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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
Many high school students spend time volunteering or participating in community service activities as part of their high school graduation requirements. Those who are not required to participate by their school often participate in order to bolster their college applications.
Volunteering, or participating in activities to help others, is always a good thing, whatever the motivation. However, one negative outcome of this requirement is that many students, once they get to college, feel they no longer “need” to volunteer since the school no longer requires participation and their college applications are done. Like participation in extracurricular activities, some students see these activities as a means to an end (college admission) and may not realize many of the other benefits.
Talk about giving back
Help your student think about why volunteering or donating his time to a worthy cause might be a good thing to do. Aside from the benefit to the organization, he will gain much himself.
There are many reasons why your student may struggle in a class. It may be something that your student is, or isn’t doing. It may be the professor and/or teaching style. It may be the subject matter. It may be the transition to college, or to sophomore year, or to upper level classes.
But ultimately, it doesn’t matter what the reason is. If your student is struggling, or doing poorly in a class, you worry. You want to help. Perhaps they should come home more often so you can check progress and their academic planner. Perhaps you should call them every evening to make sure they are doing homework. Perhaps you should speak to the professor. Perhaps you should buy a duplicate set of textbooks so you can consult on the assignments to make sure they understand the material. (True story, it has happened!) Perhaps you should just pull them out of school.
Wait! It’s time to take a breath.
None of these options is the answer. You’ll still worry. There’s really no way to get around that, but your student needs to find their own solutions. This doesn’t mean that you can’t consult and help your student think through the options. That’s part of your coaching role. So here are some options to discuss with your student.
Many students (some say as many as 50%) enter college undecided about their major.
Many students who enter college as undecided experience stress and anxiety about declaring a major and/or finding a career.
Many students who enter college declaring a major are really undecided but have made a choice because they feel pressured.
Many parents of undecided students worry that their student lacks direction and will not find a meaningful career.
Many students, and their parents, are anxious about this seemingly indecisive status.
Who are these undecided students?
Many students head off to college knowing that, in addition to their academic work – and possibly their sports or other activities – they will need to have a job. The costs of attending college are high – and growing. In addition to tuition and room and board, there are extra fees, expensive textbooks, and living expenses. We can help our students think through factors to consider as they decide what kind of job they may want – and a major question of whether to work on campus or off campus.
Thinking about a job at college
The first, and most important, caution is for your student to remember that, if he is a full-time student, he has made a major commitment to his schoolwork. Although he may be spending relatively few hours in class, a full-time student has taken on the equivalent of a full-time job.
A general rule of thumb is that students should expect to spend two hours on coursework for each hour that they spend in class. So, for example, if your college student is registered for 15 credits (approximately 15 hours/week in class) then he should be doing approximately 30 hours of work outside of class – for a total of 45 hours of schoolwork. Of course, this is an average and the demands will vary each week, but when considering how many hours per week he can commit to a job, he needs to be realistic about his schedule. If he is playing a sport, or involved in some other major activity, he will need to consider that time commitment as well. Several studies have suggested that students who work more than 20 hours a week may have a lower GPA.
Here are some factors your student should think about as he considers work opportunities.
Ah, those lazy, hazy days of summer! We all love them – especially students. Although many soon-to-be or returning college students may be spending much of the summer working hard to earn money, the break from schoolwork and routine is welcome. The problem is that all of that summer “laziness” may create some academic “haziness” when school begins in the fall.
Chances are good that your student worked hard during the school year and deserves a bit of a break. But sometimes a little time spent thinking about school and the upcoming fall semester can give your student an edge in the fall. Skills slide over the summer and a little work can mean that they may slide a little less.
Here are a few suggestions to share with your student to help her stay sharp and get a little head start for the fall. Encourage her to take the initiative and address potential weak areas. Just a few hours can make a big difference.