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Second Semester Fresh Start

Southern Connecticut State University

Adapted from an article by Vicki Nelson

Your student completed the first semester of college. Congratulations! Time to build on that success to make the second semester even better.

Recognizing the opportunity that a new start brings can be both encouraging and intimidating. Your student wants to build on any successes from last semester, but they may also need to re-evaluate and readjust based upon lessons learned.

What can I expect during my student's second semester?

Returning to school for second semester is a very different experience from going to college for the first time. Students bring their newly-acquired wisdom and their mistakes along. There may be less anxiety, since they know what to expect, or anxiety may be high…since they know what to expect!

Be prepared for mixed feelings.

There is less build-up and excitement than there was in the fall, so returning to school may seem a bit of a let-down. Some of the novelty has worn off. Your student understands the realities of college life, so the road ahead may look longer and harder than it did in the fall. This is a more thoughtful return to college.

Your student may be worried about their ability to succeed.

If first semester was less-than-hoped for, your student may be concerned about how to make this next semester better. They may or may not be able to express these worries.

Your student may have confidence that wasn’t there in the fall.

They have confidence in their ability to make friends, to navigate the university community, to get to class, to talk to professors and to do what needs to be done.

Your student may be optimistic about this new beginning.

Just as we are all encouraged by the possibilities of a new year, your student may be energized at the prospect of a fresh start.

Start a conversation

It can be difficult, as a parent/guardian, to know how to help. If you’re too involved, it feels as though you are not respecting your student’s growth and allowing them to experiment with newfound independence. But stepping back entirely may make you feel as though you’re not doing your part to guide your student.

Second semester is a perfect opportunity for some conversations. Plant a few seeds, offer food for thought, and gently remind your student of your trust and support.

  • Reinforce the opportunities that a fresh start brings: new classes, new professors, perhaps new friends, and new activities. Encourage your student to take advantage of a new perspective.
  • Remind your student of how much they know now that they didn’t in the fall — both about college life and about themselves. Help them find areas of strength and build upon confidence gained.
  • Ask about your student’s goals for spring semester. What do they hope the next few months will bring? What will be required to accomplish those goals? Putting goals into words makes them more tangible. Thinking about what will be required to reach those goals will provide your student with a plan of action.
  • Ask your student to list specific changes for this semester. Whether or not last semester was a good one, some changes can enhance the current term. Make sure that goals are attached to action plans. Will your student try out some new activities — or drop one or two? Will they spend more time studying, or sleeping? What’s the plan to make that happen?

No matter what year your college student is, a new semester is a chance for a fresh start, and you can guide them in setting realistic expectations and goals. They’ll be one step closer to maturity and independence. You will be more comfortable taking a step back and watching them grow.


Vicki Nelson has more than thirty-five years of experience in higher education as a professor, academic advisor and administrator. She also has weathered the college parenting experience successfully with three daughters. She began her website, College Parent Central, to help college parents achieve the delicate balance of support, guidance, appropriate involvement, and knowing when to get out of the way.

Southern Connecticut State University

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