How to Help Your Undecided Student Find Direction

This is Part 2 of our 2-part series on undecided students. Part 1 – Why Your Undecided Student May Be Drifting – discussed why your student may be having a difficult time deciding about a major. In this article we share some ways that parents can help their undecided student find direction.

There are many reasons for being undecided about a major. In our last article, we suggested that helping your undecided student find direction begins by helping them understand why they are undecided. You can help guide this process, but the deep work involved is your student’s work to do.

Being unsure about a major as you enter college might be the most appropriate course for many students, but it is important not to allow that uncertainty to become a drifting mentality.  Help your student formulate a plan to proactively investigate and narrow options and ultimately make at least a tentative choice.

A 7-step plan to help your student get started

Making a decision about a major – and possibly making it over again several times – can be so daunting that some undecided students begin to drift. They aimlessly move through each month or semester without making progress toward a choice because it is too difficult to know where to begin.

Help your student create a plan to guide their decision making.

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Why Your Undecided Student May be Drifting

Most traditional college students enter college when they are between 18-20 years old. Scientists tell us that at that age, young people’s brains are not yet fully formed – especially in the area of executive functioning.

Is it any wonder, then, that many students (some suggest close to 50% of them) are undecided about a major when they enter college? Or that approximately 79% of college students change their major at least once during their years in college, with the average student changing their mind three times?

It may not make sense to expect our college students to know at the outset what they want to do with their lives, but we do.

If your student is one of those many students who say they are undecided about a major, you may worry.  Your student worries, too. Will they ever find direction? Will they find it too late and not be able to complete college in a timely way? What if they never find the right career?  That’s a lot of anxiety.

Being unsure about a major as you enter college is OK – it might even be the most appropriate response.

What is not OK is to allow that uncertainty to become a drifting mentality.

How did we get here? Why do we (and students) worry about being “undecided”?

“What do you want to be when you grow up?”

We ask our young children that question, and we get those cute responses. “I want to be a ballet dancing doctor!” “I want to be a gypsy!” “I want to be an astronaut and a policeman!” At that age, it’s all about possibilities.

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Does Your College Student Have an Advisory Board?

Most college students crave independence. It’s what the teenage years are all about, and as students head off to college they have an opportunity to spread their wings and exercise that independence. It’s an important stage of development (although it’s sometimes a difficult time for parents.)

So what’s the problem?

For many students, the problem is that they feel that being independent means that they must do everything on their own. Asking for help or guidance means that they aren’t truly independent.

Of course, that isn’t true. We all need guidance. We all have times when we need to ask for help. Being independent means knowing when you need help, finding the people who can provide that help, and being brave enough to advocate for what you need.

This is why your student needs a personal advisory board.

What is a Personal Advisory Board?

The Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of any company rarely runs the company single-handedly. Most CEOs have a Board of Directors who advise them and help make the decisions that guide that company.

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10 Potential Pivot Points for Your College Student

The college years are a journey. As your student travels through these years, there will be moments of transition and turning points. Your student may need to pivot and change direction.

Sometimes these pivots may be prompted by a crisis – a time when a decision needs to be made that will determine future events. Sometimes the pivot may be more simply a modification – a slight shift, much as a basketball player might turn and change direction while still keeping one foot planted.

If your student needs to pivot, the shift may be of their own making – a decision to change something – or it may be a change that is unexpected or mandated. In either case, your student may take the shift in stride or may feel overwhelmed and unsettled.  You may need to help your student process what this pivot means.

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Whether Your College Student Is On Campus or Home: 20 Ideas for a Successful Semester

This semester looks different at almost every college in the nation. As each school attempts to find ways to educate their students in the midst of a pandemic, there are students studying fully on campus, fully at home, studying in hybrid modes and just about everything in between. Some schools are already well into their semester, some haven’t yet begun their year yet, and many have had to pivot from their original plans.

All of this means that your student has already had to adapt and adjust to new ways of doing college. Whether your student is a brand-new first-year student or a veteran sophomore, junior or senior, the approach to college this year is a first for everyone.

