Undecided, Undeclared, Open, Exploring: Your College Student’s Search for a Major

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?

Read moreUndecided, Undeclared, Open, Exploring: Your College Student’s Search for a Major


How College Parents Can Help Their Student Avoid Sophomore Slump

College administrators, faculty, and parents place a lot of emphasis on the transition to college and the first-year experience.  We all know that these new college students, and their parents, will be undergoing a tremendous change in their lives as they enter the world of college.  Colleges run orientation programs, offer special classes and seminars for first-year students, communicate with these new students with encouragement and reminders, and often have a “let it go” attitude when new students make mistakes or miss deadlines.

Once students complete that tumultuous first year of college, they face sophomore year and the changes that it brings.  Our sophomore students need just as much support from home, even though that need may be less obvious. As college parents, we can help our sophomore students realize that the concept of sophomore slump really does exist.

What is sophomore slump?

Sophomore slump refers to the phenomenon in which a second effort fails to live up to the quality of a first effort.  The term is also used in sports (for second year players) and in music (for second recordings by an artist).  At college, students in their second, or sophomore, year often experience both a let-down and a decrease in their grades.  If the word sophomore means “wise fool,” it is an accurate description of how many second year students feel: they aren’t sure whether they feel wise or foolish at any given moment.

Why does sophomore slump happen?

There are several things that occur during the second year of college that can contribute to the slump that sophomores may encounter.  These are especially troubling if your student is unprepared for the differences during this year of college.  Parents and students need to understand the ways in which this year is different from that first year of college.

Read moreHow College Parents Can Help Their Student Avoid Sophomore Slump


College Parent News and Views

The more that college parents know and understand about the college experience, the less we worry and the better we will be able to help our students to succeed and thrive throughout their college career.  However, there is an overwhelming amount of information out there on the web.   We’d like to help you find some of the information that might be most interesting and useful to you as a college parent.

In News and Views we share recent college related news and sources we’ve found as we do our research.  We hope that this feature will help to introduce you to new ideas and to help you keep up with some of the current issues that may affect your college student – and you.

We invite you to read some of the articles suggested below – and to let us know what you think of some of the ideas included here.

Read moreCollege Parent News and Views


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


Why Some College Parents’ Involvement Increases During the Second Semester

You sent your child off to college this fall.  It was hard. You said goodbye.  You worried. You worked at adjusting to the empty nest. You worried some more. But somehow, both you and your student survived.  You got through that difficult first semester.  It may have gone brilliantly, or there may have been some hiccups and room for improvement, but you both made it through.

So sending your student off for the second semester should be a breeze, right?  No big deal.  Maybe.  But maybe not.

The college parent timeline

Every parent’s experience is unique – because every student’s experience is unique. But there are some universals, and there is a cycle of college parenting for many families.  If you are having a difficult time with the second semester of college, you are not alone.

One problem, however, is that you don’t realize that you’re in good company.  No one talks about it.  When you sent your student off to college for the first time, you knew everyone else was feeling similar heart-tugs.  From articles, to the stories other parents shared, to the communication from the school, you knew you weren’t alone, and everyone told you it would be OK.

Read moreWhy Some College Parents’ Involvement Increases During the Second Semester


How Do American College Students Manage Their Finances?

We have written an earlier post about college students and their use of credit cards.  The picture seems have improved over the past ten years. In general, students have fewer credit cards and lower balances. If your student has a credit card, have a conversation with him about how he uses his card and how he feels about credit.

We’d like to share some additional information from the same Experian study that gives an extended view of college students and their finances.  Clearly, many students are thinking about their money and their finances and are working to be responsible.  But there are also areas where there is room for improvement.

We hope this information may provide additional conversation starters with your college student.  Where does your student fit in the college student financial picture?

Read moreHow Do American College Students Manage Their Finances?


10 Reasons Why Your Student May Have a Case of the “Second Semester Blues”

It’s winter.  In many places in the country it’s cold, and it’s dark a lot. The holiday break is over. The novelty of being a new college student has worn off.  May, and summer vacation, seem a long way off.  And now it’s time to get started with a new semester.

