15 Tips to Help You and Your Student Cope with Change

Greek philosopher Heraclitus is reported to have said, “There is nothing permanent except change.”  Over 2500 years later, the only thing that hasn’t changed is the truth of his statement.

As you send your student off to college, the word change takes on a new and very real meaning for your student – and for you.  As parents, we may be so focused on the big changes our students will face that we forget (or deny?) that we are experiencing change as well.

Why is change so difficult?

Change is a word we use all of the time, but we may not have thought much about what it actually means.  Definitions sometimes give us clarity.  To change something is to make it different from what it would be if left alone, to transform or become different.

Change can be hard.  It means a lack of certainty and predictability. Change is necessary for growth, but it is normal to fear that we won’t be able to cope with it.  So if both you and your student are feeling a little apprehensive right now about what changes might be coming, know that you’re in good company.  The first step is acknowledging that change is inevitable, and then you decide how you will respond to it.

Fight or flight – or go with the flow?

Often our first reaction to something that scares us is the fight or flight response.  We fight it and try to stop it, or we take flight and try to run away.  We may try to prevent change or we may try to avoid or deny that it is happening.  Facing change as we send our student off to college is the first step toward making it a positive experience for everyone.  Don’t fight it or ignore it.  Make sure that you maintain a positive attitude and prepare to go with the flow.

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Why Your Transfer Student May Be in Shock

There is a phenomenon called Transfer Shock.  If you have a transfer student, she may be experiencing this tendency for students who transfer from one school to another to experience a temporary dip in their GPA during their transitional first or second semesters.

If you have a transfer student who did reasonably well in her original school and she is facing this transitional grade dip, she may be alarmed.  She may wonder whether she should have transferred after all – or whether she transferred to the right school.  It may help if you can reassure your student that this struggle, this dip in GPA, is normal; and that most transfer students recover their grades within a semester or two.

If you have a student who is considering a transfer next semester or next year, warn her ahead of time. Your student may be able to avoid it, but more importantly, if transfer shock does occur, she’ll worry less because she’ll know that others may be experiencing the same thing.

Why does transfer shock happen?

Some students may underestimate the difficulty of transitioning to a new school.  They’ve already made the adjustment to being in college, and they feel that a new school won’t be all that different.  However, once at the new school, students realize that there are new ways of doing things, new expectations, new traditions, and new policies.  Students may also encounter more difficult upper level coursework than they had at their previous institution.  Some students may also be taken by surprise at the social disorientation that they feel in a new environment and the effort that it takes to make new social connections and friends.

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Parenting Your College Transfer Student: Navigating the Decision, the Process, and the Transition

Roughly 2.5 million college students every year transfer to a different school.  Statistics from the United States Department of Education suggest that close to 60% of college students will attend more than one school before they graduate.  While many students find just the right college and stay there four years, these statistics suggest that there is a good chance that your college student may consider a transfer to another college at some point during his college career.

While the overall transfer rate in the United States may suggest that transferring is now the norm for many, if your child decides to transfer, the process is a significant event for him, and for you.  Even though others may be going through the same process, it does not lessen the impact of the decision for your individual student.

For some students who attend 2-year institutions, the decision may not be whether to transfer, but rather where to transfer.  For other students, the decision is more difficult because transfer is a choice.  Your student will need to go through a process of deciding whether or not a transfer is the right answer for him.  If he decides to make a change, he will need to complete the actual process of transferring, and finally he’ll need to make the transfer successful once it happens

What are transfer options?

Many students make what is called a vertical transfer.  Quite simply, this is a transfer from a two-year college to a four-year institution.  The student may have opted to begin her college career at a community college or a junior college.  After completing work there, perhaps with an Associates’ Degree, she transfers to a four-year institution to complete her undergraduate work for a Bachelor’s Degree.  Some two-year institutions have Articulation Agreements with four-year schools.  This means that the student may have direct entry into a program at the partnering institution.  This type of transfer is a big step, but does not have the emotional weight of a difficult decision.  It is a natural next step.

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Is College Transfer the “New Normal?”

Gone are the days when most college students begin and end their college career in four years at a single institution.  Many parents, and their students, still imagine that scenario as students engage in the admissions process and agonize over finding just the right college or university for them.  They see themselves graduating from there at the end of four years.

We now know that fewer and fewer students are completing their college degree in four years.  Five years is now closer to the national average, with many students taking longer than that.  Now a new report has been released indicating that nearly 38% of students who entered college in 2008 moved to a new institution at least once within a six year period.

The National Student Clearinghouse Research Center, a non-profit organization based in Virginia tracked 3.6 million students who enrolled in college in the fall of 2008. They looked at the number of students who moved to a new institution prior to completing their bachelor’s degree.  Their findings are certainly important for institutions and policymakers, but may also be important in helping parents be prepared for that moment when their student may come home and say, “Mom and Dad, I want to transfer.”

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“I Don’t Want to Go Back!” Helping Your Student Decide Whether to Return to School

In our previous post, we discussed what to do when your student comes home mid-year and says she doesn’t want to return to school.  First you listen, then you talk about possible reasons and look at options.  Now you need to help your student decide what to do.