As a parent, you worry first about whether your student will remain healthy, but you may also worry about how your student will fare with all of these new ways of learning. We all want our students to succeed.

If your student is studying remotely this semester, they don’t have access to the usual on-campus ways of finding support and contacting professors. But even those students who are on campus may find restricted in-person contact with services and faculty.

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#019 – Students With Learning Differences: What Are the Key Changes Between High School and College?

What colleges and universities do to support students with learning differences changes from K-12, not only because the laws are different but also because the goals for students shift in college. These changes may be bigger than most students and parents expect. In today’s podcast, Lynn and Vicki explore differences in how the laws protect students and how the key responsibilities of both the institution and the student change. The more you understand these differences, the more comfortable you and your student will be, and the better you will be able to support your student in transition.

Subscribe to our podcast: Apple Podcasts | Spotify | Stitcher | TuneIn Radio


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8 Reasons Why a Summer Class May Make Sense for Your Student This Year

This spring has been unsettling, challenging, and downright scary for many of us, including our college students.  They’ve been uprooted from college and replanted at home, with little opportunity to go anywhere or see anyone other than their family. Like some garden plants, not all transplant well. All require a little extra care – some extra water and not too much sun – while they adjust.

Your student may have made the transition to college-from-home smoothly or may have struggled with this new learning environment. Fortunately for many students, the semester is either over or just about there.  It’s time for a collective sigh of relief.  However it turned out, at least it’s done.

Taking a break – or taking a class?

So why, then, might your student want to turn around and sign up for a class or two this summer – especially if they didn’t like this new online environment? Shouldn’t they just relax and breathe that sigh of relief that they got through it? Don’t they deserve a break?

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How to Help Your Student Become a Model Advisee

Academic Advising may be a new concept for many parents and students. Both students and their parents are obviously familiar with high school guidance counselors and may not realize that most college advising systems are significantly different from those in high school. A student who is not aware of the ways these systems differ can be at a distinct disadvantage.

Talking to your student about the differences they should expect can help them to make the most of this new relationship and take advantage of all that the advising system has to offer.

What is college advising and why is it important for students to understand how it works?

College is going to be different from high school. Any student can tell you that. But many students don’t know how college is going to differ from high school. The more that your student understands what to expect, the better your student will be able to work within this new system. One big difference is likely to be how they are academically guided and advised.

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Tread Lightly, But Be Present: Supporting Your Student Through the Stressful End of the Semester

stressed man at computer

As the end of the semester nears, many college students feel their stress levels rise. Students realize how much work they still have left to do, and they realize that their time-management skills may not have served them well. They are overwhelmed, tired, possibly sick, and definitely nervous about the outcome.

As you begin to sense your student’s stress, your parental instincts kick in and you want to do everything you can to help. It’s a tricky time. It is important that you let your student know that you’re there for them, you’re ready to listen and offer an encouraging word, but your student needs to find ways of coping on their own. It’s part of the growth of independence and being a college student.

College parenting can be difficult. As parent, you need to tread lightly. It is difficult to step back and watch your student struggle, but sometimes all you can do is offer those encouraging words and a listening ear.

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Does Your College Student Have a Case of the Junior Jitters?

Most students will agree that the junior year of high school is the hardest.  Junior grades are important for college applications.  Students are taking difficult courses this year, perhaps upper level math and science, AP or Honors courses.  Students are also busy considering and visiting colleges, working on admission essays, interviewing, and beginning to get busy on college applications.  It can be exhausting for students – and their families.

But what about the junior year of college? Although junior year of high school may be legend, many students find themselves unprepared for a parallel experience in college.

Much attention is given to the first year of college, the transition, and sometimes the mistakes, that students make. There is growing interest in the second year of college as students settle in and choose a major and/or career path.  But after the year of Freshman Folly and the potential Sophomore Slump, there is less often attention paid to the junior year of college, the year of the potential Junior Jitters.  But this is an important time in your student’s journey through college.

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