When Your College Senior Hates Her Major

You’re almost at the finish line.  You’ve made it through that somewhat scary freshman year, the potential sophomore slump, junior year, and your student is now top of the heap – a senior!  It’s time for celebration and planning for Commencement.

But then it happens.  Your student decides that she hates her major.  She’s devastated.  You’re devastated.  You’re both at least a little scared.  Perhaps it’s the courses she’s now taking that sealed the deal.  Or perhaps she had an internship or opportunity to get out in the field and she hated the experience.  She’s upset, depressed and at a loss.  And so are you.  What now?

It’s a very difficult situation and it’s natural to be upset.  Discovering late in the college experience that your major doesn’t seem right can feel overwhelming.  And, as is often the case, it’s almost harder as a parent to watch your student be so unhappy.  But the situation is not unique.  Many students have second, and third, and fourth, thoughts about major and career – even in their senior year.

Read moreWhen Your College Senior Hates Her Major


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 him realize that he, and/or his 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 in 2009 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.

Read moreHelping Your College Student Cope with Stress


Readmission to College After Time Away

If your student has been dismissed from college for poor academic performance, it can be a devastating blow.  Both you and your student will need to come to terms with the reality, evaluate what happened, and decide how to move forward.

Most students who are academically dismissed from college are asked to spend a certain period of time out of school.  That may be a semester, a year, or even longer.  The college recognizes that something went wrong for the student when he was enrolled and hopes that some time away will allow the student to address whatever issues interfered with his success.

Once you and your student have evaluated the situation, and perhaps taken some time away from school, your student may be ready to get back on track.

The decision to return

Before your student begins the readmission process he should be very sure that he is ready to return and to be successful.  Some students may be ready to return to school fairly quickly.  Perhaps the dismissal itself was all that it took for the student to have a “wake-up call” and he is ready to return with a new attitude and approach.  Other students may have significant and serious work to do during their time away.  Perhaps your student simply needs time to mature and understand the importance of college.  Perhaps he needs to find direction and motivation.  Perhaps he has serious health, mental health, or family/life issues that need to be addressed before he can return and be successful.

Read moreReadmission to College After Time Away


The Delicate Balance of Support and Self-Reliance

So much of the college experience is about balance.  Students work at learning to balance social life and studying, independence and responsibility, seriousness and frivolity.  As parents, it is sometimes difficult to watch as our students practice the skill of balance – and sometimes fail.  But just as we had to finally take the training wheels off and let go of the bicycle, we need to step back and watch as our students take off.

One of the balancing acts that many students struggle with, especially at the midpoint in a semester, is the balance between self-sufficiency and relying on others.  New college students, especially, may need to learn that being independent doesn’t necessarily mean they need to do everything alone.  Knowing when to rely on themselves and when to turn to others is part of responsible decision making.

Why wouldn’t my student ask for help if he needs it?

There are many reasons why students may not seek the help they need when they need it.

  • “I didn’t realize that I needed help.”
  • “I’ve never needed help before, why would I need it now?”
  • “Things will get better if I just wait long enough.”
  • “I’ll look as though I’m dumb if I ask for help.”
  • “Isn’t it cheating if I get help?”

Read moreThe Delicate Balance of Support and Self-Reliance


14 Suggestions of What to Do If (Not Necessarily When) Your Student Is Homesick

As parents sending our students off to college we’ve been told to expect that our student will be homesick. (We’ve written a post saying essentially the same thing – and it has some good advice). We’ve been told it’s inevitable. That it might happen right away or that it might take a while, but it will happen.  According to UCLA’s Higher Education Research Institute, close to 65% of college students will experience homesickness.  So it’s good to be prepared.

Is it really homesickness?

What is almost certain is that most students will experience some unhappiness, stress, and anxiety at some point.  It is a natural reaction to being out of your element and in unfamiliar territory. It’s what happens before you become, as Harlan Cohen terms it in his book The Naked Roommate, “comfortable with the uncomfortable.”  But are our students really homesick?

It depends on how you define homesick.  Are these students really missing home?  Are they really missing us? They hardly talked to us all summer. They’ve worked hard for years to get to this place. Just a few short weeks ago – or maybe days – they couldn’t wait to leave.  They couldn’t wait to be out on their own. Is it really home and parents that they are missing?

