My College:
Dear Adina

How Do I Nudge My Student to Go to Virtual Activities?

Adina Glickman


Dear Adina,

How do I get my son, who began college as a freshman this past September during the "COVID era," to get involved in campus activities even though they are currently all being held virtually? How do I get him to meet some new people at school and become involved?


Dear Parent,

Contrary to popular belief, college is only partly about learning stuff in classes. It is first and foremost about becoming an independent young adult and dealing with other human begins. Thus, you’ve put your finger on one of the biggest challenges for first-year students during this pandemic year: connecting with people.

Even without COVID, the first year of college can be tough as students not only find their academic footing, but accumulate a posse who will be their confidantes and partners in learning, mischievous fun and personal development in school and beyond.

Those beloved souls usually arrive via chance encounters at the bookstore, spontaneous late-night dorm stairwell discussions (and trysts), and in classrooms when the person sitting next to you is wearing a hilarious t-shirt that starts a conversation. Remember bookstores, stairwells and sitting next to people? That’s so 2019. None of these things is happening right now, so meeting people and making friends is stilted in the two-dimensional world of a Zoom meeting.

Spontaneous, serendipitous, casual and low-key (aka not scheduled) contact is what helps us be healthy humans and in fact accounts for the biggest ingredient for living a long time. Susan Pinker talks about this in her TED talk, when she says the social contact that counts is “how much you interact with people as you move through your day.”

Move through my day? I don’t move. I sit a whole lot and see people on my screen, and I get to talk to them. It’s all planned, it’s all scheduled. There’s no accidentally bumping into an acquaintance and petting their dog. There’s no friendly exchange with the cashier, whose smile is currently obliterated by her mask (as is mine) which btw is preventing my mirror neurons from joining in the pleasantness of seeing another happy human face. Robert Waldinger’s TED talk notes that, although intimate relationships matter, it was really the amount of casual, communal contact the men he studied had with strangers like bus drivers and mailmen that accounted for their long lives.

For now, we are in a time of re-setting expectations and adjusting to a new and crappy normal. But what we parents have is the ability to look beyond that. We can help our kids set expectations and also help them envision a future that will be a new and better normal. Young people stink at envisioning the future because the parts of their brains (pre-frontal cortex to be exact) that helps them do that won’t be fully developed until they’re well into their twenties. The future, to a young person, is tomorrow and possibly only later today.

So my suggestion would be to help your son see that the disappointing encounters that await him in virtual club meetings today are not supposed to pay off today. Acknowledge that they are bone-dry and barely approximate human interaction. Emphasize that the payoff will come down the road when he runs into someone from a Zoom club on campus and they bond over their relief that the Zoom days are over. Right now, your son probably can’t imagine a college experience that will be fun and loose and spontaneous. But as his parent, you know it’s coming.

The other thing college students aren’t too good at (owing again to that still-developing pre-frontal cortex) is patience and impulse control. It’s hard to patiently wait for the day when you can hang with your friends freely. It’s hard for ME to do that, but my 58-year-old brain has 57 years of memories that help me put this one COVID year in perspective. Your son’s teenage brain doesn’t know yet that that the future will be brighter, and that collecting the names and faces of people who are attractive to him, interesting to him, make him laugh, make him think, in some random Zoom club meeting, will be super helpful next year.

Let me also offer that you will be filled with frustration and disappointment in your efforts to get your son to do anything. The last time I got my son to do anything was when he was in middle school and he still believed the myth that I was the boss. That was so 2008. You can and should be introducing new ways of looking at things, and especially encouraging him to bring a vision of the future into the decisions he makes about his present.

Parenting college students is more a series of invitations than edicts. So consider inviting your son to do some imagining. Invite him to think of some teeny tiny threads of interest and enjoyment in seeing these Zoom faces that might some day become points of connection with real people live and in person. Present the idea of imagining like it’s a secret door he didn’t know was there, rather than a voice of parental pressure to make more of this first year.

It’s not that he’s supposed to start having a fabulous time in virtual club meetings. It’s that the fabulosity will come later, and he’ll have a collection of faces and names to go with it.