Perhaps you’ve seen it coming over the course of the semester, or perhaps it has taken you by surprise.  But your student came home for what you thought was going to be a few weeks for winter break and has announced that she doesn’t want to return to school when break is over.  No one expected this when you headed to school for Move-in Day.

After you’ve listened to your student talk about her reasons – and possibly had to help her determine those reasons, after you’ve helped her think about her possible options, you may need to help her process those options to make a decision.  Of course, you might insist – either that she return to school or stay home – but the decision really must be your student’s or she will not be committed to making it work.

There is no one answer that is the best for all students.  Your student will need to think carefully about her reasons for not wanting to return and her ability to face whatever is making her unhappy or preventing her success.  As you help your student look at her situation from several angles, here are a few thoughts to share.

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“I Don’t Want to Go Back.” When Your College Freshman Wants to Quit

Perhaps you’ve seen it coming over the course of the semester, or perhaps it has taken you by surprise.  Your student came home for what you thought was going to be a few weeks for winter break and announced that he doesn’t want to return to school when break is over.  No one expected this when you headed to school for Move-in Day.

Dissatisfaction with the college experience at the end of the first semester is not uncommon.  Several national studies suggest that as many as one third of college students do not return for their sophomore year of college, but there is little data regarding how many of those students leave at the midpoint of their first year.  However, both college personnel and first year students know that there are many students who will not be back for second semester.

So you are faced with a dilemma.  Your student says he does not want to return to school.  What do you do?

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Arrive, Apply . . . Accepted! Consider Instant Decision Days

The waiting game for high school seniors can be excruciating.  All of the deadlines have been met, the applications sent, and now your student is waiting for the verdict.  In or out?

For an increasing number of students and colleges, the waiting game has been eliminated.  More and more colleges are now conducting Instant Decision or Immediate Decision Days.  Students usually submit their online application ahead of time, sign up for the IDD, arrive on campus with SAT scores, essay, recommendation and transcript, meet with admissions personnel, and leave at the end of the day knowing whether or not they’ve been admitted.  It doesn’t get much faster than that.

Instant Decision Days are not new, but they are expanding.  Ramapo College of New Jersey was one of the first schools to offer this program over twenty years ago.  Today, many schools offer the program.  It is more common for transfer students, but has rapidly expanded to include students directly from high school as well.  Several colleges not only offer the opportunity to attend Instant Decision Days on campus, but take the program to local high schools as well.  Some high schools host several colleges for Instant Decision.  Students can apply to and be accepted to several schools without ever leaving their high school.

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Why You Need to Support Your College Transfer Student

According to both the Department of Education and the National Association of College Admissions Counselors, nearly 60% of college students will start and end their college careers at different schools.  That is a lot of transfer students.  If your student is one of these transfer students, he may need your support more than ever.

Some college students have no choice but to transfer.  They attend a 2-year institution and then move on to complete their degree at another school.  Other students make the decision to transfer to another school on their own.  Your transfer student is making another transition and is, in some ways, much like a new first-year student only wiser.  Your transfer student has learned something from his experience in college and can take advantage of that knowledge while still experiencing a clean slate at a new school.

The college transfer process may not be easy.  It takes time and energy, requires adjustments, requires understanding of the transfer process and may require extra time from your student to complete her degree.  Your student will be most successful if she knows herself well, understands her strengths, challenges and passions, and evaluates her reasons for the transfer.  According to the 2009 National Survey of Student Engagement, transfer students may be less “engaged” in high impact activities such as study abroad, internships, research, or capstone experiences, so your student may need you to remind her to seek out these opportunities.

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Reasons Why Your College Student Might Not Graduate in Four Years

According to national statistics, the average for students graduating from college is now five years rather than four years.  Objectively, we may hear that statistic and find it moderately interesting.  However, when it is our college student who may take more than four years to complete his college education, we may become not only very interested, but alarmed.  We may have seen this coming or we may be taken by surprise.  We may understand the reasons or we may not.  We may consider the reasons sensible or we may find them ridiculous.  We may take the news in stride or we may be angry and upset.

If it becomes clear that your student will need more than the perceived “normal” four years to complete her college degree, you and she will probably need to have a conversation.  Whether the extra time is intentional or takes you both by surprise, you’ll need to make some plans that may include some strategizing and altering of financial or other considerations.  There are many factors that might cause a student to need extra time to complete a degree.  Understanding some of the factors may help you to realize what has happened, or may help you and your student anticipate or prevent a delay. Here are a few factors that might affect your student’s time to completion of her degree.

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9 Ways to Help Your College Student Get a Fresh Start for Second Semester

Your student’s return to college for a second semester is a very different from heading off to college last fall.  Students heading back to school for their second semester bring their wisdom and their mistakes, their college knowledge and their new life experiences with them.  For some students, the anticipation and worry may not be as high as first semester.  For other students, who may not have had the best first semester, their concerns are significant and real.  But all students should recognize that the start of the second semester of college is another new beginning.  Parents can help their college students prepare for their second semester by helping them think about it and plan a few goals before they return to school.  Share some of these ideas with your student and ask what might help.

Read more9 Ways to Help Your College Student Get a Fresh Start for Second Semester