College Decisions in the Midst of COVID-19

Making the decision about where to attend college is never easy. There’s a lot riding on that choice. And sometimes, making the decision about whether to head to school right away or to take a gap year can be a tough choice as well. But this year, as we struggle our way through a pandemic, these decisions are harder than ever for many students.

If you and your student are grappling with these important decisions, it may feel as though you are working your way through a fog. You can’t see very far ahead. You may not be sure where you are at the moment. And you aren’t sure what others are doing. You feel alone and not a little lost as you try to find the right path.

What do people think?

As you try to think through your student’s options for fall semester, you may wonder what other parents and students are thinking.  What are your options? What way are others leaning?

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#018 – Spiritual Health and College Students – An Interview with Rev. Terry Hofmann

We talk a lot about college student intellectual, social and emotional development, but there are fewer conversations around college students’ spiritual development. In this guest interview, Lynn and Vicki talk with Rev. Terry Hofmann who has served as a Director of Spiritual Life at a small liberal arts college for ten years. Terry brings to this conversation her wealth of knowledge and experience with college students as they explore their spiritual and religious identities. Terry shares ideas for supporting students in the various aspects of spiritual health and wellness.

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Completing the College Year at Home

It seems as though the entire world has gone upside down right now. Life is surreal and not a little bit terrifying. The Coronavirus dominates the news, most events have been cancelled, we’re all staying closer to home, some of us are working from home, schools are closing, and we all wonder what’s next.

If you have a college student, there’s a good chance that they are home, or headed home, possibly for the remainder of the school year. Many colleges are moving their courses online and it’s going to be a whole new world for many college students – and for their families.

We’re all going to be readjusting for the next few days. Everything feels awkward and out of place right now and it may take some time before your student finds their “new normal.” Stay flexible and go with the flow. Be available for your student, who may want to talk – or may not. Unlike Break, your student isn’t on vacation this time, they’ve just shifted where and how they’ll need to do college – at least for a little while.

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Helping Your College Student Cope with Stress

College students experience a lot of stress.  As parents, some of us are acutely aware of our student’s stress levels, and to others of us it may be less obvious.  Of course, not every student experiences stress, and some students actually thrive on a certain amount of it; but many college students find that increased pressure or anxiety are part of the experience of college.

Consider some of the following information gathered about student stress as you think about your own student’s potential stress levels.  Discuss some of these findings with your student to help them realize that they, and/or their friends, may not be alone if they are experiencing anxiety.

College students experience a lot of stress – but it’s not all bad

The Associated Press and MTV conducted a survey of college students to consider college student stress.  They surveyed over 2,200 students at 40 randomly chosen colleges throughout the United States.  Although the survey is several years old, the results have not changed much, or may be even more concerning in recent years.  Some of the findings of this College Stress and Mental Health poll are included below.

  • 85% of students feel stressed on a daily basis
  • 60% of students at some time have felt stress to the point of not being able to get work done
  • 70% of students have never considered talking to a counselor about their stress
  • 84% of students reach out to friends to help them with their stress
  • 67% of students reach out to parents for help with stress

The good news is that in spite of these statistics regarding stress levels, 74% of students reported feeling very or somewhat happy.  Clearly, not all stress is bad.

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Discussing Campus Safety With Your College Student

As college parents, one of our major concerns when our students head off to college is their safety.  We want our students to do well academically, we want them to be healthy, we want them to be happy, but first and foremost, we want them to be safe.

Ideally, a three way partnership will do the most to help keep college students safe.  Parents need to talk to their students about safety, students need to exercise awareness and behave responsibly, and colleges need to take precautions to keep students safe.

Concern for the safety of college students is a growing national concern in light of recent incidents and tragedies on college campuses. One law and one initiative in particular attempt to address this concern.

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College Parents Warned of Phone Scam – Don’t Be a Victim

The con artists are at it again.  But this time, it’s not college students who are the target, it’s their parents. This scam, a “virtual kidnapping” scam, has been around for a couple of years, with the FBI issuing warnings in January 2015,  but authorities are warning parents that it seems to be on the rise again in the past few months.  Several colleges in several states, including Arizona State University, George Mason University and the University of Texas at Arlington,  have issued warnings to parents.

