This post is a bit different than my others in that it is not about motherhood or things to do with your kids or any other lifestyle topics. Instead, I am drawing on my professional experience to share some wisdom with college students, those headed for higher education, and maybe even their parents. These are pieces of advice from my perspective as an academic advisor that either I wish I had known when I was in college or that I think many students are never told.
This may sound trite but many incoming freshmen do not know who they are yet. Let's be honest, many adults do not know themselves either or what they want in life. I am not saying that an 18-year-old needs to have it all figured out. What I mean is that most people have an idea what they want out of life and where they excel versus struggle. Use this to help when choosing a major in college. Just because engineering sounds great and typically results in a high-paying job does not mean that it is right for everyone. Some people are better with theory and math, while others are more hands-on or creative. Still others are not cut out for college at all or may need to wait until they are older and more mature.
Explore options outside of the expected. Just because you like art does not mean you have to major in Art. Perhaps you could look into architecture or graphic design. If you are really good at public speaking, you could consider Political Science, Education, or Business Management.
How can students prepare for college?
- Get on the right math path
- This involves identifying early on (i.e. middle school) that a kid wants to go to college.
- Taking accelerated math, algebra, trigonometry, and even calculus prior to college will set a student up for success - especially if they want to go into a STEM field.
- Do research
- Often students do not fully understand what a major truly involves.
- Ask questions from academic advisors, teachers, and people in the industry.
- Attend open houses at the university to meet students and explore options.
Use the Resources
Universities offer a lot of "free" resources to their students, all with the intention of ensuring success. Too often, I see students ignore those resources. This does not make sense because while the resources are "free," this really means that the cost is embedded into the tuition. If you're already paying for it, you may as well use it. Here are some examples:
- Academic Advisor: The go-to for all questions. If we don't know the answer, we know who will.
- Tutoring: If you are struggling in a course, why suffer through when there are options available to help? Sometimes a tutor can help explain things in a different way from the professor, which will help with understanding.
- Counseling: College is stressful (especially in a pandemic). Everyone can benefit from counseling at some point in their lives. Why not take advantage of it while it's free?
- Professors' Office Hours: They are set for a reason. Ask the questions.
- Career Center: They have resources that can help with job selection, resume building, and interviewing skills.
A Note to the Parents
I just wanted to give a quick message to parents of children in college or preparing for college:
As a parent myself, I know how easy it is to step in for your child when they are struggling. I know how important it is to make decisions for your child (especially when they are younger). BUT, once your child gets to college, it is time for them to be an adult and make their own choices. Even if you are paying for their schooling, universities are bound by confidentiality laws (look up FERPA - it's like HIPPA, but for schools). I cannot tell you how many times I have to inform a concerned mom or a disgruntled dad that I cannot share information with them about their child. Communication with your son or daughter is key. Build it up young and they will be more open to sharing what is happening in their lives later on.
One last thing: please let your child make their own decisions about their college majors and future careers! I see so many students fail in the engineering field because their parent forced them into it, when in reality, they want to be an artist. I know that may not be the vision you have for your kids, but success and happiness are SO much better than mediocre (at best - failing at worst) grades and a series of major changes or career failures.