Yours,

Adina Signature

Have a question? Ask Adina

Adina Glickman is the founder of Affinity Coaching, which offers academic, life and career coaching to young adults. She is the former director of learning strategies at Stanford University and is the co-founder and director of the Academic Resilience Consortium, an association of faculty, staff and students dedicated to understanding and promoting student resilience. Learn more at adinaglickman.com.

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    19 hours ago
    CollegiateParent

    Hey Colleges – How About a School Picture Day?

    When my kids were in elementary school, I always tried to volunteer on School Picture Day. It was fun to see all the students each year looking photo-ready, many with new haircuts, outfits, and big smiles. The perk for keeping kids in line all day and refereeing battles with plastic combs was a free basic photo
    package of your child.

    And any parent who has paid for school pictures knows this is sweet swag, because school pics are pricey. And the marketing geniuses at these photo companies know how to sucker parents. They’d send home an enormous packet full of all kinds of glossy photos of your adorable, precious child. Big prints, small prints, wallet-sized prints, bookmarks, and heart-shaped keychain pics. And that was just the start!

    If you went to their website, you could find a hundred more products to purchase, so that every living relative of yours could receive a mug, a calendar, or a magnet. And they made it difficult to simply buy one class photo and a 5” x 7” for your desk frame. Even the smallest packages had stuff you didn’t want, which is why we all have dusty boxes full of kid pictures stuffed away in our closets. (If you don’t, I’m impressed with your purging skills.)

    But what I grasp now is that having our elementary kids line up each year at school on two occasions – for fall and spring pictures – was not really what we needed. Our kids were living in our houses then, and we saw them up close and personal every single day. To the point where we often closed our eyes, took some deep, cleansing breaths, and wished we could just disappear for an hour and NOT see their sweet, little faces.

    Plus, we could take our own pictures of them any darn time we wanted – at their games, their performances, during spirit week, and on their birthdays. We had an overabundance of photo ops.
    But now we’re college parents, and our kids aren’t living with us. We’re not closing our eyes in frustration, sneaking off for a little peace and quiet in our bathrooms. (Or was that just me?) We’re
    closing our eyes and wishing that our kids were about to walk in the door and ask for a snack, just like they did when they were seven.

    Many of us haven’t gotten more than a couple peace-sign selfies since they left home a month ago. We miss their faces, and right now I’d pay a ridiculous price for a picture of my smiling son on a mug, with cheesy, autumn trees Photoshopped in behind him.

    It shouldn’t be too much to ask colleges for a fall photo of our kids. We won’t care about backgrounds -most of their campuses have beautiful architecture and green spaces at the ready. Is it too much to ask for one quick shot, in between classes? I’m willing to bet more of us would purchase a package now.

    Let’s try this, college!

    - Marybeth Loyd Bock, MPH
    ... See MoreSee Less

    Hey Colleges – How About a School Picture Day?  When my kids were in elementary school, I always tried to volunteer on School Picture Day. It was fun to see all the students each year looking photo-ready, many with new haircuts, outfits, and big smiles. The perk for keeping kids in line all day and refereeing battles with plastic combs was a free basic photo
package of your child.  And any parent who has paid for school pictures knows this is sweet swag, because school pics are pricey. And the marketing geniuses at these photo companies know how to sucker parents. They’d send home an enormous packet full of all kinds of glossy photos of your adorable, precious child. Big prints, small prints, wallet-sized prints, bookmarks, and heart-shaped keychain pics. And that was just the start!  If you went to their website, you could find a hundred more products to purchase, so that every living relative of yours could receive a mug, a calendar, or a magnet. And they made it difficult to simply buy one class photo and a 5” x 7” for your desk frame. Even the smallest packages had stuff you didn’t want, which is why we all have dusty boxes full of kid pictures stuffed away in our closets. (If you don’t, I’m impressed with your purging skills.)  But what I grasp now is that having our elementary kids line up each year at school on two occasions – for fall and spring pictures – was not really what we needed. Our kids were living in our houses then, and we saw them up close and personal every single day. To the point where we often closed our eyes, took some deep, cleansing breaths, and wished we could just disappear for an hour and NOT see their sweet, little faces.  Plus, we could take our own pictures of them any darn time we wanted – at their games, their performances, during spirit week, and on their birthdays. We had an overabundance of photo ops.
But now we’re college parents, and our kids aren’t living with us. We’re not closing our eyes in frustration, sneaking off for a little peace and quiet in our bathrooms. (Or was that just me?) We’re
closing our eyes and wishing that our kids were about to walk in the door and ask for a snack, just like they did when they were seven.  Many of us haven’t gotten more than a couple peace-sign selfies since they left home a month ago. We miss their faces, and right now I’d pay a ridiculous price for a picture of my smiling son on a mug, with cheesy, autumn trees Photoshopped in behind him.  It shouldn’t be too much to ask colleges for a fall photo of our kids. We won’t care about backgrounds -most of their campuses have beautiful architecture and green spaces at the ready. Is it too much to ask for one quick shot, in between classes? I’m willing to bet more of us would purchase a package now.  Let’s try this, college!  - Marybeth Loyd Bock, MPH

