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3 Mistakes Parents Make After a Bad Semester

Dr. Joel Ingersoll

Founder, Take On College

· College,High School,Parenting

The results are rolling in! Semester grades are arriving home and summer plans are kicking off.

How do you rate your child’s performance and overall experience during the spring semester? What goals did they fulfill?

When college students have a subpar bad semester, reactions can include questioning self-confidence and self-efficacy. Challenging conversations with kids about the investment being made in college add to anxiety, frustration, and tension about the upcoming fall semester.

Excuses like, “I just need to study harder next time” are a small part of the story for a lack of academic success. A bad semester usually involves several factors. The good news is that potential for better performance lies ahead in the fall semester. The trick is to parent-coach now and use effective approaches that put your child in the best position to succeed this fall.

In my experience coaching college students, it’s critical to evaluate how lifestyle impacts performance. Here are 3 take-away insights into common parent mistakes and how to fix them!

Mistake #1: Ignoring Success Prevention Traps - SPT’s

Feelings of frustration, anger, and anxiety often dominate conversations with students after a bad semester. Consequently, it’s easy to ignore patterns of thinking and lifestyle behavior that keep your child from success. Helping your child to increase awareness of their SPT’s has great impact on the development of resiliency, a key college and career success skill.

How to fix it:

Ask your student to list three thoughts and reactions they had when they started to see low grades/poor performance last year. You’ll most likely notice them blaming professors, expressions of frustration, or negative self-statements like, “I can’t do it.” These negative thoughts and behaviors are SPTs.

Ask your child to discuss how she/he could respond in a way that would allow them to increase self-awareness, to learn something from the experience and move forward in a positive, pro-active way.

Mistake #2: Setting Goals without Clarity

You often listen to a range of your child’s goals, like getting better grades next year. General goals are a start, but a statement that he/she is going to get good grades isn’t connected to specific action steps nor to an anticipation of how awesome it will feel to accomplish a challenging goal.

Typically missing from the general goal formula is specificity and accountability. Without creating specific action steps and accountability plans, students do not move closer to goal achievement.

How to fix it:

Maximize Goal Clarity by challenging your child to clarify a college-related goal. Be specific and have them identify:

  • the goal

  • potential barriers

  • action steps

  • what accomplishment will look and feel like.

Mistake #3: Sacrificing Self-care

LIfestyle balance is a tremendous challenge to college students. Normally when stress increases, self-care decreases. This has enormous impact on performance. Most students are challenged to integrate stress management practices into their lifestyle once they return to school -- just like we are challenged to integrate stress management into our work lives.

How to Fix it:

Start planting seeds. Discuss the benefits on your performance that you experience from exercising: decreased stress at work, more mental and physical energy, better sleep, etc.

Ask them to take a class with you! Yoga, boot camp, running, or any fitness/wellness activity can help. They may say no, but the key is for you to model the behavior and discuss the benefits. You're planting a seed in your child’s mind to prioritize healthy lifestyle behavior.

Learn more about these common mistakes and remedies! Attend my free parent workshop with live Q&A on Wednesday, June 21st, at 12:00 pm EST:

Dr. Joel Ingersoll helps college and high school students develop college transition, performance, and career success skills. As President & Founder of Take On College, Joel has empowered thousands of students to maximize their potential, college experience and return on tuition. Joel is the author of the forthcoming book Take On College: Winning Strategies for College & Career Success! Sign up for helpful tips, articles, & resources! Joel developed and hosts the College Success Academy Summer Virtual Intensive.

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