy.


For students — College students often find it difficult to juggle all that they need to do.  College academics require more time and organization than needed in high school. Many students have a job to help with finances. Some are heavily involved in other activities such as sports, theater, music, service, or research. And, of course, most students also want a social life as well. Your student might focus on finding and maintaining balance throughout the year.

For parents – We are all juggling more and more these days. Finding a balance between our work, family and social responsibilities is often difficult, and with many of us working from home, the lines are blurring. Take some time each day to try to maintain balance in your own life.


If feels as though this word is essential this year. We’re all clinging to hope that things will improve and that 2022 will be a better year.

But for all of us, students and parents – we’d like to suggest a specific definition of hope expressed by author Shane Lopez in his book Making Hope Happen: Create the Future You Want for Yourself. Here’s that definition of hope: ”the belief that the future will be better than the present, along with the belief that you have the power to make it so.“

It’s the second part of this definition that sets it apart from what we often think of as ”hope.”

Hope becomes something personal, something over which we have control, and something we can actively do. As a word for the year, it gives each of us an opportunity every day to do something to make the world better . . . to live hopefully.

Choose your own adventure

As we suggested at the beginning, choosing a word for the year may work for some people and not for others. And choosing your word is very personal. Whether or not any of these words resonate with you or with your student, we hope they will provide some food for thought and discussion as we all look for a fresh start in 2022.

We’ve chosen these words because we find them compelling qualities for both students and parents. We hope to explore and unpack them a bit more in future articles. Stay tuned . . .

If you choose a word for 2022, write it down. Post it. Make a screensaver of it. Carry it in your wallet. Put it someplace where you will see it every day. Own it and live into it.

May your 2022 be a healthy and fulfilling year — brimming with hope.

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