08 Oct 2021

Strategies for College Students

Do you have a daughter or son who is away at college? Do you feel powerless to help them with organizational strategies because they may be reluctant to accept your advice?
You most likely can’t send them an article and expect them to read it or call them and list the strategies you think they should follow. However, here are a few strategies that may help them stay on top of things, and this is how you can encourage them to listen to you:
  • Listen to them carefully. Do they want advice or do they just want to vent?
  • Validate by paraphrasing what they said and empathizing with their hardships.
  • Make only one suggestion. Then ask if they think that will be helpful.
  • Ask a leading question that will encourage them to come up with a solution.
For example,
Student: “I can’t seem to get started on this assignment, and it is due tomorrow.”
Parent: “That must be stressful. What is holding you up?”
Student: “I don’t understand exactly what we are supposed to do.”
Parent: “Who can you ask to clarify the assignment?”
When talking to your son or daughter, perhaps they are struggling in one of the areas below, and perhaps you can help them with just one suggestion, or by asking a leading question to help them come up with a potential solution.
Do they use a paper planner, Google calendar, or just keep everything in their head? Is this method working for them? If they need help in this area, ask them how well they remember everything and whether it might be helpful to clear their brains by writing/typing things down. Ask them which method might work best in their daily life.
Time Management
Do they set aside time to do particular assignments? Do they set aside the time of day that they are most alert and can
concentrate best?
Do they set alarms not only for waking up but for attending meetings or beginning assignments?
Are they taking medication regularly? If on ADHD meds, do they study while the medication is most effective?
Load of work
Does an assignment seem overwhelming? Perhaps they can try these tools:
  • Break assignment down into chunks, and possibly do different chunks on different days.
  • Incorporate 5-10 minute breaks into study time.
  • Be in a room without distractions.
  • Set aside no more than two-hour blocks to work – more than that breeds procrastination and inefficiency.
Are they finding it difficult to be motivated to do homework?
  • Offer yourself a reward for each chunk or assignment that is completed.
  • Make up fun mnemonics, stories, or songs to help memorize material for exams.
  • Work with a buddy. This can be in person on on Facetime. You don’t even need to be working on the same thing.
  • Reward yourself with something to look forward to after completing an assignment or working for 2 hours.
  • Sometimes, the most efficient work is not planned. According to graduate student Yael G, “When you have a burst of motivation, you need to go with the surge.”
  • When you are having trouble getting started, begin with the the easiest task or the one you are most motivated to do.
Confusion about an assignment
If you don’t understand what to do, don’t get into the trap of not doing it. Try these strategies:
  • Set up a meeting with the professor to discuss and clarify the assignment.
  • Exchange phone numbers with a classmate for each class so you have someone to ask about their understanding of the assignment.
  • Allow extra time to complete the more confusing and complicated assignments.
Students who need more than occasional suggestions from their parents can benefit from working with an academic coach, who can meet with them virtually on a regular basis on these kinds of strategies to stay on track.
As a parent, stay in touch with your college students and be alert for signs that they have trouble keeping up with their school work. Do not be overbearing or seem over-concerned or show signs of your own stress. Your goal is to stay relaxed and calm, listen, and keep the door open so they can come to you with any problems.
By Cheryl Gedzelman, President, Tutoring For Success

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