Your Student Needs This Time Over Winter Break

This article is an update of an earlier article.

Winter Break. Most college students look forward to it – and they get increasingly impatient for it as the semester draws to a close. Students face deadlines they may have ignored, final papers, final projects, final exams, and a generally stressful few weeks as they finish up their term.

Winter Break

Students don’t want this Break, they need this Break. They’ve worked hard all semester and they need a chance to regroup. This winter, no one is sure what to expect. Covid, the flu, and RSV are making everyone a little nervous. We’re inching back to normal and we hope Winter Break will be comfortable and safe for everyone. The next few weeks may prove challenging for everyone. But wherever you are and whatever your circumstances, most students need one thing as this semester draws to a close: time.

Not all time is the same

No matter how long your student’s break from college, they need to fill it with different kinds of time to help them recharge and to prepare to move forward.

Eight kinds of time your student needs

Downtime

The end of the semester can be brutal for some students. Your student may come home and sleep for what seems like days. They may just want to binge watch their favorites, play video games, eat junk food, sleep some more and just hang out.

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What’s Going On with Your Student in Trouble?

It’s possible you may be taken by surprise if you learn that your student is struggling or in trouble – especially academically.  You didn’t see this coming and wonder how you missed it.

On the other hand, you may clearly see that your student is in difficulty but wonder how your student is missing it – or at least not talking about it.

Of course, there are other times when no one sees it coming and everyone is taken by surprise. Trouble may have been brewing for a while, but it seems to have come out of nowhere.

My student won’t talk about it – or even admit there’s trouble.

This can be especially frustrating. It’s obvious that your student needs help and you’re willing to support them in finding it. But your student seems to be shutting you out. What’s going on?

“I’m embarrassed and ashamed because I’m failing some of my classes. I’m supposed to be able to do this work and my parents – and the rest of my family and friends – expect me to do well. My parents are paying a lot of money and now it’s wasted. The college must have made a mistake in admitting me. If I don’t tell anyone about this maybe they won’t find out.”

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26 Admission Questions You May Not Have Thought Of

The college admission process is long and it is often complex. An important part of that process is visiting the colleges on your student’s list. But college visits are about so much more than just showing up.

A good college visit involves doing your homework before you go, listening between the lines to the admission presentation, and knowing what questions to ask to gather just the information you need. As intimidating as this may sound at first, college visits can be one of the fun aspects of this intense process.

The questions you ask (or even better, your student asks) are often fairly standard. How large are classes? Can students have a car? What are the popular majors? What is the graduation rate? These are important pieces of information, and you should ask all of the questions that are on your mind. But standard questions usually yield standard answers, not necessarily the information that will help your student judge whether this is the place they want to spend the next four years.

To get started, be sure to read our article on preparing for and making the most of an admission visit.

Student to student

As most students try to evaluate the colleges on their list, what they really want to know is whether this school is the place that they will feel comfortable and at home. Will it provide the experiences that they need to reach their goals? Will they find their people and be able to experience the life they want to live? This may be harder to determine with standard answers.

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Readmitted to College! Now What?

More and more students right now are taking a break from college. Some need a semester off and others need more time. Some choose to leave school and others may be academically dismissed or suspended, most often because they were overwhelmed or unprepared rather than for lack of ability.

If your student is dismissed from college, it can be a traumatic event for both your student and you. Deciding what to do and finding the way back can be a complex but often fulfilling process. If your student is newly dismissed, we have several articles that may help you and your student find your way.

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

This article begins where those articles left off.

Your student has taken some time off, has applied for readmission and has been accepted. Now what?

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Reflecting on the First Year of College

Your student made it through that often tumultuous first-year transition to college – perhaps smoothly or maybe with a few bumps and bruises along the way.

Next stop – sophomore year. But first, there’s work to be done.

It’s time for your student to reflect and make meaning of their first-year experiences, consider the lessons learned, and uncover the wisdom that can help them navigate the next three years.

New sources of information

Your student has grown. Their experiences have given them new sources of information about themselves and about college, but they may not yet have connected all of the dots. Now is the time for your student to consciously integrate this knowledge into their sense of who they are and how they can move forward deliberately and with a stronger sense of purpose.

