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Advice for New College Students From a Recent GradCambria Pilger
As the parent of a college student, helping your child manage their time and maintain balance might be one of your top concerns.
At home, you could keep an eye on their schedule and give them nudges towards their commitments. Now that your student is on their own, they've taken independent control of their social lives, school assignments and more — and it can be more challenging than they expected.
College students often struggle to achieve a good school-life balance, especially if they also work. But the skills they develop in young adulthood will carry forward throughout their careers. Helping them to get organized and master time management now will go a long way toward ensuring their future success and happiness.
You can’t run their lives for them (and you wouldn't want to even if you could) — but here’s what you can do to help your student maintain a healthy, balanced life in college.
Not every parent has the financial ability to purchase their child's books or give them a large allowance. Plus, many parents feel that requiring their students to earn, save and budget for necessary items teaches responsibility and helps them grow.
However, sometimes a little assistance with their schoolbooks or supplies can take a load off their mind and give them more mental energy to focus on school. Even if you do agree that your student will pay for their textbooks, you can provide them with pointers on how to save money — or help them out in other ways.
Think back to a time when money was tight for you. How clear was your thinking and your ability to focus? The occasional care package of food, personal items and cleaning supplies can be a real lifesaver to a student. Don't let their grades suffer because they feel stressed out over how to afford shampoo.
Your student enrolled in college to enhance their lives in many ways, but they may only see the end goal. This obsession with the finish line — graduating and getting a job — can create significant stress. One lousy grade can mentally snowball into visions of a bleak future.
Additionally, focusing solely on making the grade robs your student of the full benefit of higher education. While 90% of students say that getting good grades is essential, fewer than 10% place the same value on learning itself.
If you sense your student is stressed about school, remind them that they’re there for more than a GPA. Emphasizing the importance of growth helps alleviate tension because they start to see setbacks and disappointments as opportunities to improve instead of catastrophes.
Most students used a planner in high school, but they may not think they need one in college — or they don't realize that a key to finding time for all the things they need and want to do is to schedule them.
Get with your student in person or on the phone to discuss their preferred approach to organization. Some students appreciate the space to write in a paper planner or wall calendar, while others adore the convenience of a phone app.
One way or the other, encourage them to plot out their semester by entering all essential deadlines from their class syllabi, including the time needed to study for exams. They should also pencil in time for exercise and recreation.
This practice cements the value of pre-planning and self-care as essential components of their all-around success in college.
If your student runs into academic problems, chances are good they can't (or won't) come to you for homework help.
Instead, learn what you can about the tutoring resources available on campus. Some schools have partnerships with outside tutoring services, while others offer on-campus tutoring from staff and/or fellow students. Some offer a combination of both.
Knowing where to find these resources can help you ease your student’s stress — just gently remind them where to turn for help.
There's so much more to college life than studying. Getting involved around campus gives your student the chance to make new friends and contribute some of their time and energy to meaningful, non-academic activities.
In addition, involvement in extracurriculars helps your student build their professional network and hone skills valued by future employers. These activities also let students blow off steam in a positive manner. Even if your student isn't athletic, they can join an intramural sports league to have fun and get exercise. Most schools offer literally hundreds of student clubs and organizations for interests ranging from hiking to chess.
Technology makes it more convenient than ever for busy adults to get a higher education. If your student intends to work while in school, investigate online learning options that will help them create a manageable work/class schedule. Eliminating an extra commute can result in considerable additional time in your student's day for studying.
Your student may want to pursue a degree wholly online, or take a mix of online and in-person classes. Many online schools record lectures and live classes, a bonus for students who like to review information more than once in order to improve comprehension and mastery.
Does your student want to cover some of their college costs while still attending school? Pursuing a part-time job or paid internship is a valuable way to gain both professional experience and additional funding for their education. If you’ve heard about potential openings in your student’s area, why not share the opportunity — or encourage your student to conduct their own search?
If they’re open to it, talk to them about picking two or three days a week they’d be willing to block out a few hours for a part-time position. Remind them not to schedule too many hours a week at a job, internship or volunteer position. Studying is still their primary responsibility.
If your student lives in a residence hall, they may not be able to keep their electronic devices out of the bedroom — they live there! Perhaps you established a bedtime ritual at home that involved powering down computers and tablets a half-hour before sleep. However, if you didn't open up that dialogue with your child, now might be the time to introduce the idea.
Talk about the importance of maintaining a regular sleep schedule and how blue light interferes with their ability to catch Zzz's. Set a positive example, too. If your student sees you taking your phone to bed when they're home on break, they won’t be as likely to put theirs down — especially when they’re on their own.
Finally, remember that your student is experiencing a ton of changes all at once. They've lost their comforting childhood routine at the same time they find themselves in a new environment. They're learning how to tackle adult responsibilities independently, but they may still cling to your guidance.
Help them find a school-life balance by not putting additional pressure on them. If they come home with poor grades, remember that punishment is probably no longer the way to go. Instead, sit down and brainstorm a plan together for how to improve going forward.
Whatever their grades, if they seem utterly frazzled, do something kind to help them unwind and get to a place where they have a clearer perspective. Take them on a weekend trip or get pedicures together — anything to reduce their stress levels and help restore their motivation.
Although they're growing up, your student still needs your guidance during this transition to adult life. When they achieve a healthy school-life balance, they liberate themselves to reach their full academic and personal potential.
College move-in is approaching! Help your student prepare by making sure they have everything they need for a successful freshman year.