Is it any wonder that your student may have a case of the Second Semester Blues?

If your student is heading back to school but not particularly excited about the prospect, know that she is not alone.  There may be mild reluctance (who doesn’t hate the end of vacation?) or there may be serious resistance to returning.  Help your student to understand that this feeling is common.  There is no instant cure, but it may help your student to know that there are others who feel the same way – and that the feeling usually passes.

Why is your student feeling this way?

There are many reasons students may feel less than enthusiastic about their return to school for second semester, and some students may have multiple reasons.

Read more10 Reasons Why Your Student May Have a Case of the “Second Semester Blues”


Some “One-and-Done” New Year’s Resolutions for College Parents

The New Year has rolled around again – seemingly ever faster.  It feels as though we were just making our resolutions and plans for 2017 and here we are again.  As always, the changing of the year provides an excellent time to reflect, and then to look forward.

Several years ago, we offered some thoughts about the qualities that make good New Year resolutions.  If you’re a person who makes resolutions, we recommend reading our earlier article to see how your resolutions hold up.

But the problem with resolutions is that they often don’t hold up.  We make plans and promises (notice all of the ads this month for weight loss and quitting smoking!) but for most of us, they fade away quickly.  We’ve suggested resolutions in previous years, and we think they are still good suggestions for college parents.

But this year, we’re offering a slightly different list.  Each item in the list – or each resolution – contains only one thing.  They are, essentially, one-and-done resolutions.  Do something once and you’ve completed your resolution.  You don’t need to maintain a new habit; and you don’t need to feel guilty if you don’t.  We’re offering 12 suggestions, so you might even consider one each month for the year, but we hope you don’t wait that long.  And who knows, some might even become habits and stick in spite of it all.

Read moreSome “One-and-Done” New Year’s Resolutions for College Parents


Involving Grandparents in the College Experience

Grandparents are everywhere!  According to U.S. Census information, more than one in every four adults in the United States is a grandparent.  Most of those grandparents are Baby Boomers in the 45 to 64 age range.  That means that most college students in the United States are likely to have at least one grandparent in their life.  The trends indicate that this number will continue to grow to 80 million grandmothers and grandfathers, or nearly one in three adults in America, by 2020 and that American grandparents will continue to play a central role in the lives of their grandchildren and their adult children.

Financial assistance – the most obvious connection

The MetLife Report on American Grandparents is based on a nationwide survey of adults aged 45 or more who have grandchildren under the age of 25.  This survey highlights some information about today’s grandparents and at least some of the connections that they have with their college aged grandchildren.

  • 63% of those surveyed said that they are giving some type of financial assistance or monetary gifts (of any kind) to their grandchildren.
  • 70% are giving less than $5000 and the median amount is $3000.
  • 26% of those surveyed are contributing to their grandchild’s education
  • 68% of those surveyed said they are not giving any financial advice or guidance to their grandchildren.
  • Of those grandparents helping with educational costs, 46% said they are contributing to an educational fund and 24% are helping fund a college education (others may be helping with preschool, elementary or high school costs).

These statistics give one important snapshot of a relationship between college students and their grandparents.  Financial assistance is clearly an important piece.  When the connection between college students and grandparents is discussed, the topic is overwhelmingly around the ways in which grandparents can best financially help their college student – how much to contribute, when to contribute, how to contribute.  But there’s more.

Read moreInvolving Grandparents in the College Experience


College Students and Credit Cards

Credit and debit cards are part of the fabric of life for most Americans these days.  With the rise of online shopping, and the increasing use of automated services, credit cards are more than a convenience.  College students, too, are using credit cards; and many students use those cards wisely as they learn to manage their own finances.

How do students use credit?

Before you begin to think about your own student’s use of credit, it may be helpful to have a picture of how college students in general use their cards.

The 2016 Experian College Graduate Survey found that 58% of college graduates had at least one credit card and approximately 30% of graduates had some credit card debt.  The average balance carried by students was $2,573. The average number of cards held by students was 1.35.

Read moreCollege Students and Credit Cards