Read more14 Suggestions of What to Do If (Not Necessarily When) Your Student Is Homesick


There is Life After Academic Dismissal! An Inspiring Story for the Holidays

As we approach what, for many of us, is the holiday season, we want to share an inspiring success story with you.  The story comes from one of our readers.

We often receive comments on posts or e-mails from both parents and students.  Many of these messages come at a time of difficulty – often around probation or dismissal or other crises.  It is often a time of struggle and uncertainty.  As often as we can, we offer a few words of encouragement or advice, and most of the time we never know what happens.

Here is a portion of one such comment, received in  the summer of 2013 on our post What to Do If Your Student is Academically Dismissed.

“Vicki,

First of all, I really appreciate your responses!  I have learned a lot just by reading them.  I do have a similar issue with being Academically Dismissed.  I was attending school and majoring in Gerontology.  I attained my Associate in Arts degree prior.  I did very well my first 2 semesters, but then some personal tragedies began to unravel my life. . . . Unfortunately, due to my living situation being turned upside down and also my car breaking down and having to buy a new one, school was not feasible.  I stopped attending class because I had to go to work.  I was a mere 20 credits away from my degree. 

Read moreThere is Life After Academic Dismissal! An Inspiring Story for the Holidays


“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?

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


Readmission to College: The Application Process

This is the second of two posts about the readmission process after academic dismissal. Be sure to read the first post for some suggestions about working with the college during your student’s time away.

Most students who are academically dismissed from college are asked to spend a certain period of time out of the school. That may be a semester, a year, or even longer. If your student has been working closely with the college after his dismissal, he will be clear about the length of time away, and he will have some information about how best to spend that time. The college recognizes that something went wrong for the student when he was enrolled and hopes that some time away will allow the student to address whatever issues interfered with his success.

The decision to return

Once your student feels ready to return to school, the first decision he will need to make is whether he will apply for readmission to his original school or consider transferring to another college or university. This is a very personal decision and should be made in conjunction with his family, and after gathering all of the necessary information from both his original school and any schools to which he is considering applying.

Read moreReadmission to College: The Application Process


Readmission to College: Work With the School

If your student has been dismissed from college for poor academic performance (sometimes called Satisfactory Academic Progress), it can be a devastating blow. Both you and your student will need to come to terms with the reality, evaluate what happened, and decide how to move forward. We have several earlier posts that may help you with these stages of the process.

What To Do If Your Student Is Academically Dismissed from College

Academically Dismissed from College? Time for a Reset

Academically Dismissed from College? Ten Steps to Move On

However, once you and your student have evaluated the situation, and perhaps taken some time away from school, your student may be ready to get back on track – either at her former school or at a new school. She may have questions, but she may not be sure where to begin.

Let your student take ownership

It is important that your student, not you, do the work to prepare to return to school, but you may need to give her some guidance about necessary steps. All calls to the school, all e-mails to school offices, all visits to college offices, all application or appeal materials should be completed by your student and not you. The college is looking for responsibility on your student’s part. She should advocate for herself and make her own case. If you step in, you may actually hurt your student’s chances of being readmitted.

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Three Steps to Take If Your College Student Is Forced to Change Major

Statistics tell us that as many as 75% of college students will change their major during college. Some 10% of students may change their major as many as four times. That is a lot of shifting. However, when we think about students changing their major, we usually think about students changing their mind, discovering a new passion, finding a new field or career interest. What the statistics do not tell us is how many students may change their major – not through their choice: they are not opting out, the choice is being made for them.

Some majors at some colleges and universities have entrance requirements. Other majors have minimum GPA requirements in order to remain in that major. A student who has not done well in one or more courses required for a particular major may be blocked from the major, denied admission to the major, or dismissed from the major. Many departments institute these requirements because they know, from years of experience, that students who fall below these standards will ultimately not succeed. From the college’s viewpoint this makes sense for your student. However, you, and your student, wonder – what happens now? It can be a heartbreaking, and perhaps frightening, situation.

Read moreThree Steps to Take If Your College Student Is Forced to Change Major