Beyond the Grades
When asked the question of why students attend college, the initial answer would likely be “to receive an education.” As students come to the University of Oregon, they often are concerned about performing well in their classes and obtaining the job of their dreams. But more often than not, other factors come into play such as concerns for one’s friends and family, dating relationships, social pressures, financial stress, and other aspects of a student’s life. Being caught up in — and sometimes overwhelmed — by college life, a student might lose sight of their life’s purpose and passion. Or maybe they never found it in the first place. In either case, as a parent you can help support your student in finding their way to their unique college path.
Here are a few suggestions to note:
• Remind your student that that their college experience is an opportunity to develop a stronger sense of their identity – their passions, values, boundaries, and strengths.
• Share with your student that it is “okay” to make mistakes in order to learn how to approach things more effectively the second time around.
• Encourage your student to take up a new activity, such as joining one of the many clubs and student organizations that UO offers.
• Highlight the importance of socializing and interacting with diverse others while living in the residence halls and in the classroom as a way to stretch their perspective and be challenged by new experiences.
• Offer your child the suggestion of taking on leadership positions in co-curricular activities or gain student employment to become more independent and effective decision-makers.
• Support the idea of community service, participating in study abroad, or taking classes outside one’s likely area of study to broaden their horizons and discover what they are passionate about.
Moreover, you can support your student’s development by encouraging them to define success for themselves. Is it about securing a job that is well-paid or following in the footsteps of another family member (potentially yourself!)? Or is success following the path that leads them to utilize their natural talents and strengths in a career that is deeply satisfying.
While your student might be in the “thick” of the academic term, you can provide them with perspective when you notice they are being persuaded by the “shoulds” – internalized pressures by society, peers, and family to take certain classes or pursue particular careers that don’t seem like a good fit for them. These are the moments to remind your student that ultimately their well-being and happiness come first — or at least, need to be part of the equation. Perhaps, then your student can be able to step back even for a minute to recognize that college is more than just a grade, but a life experience that is helping to lead them toward who they are.
Mariko M. Lin, Ph.D., Staff Therapist & Outreach Coordinator