Managing College Chaos, When to Intervene

haveuheard chaos huh

Some Tips for Success & When to Intervene in College Chaos

by Priscilla Beth Baker
I tend to see certain patterns throughout any given semester in my office. Leading into the first round of exams is always total chaos. And finals. Total chaos, particularly in the spring. Students get very worked up about their performance and how to juggle so many things at once since most exams seem to fall during the same weeks for all their classes (week 3, week 6, etc).

This is when study habits are key. I encourage students for each class to look at the long-, mid- and short-term goals and backtrack in each case. Long term goal? The final exam. Mid-term goals – these two other exams. Short-term? These mini-assignments along the way. Then they need to set aside time daily/weekly/monthly to meet each of those goals for each of their classes. 

Some students like to color-code and use virtual sticky notes as reminders, excel spreadsheets, alerts on their phones, or even the old-fashioned paper calendar. The pre-planning saves time in the long-run and ensures self-accountability. Anyone of your child’s campuses has some version of a “Student Success Center” that offers helpful seminars on study habits, time management, etc. Make sure your child seeks those resources out! So many students who do poorly their first year are unwilling to admit that even though what they did in high school worked, whatever they are doing now to study just isn’t working anymore. They need to own that and do something about it sooner rather than later. 

So what if your child starts talking about wanting to transfer to another school? What then? There’s certainly a case to be made for encouraging your child to stick it out to see if things change, no matter how resistant he or she is and how hard it is to do that. I have seen many students take significantly longer than others to “find their people” and their place on campus. Would they have fared better leaving? Maybe, but that’s just starting over again. 

I do think, though, some kids who come to a really large institution find that that just isn’t “their scene” and they want something smaller and more intimate with more individualized attention (and vice versa with going to a small school where they might discover that that school doesn’t have all the opportunities they were looking for). Also, if they take a drastic turn towards a different career path and their institution does not have a strong program in that field, that would be another reason to abandon ship. 

It is important to get some perspective and look at the big picture. They need to find a balance of an institution that will meet their personal needs and fulfill career goals, but those can and will change throughout their years in school, so they don’t want to make decisions based solely on what they want right now. The big picture is key, but it is challenging to step back and see that when you are 18 or 19 years old. Parents, advisors, and professors are a great resource to put those things in perspective. 

And when should you intervene? You intervene if there is a major issue your child simply cannot solve on their own (and they have tried multiple avenues) or if they are not getting the services they are entitled to (academic/physical accommodations for which they are registered, mental health or proper health services in general, nonexistent student or advising services, etc). Then you might need to step in. 

What you most definitely want to avoid, though, is intervening when it comes to academic issues and then cc’ing department heads, deans, and college presidents which happens more often than you know! Your child needs to learn how to handle those issues on his or her own. It’s a great opportunity for career growth as far as communicating with future bosses and people in positions of authority. They will have a lifetime of those lessons and better to learn them early on!

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haveuheard advisorPriscilla Beth Baker currently works as an academic advisor at a large university and has two college-aged sons of her own. She is also a former high school English teacher and educational writer for Prestwick House Publishing.


2020-07-17T10:13:21-04:000 Comments

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