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5 Mid-Semester Challenges You Probably Didn't Know Your Student Is Facing!


Dr. Joel Ingersoll

President, Take On College

· College,High School,career success

At the semester mid-point college students encounter tough decisions!

March Madness is here and my bracket is just about busted! College basketball tournaments, midterms, St. Patrick's Day, and spring break dominate calendars this month. With all of these distractions it's easy to overlook another certainty in March.

College students become increasingly aware of their academic status. By now they have taken rounds of exams, completed papers, and prepped for midterms. Their awareness raises anxiety to a new level by recognizing the potential impact if they do not quickly turn things around!

Many students believe that it's too late for grade improvement to be made before the semester ends. In those cases students are challenged to make tough decisions. Some students seek advice from campus resources, while many avoid discussing their concerns.

Common excuses for their academic circumstances include:

"I've already missed too many classes to pass."

"The professor sucks."

"I've been depressed."

"I'm staying up all night to complete papers."

"I've been partying too much."

No matter the circumstances and excuse(s), their choice of problem solving approaches play a huge role in the development of critical personal and professional success skills.

Too often, opportunities to develop success skills are overlooked for the sake of saving a grade point average. Please note: I am not suggesting that grades are not important.

Students head into the second half of the spring semester with an increase in awareness of their academic status and related stress highlighted by these challenges! Review the following challenges to identify those your child may be facing. Asking about your child's semester challenges and well-being in a compassionate, caring manner will often start productive conversation in which they share stressors that are usually kept from parents in an attempt to be mature and responsible.

1. Practice self-care or self-sabotage:

An increase in stress is often connected to a decrease in self-care. Trips to the gym and yoga classes decrease, poor sleeping habits kick in, and increase in alcohol and/or other drug use occurs. Lists of excuses are expressed despite knowledge of the benefits of maintaining stress management practices. Prioritizing physical and psychological self-care in the midst of stress is essential to performance, success, and wellness.

Personal & Professional Development Skills Practiced In This Situation: Stress Management, Lifestyle Design

2. Choosing to drop or not to drop:

Awareness of potentially failing a class triggers a short list of choices. Immediate stress relief is a primary goal. This time of the semester decisions about dropping/withdrawing from classes or taking an MLOA (Medical Leave of Absence) are considered options. When students focus on quick relief solutions, they miss potential personal development benefits of first scheduling with the professor to propose and brainstorm solutions. Perspectives like, "What's the point?" or "It won't help" are common to hear when students sense mid-semester trouble. Even if a student intends to drop a class there is long term benefit for being proactive and meeting with a professor to discuss options. The gesture communicates to instructors that the student cares about the class and has a vested interest in their education.

Personal & Professional Development Skills Practiced In This Situation: Problem Solving, Resilience

3. Deciding whether and when to tell Mom & Dad:

Dr. Joel: "So when are you planning to tell your parents?"

Student: "I don't know, probably after my grades come out."

I've counseled thousands of students on this one. Waiting to inform parents is rarely a good scenario. It's a choice students make to band-aid anxiety that lasts for a few weeks. Delaying minimizes the risk of parental criticism and threat of being pulled out of school. Naturally, parents have unpleasant reactions to learning of their child's trouble at the end of a semester. Reactions range from concern about their child's psychological status or unidentified academic challenges to anger about missing a deadline for a financial refund. Here a major take-aways for students is to increase awareness of their own feelings, range of reactions, and the impact of their choices on others.

Personal & Professional Development Skills Practiced In This Situation: Effective Communication, Emotional Intelligence, Empathy

4. Approaching or avoiding something that doesn't feel good:

Like New Year Resolutions, many students who promised to make changes over winter break have fallen back into old habits of behavior. The results from this slide include a perceived lack of success, increase in frustration, and self-criticism. Like most, students avoid situations anticipated to be challenging or uncomfortable. One student recently disclosed that after his 4th absence from a class (3 maximum) that he doesn't plan on attending class anymore. "What's the point, the teacher thinks I'm an idiot." No matter the outcome of the class, learning to be comfortable while feeling uncomfortable is an important skill to develop.

Personal & Professional Development Skills Practiced In This Situation: Coping Confidence, Self-Awareness, Self-Regulation

5. Increasing personal awareness or ignoring opportunities

Let's go beyond grades for a moment. The college experience contains infinite opportunities beyond a test score for personal and professional development. Recognizing these opportunities and the benefits to prioritizing personal development are essential to college success and career readiness.

Personal & Professional Development Skills Practiced In This Situation: Self-Awareness, Emotional Intelligence

Bonus Tip! Join the Take On College Facebook Power Parents Group to get your specific college success questions answered by Dr. Joel!

As always, we welcome your feedback, questions, or topic suggestions!

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

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