5 Ways to Engage Your College Student During the Holidays
The long winter break offers parents and college students an opportunity to reconnect and share thoughts on college life. It can also be a stressful time for both parents and their adult children, who are becoming more independent with each week at college.
Making supportive and timely efforts to learn about life at college can truly help you and your son or daughter communicate openly.
Here are some ideas for tackling five big topics.
- Keep in mind that college classes are more challenging than high school classes and your student’s grades may reflect that fact.
- Once grades arrive, be sensitive to your student’s reaction and congratulate successes.
- Unless there is a major issue with your student’s grades, wait for an invitation to discuss ways to improve study habits, time management and his or her use of campus resources.
- Check in with your student on upcoming classes without appearing to question his or her ability to manage college on his or her own. You can do this by asking which class or classes he or she is looking forward to next semester instead of asking if the classes will meet graduation requirements or wanting to see a class schedule.
- If your student already has spring syllabuses, offer assistance in looking for books online before classes start.
- Find out if he or she needs some quiet time to get a head start on any reading and help facilitate that by keeping younger siblings occupied or treating your student to a favorite meal away from the dinner table so he or she can keep studying.
- If you haven’t already, you and your student can work on the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) for next year’s financial aid. Go online to FAFSA.gov, log in and begin entering any information from 2016 you already have. You can estimate tax information. Starting on this now helps prevent you and your student from having to deal with it long distance while classes are in session.
- Working on FAFSA paperwork might provide a good opening to discuss your student’s budget. If overspending is an issue, ask if he or she has a plan to cut back on spending or if getting a part-time job might be necessary. Keep your student’s unique nature in mind and work with his or her preferences. If being in charge of his or her entire semester’s budget didn’t work, ask if your student would prefer to receive set amounts monthly to help with overspending. If there have been restrictions on how much money he or she can access at once, find out if your student is ready to be in control of more financial decisions through the next semester. Remember that students may make mistakes, and that it is part of learning.
- Another important matter to talk about with your student while working on the FAFSA is his or her plans for the next academic year. For example, does your student want to live on campus or off next year?
- Find out what interests your student has to open opportunities for discussing how you can help him or meet college goals. Is studying abroad an option? Does your student want to work part-time to earn extra spending money or gain experience or does volunteering pique his or her interest?
What can I do?
Ask if there is anything your student wants to talk to you about. Your student may not have an answer immediately, but knowing he or she can talk to you anytime may lead to future discussions.