As with so many scams, knowledge is power.  Being aware that this scam exists is the best first defense against becoming a victim.

In the “virtual kidnapping” scam, parents receive a phone call from a stranger who claims to have kidnapped their child.  Sometimes parents hear muffled screams or cries in the background. Someone who sounds much like their child may even get on the phone quickly, crying and begging them to pay whatever is asked.  Calls come from outside area codes, often 787 or 939 – Puerto Rican codes. The call may come from a blocked or private number.  The caller knows the child’s name and often many details as well.  These details are often gleaned from public information and/or social media sites.

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Don’t Let Your College Student Become a Target

Con artists have been around forever.  Scams have caught unwary victims before, and they will again. But it seems that one of the newest targets for these unsavory characters is college students, and often their parents as well.  Make sure you stay alert and talk to your student about being careful as well.

College students may be prime targets of scammers for several reasons.  They are busy and distracted, many don’t have much financial or tax experience, most don’t have extensive credit histories yet and/or don’t check them, and they spend much of their lives online.

What’s the latest threat?

According to the Internal Revenue Service, one of the most recent scams involves students receiving a phone call from someone impersonating an IRS official and demanding payment of a “federal student tax.”  The IRS wants to make it clear that there is no such tax.  But the caller claims that the student owes the tax and that he will call the local police to arrest the student if it is not paid.  If the student hangs up, there may be follow-up calls. Often, the caller has just enough information about the student, gleaned from public sources such as directory information, to make the call sound more legitimate.

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Why Your Student Should Have a Personal Departure Plan from College

The Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts have it right.  Be Prepared.  In so many situations, it’s important to have a plan that you hope you’ll never need.  Arming your student with a plan for how to proceed in an emergency means less anxiety for both your student and you.  Hopefully, it’s a plan your student will never need, but he knows he’s prepared – just in case.  Take time to talk with your student about his plan, work on it together, and make sure that you both know the details – just in case.

Evacuation plans

There are two general types of situations in which your student might need to leave campus quickly.  The first situation entails an instance when the campus might need to be evacuated by all students.  This might be a situation such as a weather emergency, an environmental threat, or other factor which affects all personnel at the college.

In the event of a general evacuation, the most important thing is for your student to carefully follow the instructions given by the institution.  Almost all schools now have carefully considered plans for evacuating their campus in an emergency.  Your student should look at the website or other material given to him by the college to make sure he knows what he is expected to do and how he will receive information.

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Who’s Minding Your College Student’s Health?

Note: This article was updated in January 2020.

We all want our children to be as healthy as possible.  When they were young, we took them for their regular check-ups, and we often continue to monitor and care for them when they are sick.  When our child becomes a college student, one of the many things that they will need to learn is to manage is their own healthcare

Fortunately, we do not send our college students off to a healthcare vacuum. Virtually every college or university offers some form of healthcare for its students.

College healthcare services have expanded from the earlier days of basic infirmary care for sick or injured students to a broader definition of health and wellness.  Most current college health services cover the treatment, management and prevention of health conditions and emergencies by providing onsite medical and counseling services and general wellness programming. The college healthcare field has shown significant growth in mission, services and facilities, with the greatest growth in recent years being in the area of mental health services.

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Has Your College Student Gotten a Flu Shot?

Chances are good that your college student may not have done the one thing that could make a difference in her health this winter – get a flu shot. Because college students live so closely together in residence halls, once the flu begins, it can spread quickly throughout a campus. Yet according to a study done by Janet Yang at the University of Buffalo, (as reported by Huffington Post) only about 8 percent of college students received a flu shot in a recent year.

Why do college students skip this seemingly simply solution?

One reason students may not be getting vaccinated is because they know that they are not in the groups that are at highest risk of death or other serious consequences from flu. Students may also not be thinking about the seriousness of flu because it is an annual disease and we hear about it every year. Students have stopped paying attention – or never really paid attention to messages in the first place.

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