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Words of encouragement during college finals week

By Diane Schwemm

My youngest son, a college freshman, is taking final exams this week. He was too busy to talk much this past weekend, but I called to wish him luck anyway. I didn't really know what else to say.

Then I came to the office and a co-worker with two daughters in college shared a wonderful list: "Personal Qualities Not Measured by Tests or Grades." There are many such lists out there, some created by educators like this one — it's the kind of thing you print out and post to the fridge.

The two of us misted up a bit talking about how proud we are of our college-aged children, and how we treasure them not for their accomplishments but for who they are as people.

Reading the list with my son in mind, a few qualities popped out at me: friendly, empathic, athletic, humble. I asked a few other colleagues with college students to contribute words for a CollegiateParent list and they quickly obliged.

In these last weeks and days of the school year, we'll be taking every opportunity — during phone calls, in a text, or in one last letter or card — to remind our students that they are:


Authentic, thoughtful, caring

Kind-hearted, community-minded, generous

Diligent, patient, attentive

Courageous, compassionate, strong

Grounded, connected, poised

Gracious, witty, funny

Appreciative, approachable, bright

Dedicated, tenacious, positive

Willing and able, fortunate, creative

Curious, artistic, a critical thinker


Younger co-workers confirmed how much words like these can mean from their parents.

Kelsey: My parents instilled in me to never give up and to strive to be the best I can be at whatever I tackle. They would say I was the most determined individual they knew and that they were so proud of me. If I ever failed or was disappointed in myself for underperforming, they said I would always figure out a way to succeed the second time around.

Ben: My mom always used to tell me a couple of things that would relax me before a test. She would say if I tried my best, that I should be proud no matter the outcome. She would also remind me that the most important thing was that I learned something, even if the test didn't go super well.

Felicia: Grades were important to my parents when I was in high school, but they always made sure to show more praise when I excelled in a hobby over academics. They always told me they knew I was intelligent, but I shocked them when I picked up a new skill because I did that in my free time and when I wasn't being asked.

Diane Schwemm is a writer and senior editor at CollegiateParent. She and her husband are parents of two sons in college and a recent graduate. In her off hours, she likes to read, hike and garden and, thanks to the influence of her family, appreciates ballet and basketball equally.

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