Well, midterm grades were posted earlier this week, and today is the last day on campus before “spring” (hahaha, spring) break. Needless to say, the energy on campus is flagging.
Right about now is the time in the ARC when we hear from a lot of students. They call and drop in to change or add majors and minors, they want to know about tutoring and study sessions, they are in a place where they have to make firm decisions about their academic progress, and they want advice.
For many students, the steep uphill slope of the beginning of the semester is beginning to level out, and now they just anticipate warmer weather and the push toward finals week. For others, especially freshmen, this is a turning point. The first semester is full or surprises and adjustments; now, the changes and results of choices made at that time begin to solidify, and some students may be confronted with certain realities they hadn’t planned on. These are the students we see more frequently in the ARC.
Now, we all now it was the late, great John Lennon who said, “Life is what happens when you’re busy making other plans.” There are times I think this statement is never truer than during college. So much happens! These unexpected twists and turns, though they seem scary, are often what can make the college experience so amazing. But I know I can only say that because hindsight is 20/20. If you had asked me in 2001, I would have said it was a disaster. My major didn’t pan out, money was a struggle, and my family and social life was rocky. It seemed like everything was an endless uphill battle. I couldn’t see outside of it. Now I can see how those huge upheavals offered so much opportunity and growth for me as a person. If I had it to do again, I’d do the same.
Earlier this week, my colleague was facilitating a group for freshmen women. She asked a panel of upperclassmen to join her, and one of the questions she asked them to address was, “If you could go back in time and say something to your freshman self while you were struggling, what would you say?” All their responses fell into the category of firm reassurance. they would tell themselves everything was going to be OK, that things get so much better.
The point I am trying to make here is that students may feel like they’re in pretty deep now, and they may have trouble seeing the forest for the trees. Some things they have to learn on their own, but we can guide them by asking questions that help them to get outside themselves, see the bigger picture (remember my favorite one for this: “Will this still matter in five years?”) and not get bogged down. Help them focus on achievement and progress: “What can you do to improve the situation?”
Students will have problems. It’s inevitable. But remember that, by definition, a problem is something that has a solution.
Jessica Hume, c/o 2005
Director of Writing and Parent Communications