Your kids likely fell in the house for the Thanksgiving holiday yearning for a break—wanting to luxuriate in the comfort of their bed for long hours, ready to savor home cooked meals, and eager for opportunities to dash out and see their friends from home. Who can blame them? They have likely logged about twelve weeks of classes and stomached some gross stuff in the dining hall and had their fair share of social disappointments at college. Nevertheless, most students experience a mixture of feelings with the anticipation of returning to campus. They are generally eager to regain the independence they have cultivated and to hang out with college buddies with whom they are experimenting with their new sense of self. Yet, without a doubt they are stressed about what is to come in the next few weeks---final exams and projects and trying to make it to the finish line intact.
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As a college professor for over twenty years, I can say with great certainty that this becomes a trying time for everyone. Students as well as faculty have gotten that glorious taste of a bit of rest and relaxation, more time with family and friends and a bit more indulgence. It is hard to regain the energy for the last push of the semester which is completely necessary to finish with greater success. The Thanksgiving holiday becomes a bit of a tease—-like those tiny bags of pretzels on an airplane when you are actually starving. So, when they head back to school, students can benefit by doing the following:
Get kids moving. The latest research shows that brain development in young children may be linked to their activity level. Place your baby on her tummy several times during the day, let your toddler walk instead of ride in her stroller, and create opportunities for your older child to get plenty of exercise.
- Attend office hours with the professor, and the teaching assistant if there is one.
- Consider seeking support from a tutor at the student success center.
- Find a study buddy and/or study group.
- Consider seeking help at the counseling center for dealing with stress, anxiety and depression.
- Check out the various workshops offered through the counseling center and the student success center related to improving study habits, time management, meditation and mindfulness-based stress reduction exercises, etc.
- Use and check (often!) your paper calendar or electronic planner to help remind you of upcoming important due dates.
- Take some time to think about the habits you have cultivated since you have been at college. Which ones are serving you well and which ones are no longer serving you? How might you let go of what is not serving you? For example, have you gotten caught up in going out for Thirsty Thursdays and missing your Friday morning class?
- Don’t ask for extra credit. Your professor will make it available to the class if s/he deems it a good idea. But, don’t ask for it privately as a special favor.
- Don’t engage in grade grubbing. It is one thing to gently and respectfully question a grade if there is a true mathematical error or to ask how you might improve going forward, but otherwise you need to understand that a grade is not given; rather, it is earned. It is a professor’s professional evaluation of what you have earned based on his/her expertise and his/her impressions of observing you and your work throughout the class. So, if you have earned grades in the 60s and 70s yet you want a B, don’t go declaring to your professor that is what you want, expect, or need. Your professor is not a magician and cannot pull higher grades out of a hat that you have never even earned in that range simply because you want or need it to apply to a special program, to keep your financial aid, to stay on a team, or because you believe you tried hard.
- Be sure that you are ready for the spring semester. You may have tried to register and are hoping to get in some closed classes. Or, perhaps you have not registered. Be sure to meet with your advisor, and come prepared with questions written out in advance. Your advisor may know of exciting opportunities for research collaborations, internships, and jobs. It’s worth your while to get to know this person. Be honest with him/her about what you’re struggled with and ask him/her for more suggestions for resources and support.
- Maybe you are considering what to major in, or maybe you are finishing a class with a professor who has really changed and shaped your outlook in powerful ways. This is a good time to let this person know and to ask him/her if they are able to serve as a mentor for you.
- Make time to attend interesting activities, lectures, performances, and sporting events offered toward the end of the semester.
- Engage in good self-care practices now more than ever; these will help you stay healthy. This might include making commitments to: eat better, practice meditation and yoga, exercise, take vitamins, get adequate rest, etc.
- At the same time that everyone is super stressed and more challenged to take good care of themselves, we are also dealing with cold and flu season, so our immune systems are further compromised. Be even more diligent about keeping your room clean and doing your laundry.
- Just as your parents might have gone out of their way to buy or make gifts to thank your teachers in K-12, it is a really nice and much appreciated gesture to write a thank you card to professors who have impacted you.
Many parents of college students are eagerly counting the days until winter break and looking forward to some quality family time. If there are family rules — about underage drinking, for example — Lythcott-Haims says parents can tell their kids, “‘I know that you have been having a lot of freedom and independence in college.