President's Speeches & Writings

Did Your New College Student Hit Their First Tough Patch?


Adam Weinberg

November 22, 2021

The kind of phone calls parents get from their first-year students midway through a semester are often very different from the calls they receive at the start of the school year.

The calls often change from the exuberant “Everything is so exciting!” to the fretful “I just got my first midterm exam back and didn’t do well,” or “I don’t like my roommate,” and even the call that starts with “I just tried out for X and didn’t make it.”

How do you respond as a parent in ways that help your student turn early stumbles into long-term success?

  1. Promote resilience by changing mindsets and expectations.

    First and foremost, help inoculate your student against the fiction that “Everyone else is thriving and succeeding except for me.” It’s not true. Not even close. And it is certainly not helpful.

    Instead, help them understand that failure is normal and part of the process of growing. Start by getting them to change the question from “How come I’m failing?” to “How do I learn to fail forward?”

  2. Make meaningful connections early to solve problems.

    Encourage them to seek out faculty or staff who can help them learn from the experience. Colleges are filled with people who want to help and are good at helping, but students need to seek it out. Data from Gallup and Strada Education Network documents that one of the single biggest predictors of post-college success is if a student found a mentor who connected, cared about and catalyzed them.

  3. Staying busy, getting engaged, and widening friendship networks are the other missing ingredients.
  4. Life habits matter.

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