Message from Corey Landstrom, Vice President and Dean for Student Life

In April, a new book—"The Stressed Years of Their Lives: Helping Your Kid Survive and Thrive during Their College Years"—was released. It provides a wonderful foundation not only for parents of high school students who are in the process of discerning whether and where they will go to college, but also for parents of current college students. It focuses on helping both parents and students prepare for the transition to and experience during college. The authors, B. Janet Hibbs and Anthony Rostain, were recently interviewed on NPR's Fresh Air; you can access the interview via your favorite podcast app or online.

With my daughter beginning college this fall, this book also serves as a helpful reminder to me, an experienced college student affairs professional, to consider how prepared she is for her first college year and college in general. I have confidence that she is mostly ready, yet I know from experience there have been many students who seemingly were ready for the challenges and rigors of college who nonetheless struggled with the transition in some way.

When our Student Life team meets with parents during the ROAD program, we raise for consideration the importance of having a plan for the transition to college and, if necessary, ongoing care and treatment. The latter is particularly important for students who have been engaged in some type of care, whether for mental or physical health (or both, in some cases). While a student's academic readiness is often the driver for college acceptance, their emotional and social readiness are often key underlying challenges.

Having just experienced the college search process and with two decades of experience in higher education, I think we can better serve our students and ourselves as parents by considering how ready our students are and where opportunities for learning and personal development may lie. Below are key questions the authors suggest considering during the search process. These are good questions to for both incoming students and current students to ask.

The authors offer the following eight key components of social-emotional maturity:

Conscientiousness
Are you ready to take responsibility for the consequences of your actions?

Self-management
Are you ready to take over routine tasks of everyday life in the relatively unstructured environment of college?

Interpersonal skills
Are you ready to make friends, deal with roommates, and find suitable social activities?

Self-control
Can you resist temptation? Are you ready to set limits on the time spent watching TV or interacting on the internet, whether through virtual reality games, social media, or web surfing, that can lead to insufficient sleep and disruptions in self-care and studying, among others? Can you avoid overeating or consuming too much junk food?

Grit
Are you ready to cope with frustration, disappointment, and failure and persist in the face of setbacks and obstacles?

Risk management
Are you ready to have fun without taking too many risks, or too many substances?

Self-acceptance
Can you accept your faults, tolerate your mistakes, and deal with your problems without feeling too guilty or ashamed?

Open mindset/Help-seeking
Are you ready to ask for help when things aren't going well for you?

When we see students struggle, one of the above areas is a common factor. We don't expect our students to be perfect or fully ready for this experience, and yet we should recognize and appreciate the deep opportunities that students have to continue moving toward adulthood. Look over these questions and consider how you think your student might respond. If they are able to positively respond to the questions above—with examples of actions and behaviors—they are likely on their way to thrive in college and beyond. If they struggle with some of the questions, have them think about what they might do in order to have qualitatively different responses if asked again in six months or a year. Help them to connect to resources here at Luther that can assist them in such pursuits. We await their engagement.

 

References

Hibbs, B. J., and Rostain, A. L. (2019). "The Stressed Years of Their Lives: Helping Your Kid Survive and Thrive during Their College Years." New York, NY: St. Martin's Press.