    Comment on Facebook

    Marybeth Loyd Bock this is too funny- takes me back - I still have those crazy plastic photo keychains! 😂

    Goodness, I’d love a glimpse of my college freshman “out in the wild”!

    I would LOVE this 💖

    23 hours ago
    CollegiateParent

    My daughter has been busy from morning till night with a flurry of activities to welcome new students to her college campus. There’s been mini golf on the lawn, epic games of giant Jenga, bingo nights, spa nights, dorm meetings, roommate bonding activities, and a class photo with every new student sporting their crisp class t-shirts in a beautiful shade of emerald, for they are the new green class of 2025.

    Except my daughter is actually a member of her school’s red class. The class of 2024.

    She is a sophomore returning to her campus as an Orientation Mentor, providing guidance, support and information to new students as they join the college community. She’s been tasked with supporting new students in a transition she never experienced in this traditional way.

    Her own first-year orientation was virtual due to the raging pandemic last fall. And while she was so grateful to be able to start her college experience on campus a year ago (many students didn't have that option), there were no in-person meet-ups, no class picnics and games on the lawn, and no roommate to share a new space and a new life with. Like most of the entering class of 2024, her college experience was lived through a computer screen and socially distanced small gatherings, grab-and-go meals and masked faces.

    My daughter is thrilled to have this opportunity to participate in (secondhand through the freshmen) the in-person college orientation she never had. Although she admits it’s bittersweet as she now realizes all that she — and all this year's sophomores — missed.

    (continue reading this blog post from No Sick Days For Mom—Cheryl Gottlieb Boxer, Writer:
    www.collegiateparent.com/student-life/our-sophomores-are-still-new/ )
    ... See MoreSee Less

    My daughter has been busy from morning till night with a flurry of activities to welcome new students to her college campus. There’s been mini golf on the lawn, epic games of giant Jenga, bingo nights, spa nights, dorm meetings, roommate bonding activities, and a class photo with every new student sporting their crisp class t-shirts in a beautiful shade of emerald, for they are the new green class of 2025.  Except my daughter is actually a member of her school’s red class. The class of 2024.  She is a sophomore returning to her campus as an Orientation Mentor, providing guidance, support and information to new students as they join the college community. She’s been tasked with supporting new students in a transition she never experienced in this traditional way.  Her own first-year orientation was virtual due to the raging pandemic last fall. And while she was so grateful to be able to start her college experience on campus a year ago (many students didnt have that option), there were no in-person meet-ups, no class picnics and games on the lawn, and no roommate to share a new space and a new life with. Like most of the entering class of 2024, her college experience was lived through a computer screen and socially distanced small gatherings, grab-and-go meals and masked faces.  My daughter is thrilled to have this opportunity to participate in (secondhand through the freshmen) the in-person college orientation she never had. Although she admits it’s bittersweet as she now realizes all that she — and all this years sophomores — missed.  (continue reading this blog post from No Sick Days For Mom—Cheryl Gottlieb Boxer, Writer:
https://www.collegiateparent.com/student-life/our-sophomores-are-still-new/ )

    Comment on Facebook

    CollegiateParent, thank you so much for this opportunity.

    SUCH good, practical, and wise advice here, Cheryl Gottlieb Boxer, for any of our students, really. 💛

    Elizabeth, thank you so much. I appreciate that. ❤️

    Soooo true, all of this. Our sophomores are rediscovering, relearning, renegotiating the whole campus experience. Last year was tough, but I hope that last year's experience has made them stronger and more resilient to anything life throws at them this year. All strength to them! ❤️

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