I write this at the end of the l-o-n-g-e-s-t semester I have ever experienced. I am sure both my college-aged kids and my own students feel the same way. Somehow, some way, we are almost at the end. Thank. Heavens.

Now that we have only a couple of weeks left before we button up the semester, head home, or at least move from the makeshift home-school office, it is a good time to plan what we will do between now and the next semester. At the very least, we will most likely be doing what we have done these past 8 months–hunkering down and spending time within our “bubbles” of family and friends.

But it is also a time to slow down and think about what our students have accomplished this past semester, the first full term of college during a pandemic. Here are a few things that you may want to make sure your college students do before they make their way back to campuses or online classes:

  • Take time to rest. Your student needs time to do nothing. A normal semester is challenging enough, but fall 2020 brings a whole new meaning to “stress.” Give your student plenty of room and time get the rest that probably eluded them for the past 15 weeks. This may mean that they sleep all day, play video games or watch TV for hours on end, or hang out with friends.

My students told me that the combination of working hard all semester and not getting to see their friends or develop new relationships was difficult for them. And many of them said that seeing their friends and family was high on their “to do” list during the break. This may mean that you see less of them when they are home, but their ability to relax and reignite relationships may be the very thing they need.

  • Reflect on what worked and what didn’t. Some time should be carved out to talk through what worked for them this past semester and what didn’t. Your student should actively think about what they did well and what they need to do differently next semester. Focus on both positives and negatives and not just “what needs to change.” Then, talk about how they plan to institute changes that will help them get through the next term.

When I asked my students what they are most proud of this semester, they said their ability to stay organized and turn in assignments on time. This is no easy feat! Most students struggle with time management in a normal semester, so for my students to admit that they are doing well juggling all the additional requirements remote learning has thrown at them should be congratulated. Of course, not every one of my students stayed on track, but they too reflected on what caused them to get behind and identified what they could do differently.

  • Reset their expectations. The spring semester will most likely look very similar to this fall, and that may not be what many students want to hear. This is a good time to reset any expectations of a much-improved experience. Instead, we should all continue to expect the unexpected.

My college senior’s experience will be different because she will be back on campus getting ready to graduate. While she has not gotten a “normal” senior year, her mind has been on life after graduation and she has not missed out on much. When my college freshman asked if spring classes would work the same way as they did this fall, I said, “Yes, although you may have more classes that have in-person attendance options.” I then asked him what he thought about that, and he responded, “I kind of like rolling out of bed and attending class online. But I think I am going to be fine either way.”  Because he has made the most of living and learning on campus (even if some of his classes were online), he is looking forward to returning. Of course, it may have to do with his love for his university’s cafeteria!

Holiday breaks are good for many things, including being with loved ones and celebrating.  For college students, the break can also be a time to reconnect with old friends or just themselves. Encourage your student to take the time to get plenty of rest, reflect on how the fall semester went, and reset to prepare for 2021.

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