Get stories and expert advice on all things related to college and parenting.
Help Your Student Adjust to College AcademicsSuzanne Shaffer
This is the first in a series of three articles about staying motivated and productive during what we all hope is the final lap of remote pandemic learning. This is an ideal time for parents and students to think about how they will stay focused during this spring semester.
Over the last ten months, remote learning has shifted from what we all thought was a temporary, emergency measure to a prolonged way of doing school. It now seems likely that this spring semester will look very much like last fall at many schools.
The good news: This may be the final lap in this exhausting race. We’re not sure when life will be normal again, or what that new normal will look like, but we’re all hopeful that it will come soon.
Fall semester took many forms, with some students fully in the classroom, others fully remote either on or off campus, and still others somewhere in between — or moving from one format to another as virus numbers dictated.
A study conducted by Digital Promise, an independent educational organization, found that 42% of students said one of their primary challenges with online learning was staying motivated. This isn’t surprising. Students and parents alike are feeling pandemic fatigue, Zoom fatigue and social isolation. Another semester of the same can seem daunting.
This is an excellent time for parents and students to evaluate how things are going. We can celebrate the positives — and yes, there are positives. We’ve been able to spend more time with family and less time commuting. Many of us have practiced patience and empathy. We’ve learned to be flexible and to adapt. Some of us even learned how to bake sourdough bread!
This is also a good time to talk about what the upcoming semester may look like — and to make some decisions.
Some students have simply had enough. They are overwhelmed, sad, angry, bored, frustrated (or all of the above).
As parents, we need to honor those feelings and let our student know that it’s okay to be stressed and anxious right now.
For those students who are struggling, taking a break from school might be an option. This may change your student’s timetable, but a lot of us have had to pivot this year. It’s also possible your student can make up lost credits over one or two summer terms.
Talk to your student about whether a break makes sense. Although it may feel scary, suggest the option.
Your student may be relieved that you suggest something they were afraid to voice. If they decide to step out, your student will need to contact the school to ask about the process of Withdrawing or taking a Leave of Absence and to check about financial aid implications. Then you and your student can talk about what they will do with their time so they will feel productive. This is not an easy decision but may be the right thing for now.
Your student may decide not to take a break but to forge ahead. This affirmative decision to accept the challenge of another remote (or at least radically different) semester becomes a proactive choice that can give your student a more positive perspective on the semester.
Once your student has made the affirmative choice to continue with “pandemic school,” they may need to dig deeper than ever to find the motivation to be successful.
Recognizing that this is a choice is a good beginning.
In his book Drive, author Daniel H. Pink suggests that there are three things that help us stay motivated:
Parents and students might work together (we probably need some motivation as well!) to find those things over which we have control, to work at becoming better at something, and to define our goals and purpose. Talk to your student about some options and suggest that they make a list of their own.
Practice autonomy. It’s time to be proactive.
Practice mastery — and remember that this doesn’t mean perfection. Aim for improvement.
And yet always need to be reminded to do!
You and your student may share many of the same motivational issues. Talking about them may help both of you find new ways to fuel your motivation to drive forward.
When your college student starts their first semester, it’s not just a big deal for them. It’s a big deal for you, too. Get the First Semester Guide for College Parents now!