It’s September and young adults are settling into the Fall Term of studies at colleges and universities all over the world. As college instructors, we’ve taught thousands of students over the past decade, and we know that the first few weeks of a new program can be especially challenging. Despite their talent and ability, young people often struggle to navigate the complex web of new relationships, independence and the demands of student life.
As educators who regularly witness the stresses students face, we suggest that friends and family look for small ways to provide encouragement, as students find their way. Here are five pieces of advice that we share with our own students to help them become more independent.
Get Organized. Time Matters. The term flies by and students should focus to complete assignments and stay on top of course readings. We suggest that students block off specific study hours each week and schedule a regular date with the library. We’ve seen firsthand how this pays off during exam time. We also recommend that students budget approximately one and a half hours of study time for each hour of class.
Get Known. People Matter. College and university professors teach hundreds of students each term. We are more likely to know students who sit near the front of class, take the initiative to ask questions, and attend our regularly scheduled office hours. We have noticed that many students who connect with faculty seem more inspired to do well in their studies.
Get Involved. Connections Matter. Students should get to know their classmates. Joining a campus club, volunteering at campus events and participating in cooperative education programs are excellent ways to make friends and gain valuable experience in the undergraduate years. Many companies offer internship programs specifically designed for young adults. Our recommendation is to organize work experiences early, keeping in mind that most summer internship recruitment takes place in the Fall.
Get Access. Resources Matter. Universities and colleges provide many resources for students. Campus writing centers give valuable feedback on written assignments. Career centers provide access to experts with practical ideas about honing resumes and LinkedIn profiles. We advise students looking for employment to clean-up their social media presence and to remove saucy photos they might not want to show Granny.
Get Help. You Matter. Life happens during the college years and there is no question that student life can be stressful. If things go sideways, it’s important for young adults to know that they can reach out to those around them, including their professors. Most campuses have entire teams of people trained to assist young adults. We encourage students to communicate with faculty and counsellors about their exceptional circumstances or hardships. We’ll try our best to make appropriate academic accommodations.
For those students who are truly struggling, we remind them and their parents that it’s okay to take a break from school. Looking back, many of us can attest that we’ve taken different paths, most of which were not a straight line. We hope these suggestions will be helpful to the young adults in your life as they navigate the college journey.
Caroline Dickson teaches human resources management and business strategy at Langara College in Vancouver, Canada. Kevin James is on the faculty of the Sauder School of Business, University of British Columbia and Langara College.