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11 Reasons Your College Student May Call

Not all phone calls are the same.

We have so many ways to communicate with our college students these days that phone calls may be less frequent. According to Barbara Hofer, author of the book The iConnected Parent, parents and students communicate an average of 13.4 times per week — but that didn’t include texting! Many students and parents text each other anywhere from several times per day to once a week or so.

As long as both you and your student are comfortable and agree on the amount, occasional check-ins are good for all of us.

With the ease and immediacy of texting, phone calls (or Zoom, Facetime or Skype) with our students have become more rare. They take more effort and coordination and involve more extended conversations. But sometimes, there’s nothing like hearing the other person’s voice.

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How to Help Your Undecided Student Find Direction

This is Part 2 of our 2-part series on undecided students. Part 1 — Why Your Undecided Student May Be Drifting — discussed why your student may be having a difficult time deciding about a major. In this article we share some ways that parents can help their undecided student find direction.

There are many reasons for being undecided about a major. In our last article, we suggested that helping your undecided student find direction begins by helping them understand why they are undecided. You can help guide this process, but the deep work involved is your student’s work to do.

Being unsure about a major as you enter college might be the most appropriate course for many students, but it is important not to allow that uncertainty to become a drifting mentality.  Help your student formulate a plan to proactively investigate and narrow options and ultimately make at least a tentative choice.

A 7-step plan to help your student get started

Making a decision about a major — and possibly making it over again several times — can be so daunting that some undecided students begin to drift. They aimlessly move through each month or semester without making progress toward a choice because it is too difficult to know where to begin.

Help your student create a plan to guide their decision making.

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Why Your Undecided Student May be Drifting

Most traditional college students enter college when they are between 18-20 years old. Scientists tell us that at that age, young people’s brains are not yet fully formed — especially in the area of executive functioning.

Is it any wonder, then, that many students, (Virginia Gordon, in her book The Undecided College Student suggests close to 50% of them) are undecided about a major when they enter college? Or that approximately 75% of college students change their major at least once during their years in college, with the average student changing their mind three times?

It may not make sense to expect our college students to know at the outset what they want to do with their lives, but we do.

If your student is one of those many students who say they are undecided about a major, you may worry.  Your student worries, too. Will they ever find direction? Will they find it too late and not be able to complete college in a timely way? What if they never find the right career?  That’s a lot of anxiety.

Being unsure about a major as you enter college is OK — it might even be the most appropriate response.

What is not OK is to allow that uncertainty to become a drifting mentality.

How did we get here? Why do we (and students) worry about being ”undecided”?

”What do you want to be when you grow up?”

We ask our young children that question, and we get those cute responses. ”I want to be a ballet dancing doctor!” ”I want to be a gypsy!” ”I want to be an astronaut and a policeman!” At that age, it’s all about possibilities.

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Does Your College Student Have an Advisory Board?

Most college students crave independence. It’s what the teenage years are all about, and as students head off to college they have an opportunity to spread their wings and exercise that independence. It’s an important stage of development (although it’s sometimes a difficult time for parents.)

So what’s the problem?

For many students, the problem is that they feel that being independent means that they must do everything on their own. Asking for help or guidance means that they aren’t truly independent.

Of course, that isn’t true. We all need guidance. We all have times when we need to ask for help. Being independent means knowing when you need help, finding the people who can provide that help, and being brave enough to advocate for what you need.

This is why your student needs a personal advisory board.

What is a Personal Advisory Board?

The Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of any company rarely runs the company single-handedly. Most CEOs have a Board of Directors who advise them and help make the decisions that guide that company.

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10 Potential Pivot Points for Your College Student

The college years are a journey. As your student travels through these years, there will be moments of transition and turning points. Your student may need to pivot and change direction.

Sometimes these pivots may be prompted by a crisis — a time when a decision needs to be made that will determine future events. Sometimes the pivot may be more simply a modification — a slight shift, much as a basketball player might turn and change direction while still keeping one foot planted.

If your student needs to pivot, the shift may be of their own making — a decision to change something — or it may be a change that is unexpected or mandated. In either case, your student may take the shift in stride or may feel overwhelmed and unsettled.  You may need to help your student process what this pivot means.

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