12 Most Do-Able “Texts for Success” For Your College Student
Yes, I am as surprised as you are that the same person who wrote a previous 12 Most piece on why you should talk rather than text, would recommend the latter to communicate with your college student as they head to school. However, I recognize that many parents have been forced to cave to the technological conversation habits of their offspring. I also realize that as students head away from home, the last thing they want to do is a) listen to more of Mom and Dads’ advice; and b) chat with Mom and Dad… again. Our college students are ready for a fresh journey and their independence!
So here is a sneaky way to fire off some incremental reminders that are professor-recommended and proven to be successful. Just space them out, of course!
1. “Tell your prof who you are”
Too few students introduce themselves to their profs — ever! Even if the prof never remembers your student’s name (which won’t happen, based on my subsequent advice), he will stand out because he used the communication tips you’re about to recommend!
2. “Talk about your grade goals now”
Send this text to your student during the first week of school, if possible. Students repeatedly fail to share known grade or GPA goals, then they miss the chance to work with the professor throughout the term to reach that goal. Get your student to tell the prof about any grade (doesn’t have to be an ‘A’) that he/she needs/wants and establish an incremental plan for check-in. I bet you’ll hear that grade goal was actually met!
3. “Your prof’s office hours are there for you to get help or to make a connection”
Too many students underutilize the open time that a professor offers — time for assistance, mentoring, or a casual conversation, should the prof’s schedule allow. If your student complains that the prof is never there, tell him that a building secretary usually knows the “hidden schedule.”
4. “You don’t have to like all your professors; you only have to work with them for a short time”
Students often think that they must love every professor. I like to remind students that what they should focus on is a fair, congenial working relationship for a finite period. Tell your student that they will connect with some profs and remain in touch for a long time. Others, they will bid a happy farewell at the end of a term. Both scenarios are permissible and expected.
5. “Hopefully, all your class-related tech is going well, but if not, find the help desk”
Sure, your student is all over Facebook, Pinterest, etc., but now she might be dealing with a complex course management system, campus intranet, new email, etc., and her courses may rely on those technologies. It is very, very easy for a student to fall behind and not even realize that class correspondence is going to a campus email! Fortunately, college help desks usually have late service hours.
6. “Don’t read this if you’re just walking into class — unplug and go chat”
That impromptu conversation you may remember between and before classes is giving way to texting, as you probably imagined. Your student will want to make those important connections with other students and experience small talk with the professor, should the class community building start early.
7. “Try not to do all your research alone — librarians can help you be more efficient”
I am repeatedly amazed how students island themselves at home or even in our Student Union, churning through unproductive Google searches, rather than walk down to our large campus library. A librarian often knows many professors’ assignment expectations and can quickly get a student on the right research track. Many campuses even have Ask-a-Librarian 24-7 help and other services, but students won’t know if they don’t at least make a visit to the building.
8. “Your job as a college student is to need help sometimes — so do your job”
You have to put a happy face with this one. A ton of students suffer in silence. They feel that they should “just get” even the hardest concepts in college, that they shouldn’t need any help and asking for it makes them weak. Convey the strength required in seeking/acquiring assistance, and how brilliant your student will look when she knows the answers once received.
9. “If you have a grade problem, see your professor first — after that, the division/department chair is next”
Students frustrated with a professor will try to seek out anyone, from the college President, to the HR Director, to a Board of Trustee. Unfortunately, this only makes the student look bad, and the incorrect contact will only bring the problem right back down the chain of command. Students should always initially attempt resolution with the prof, then a college website or building secretary can provide the name of the division chair.
10. “I can’t resolve your issues in college, but I have confidence that you can — I’m always here to help you figure things out”
FERPA (The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act) prevents parents from access to their student’s educational record in college. That means not calling professors or other college staff on behalf of your student, unless your student signs a form allowing you to do so. Really, this law is in your student’s best interest; it forces him/her to navigate the system, fumble through self-advocacy, and ultimately thrive.
11. “If you need support and don’t feel you can come to me, find out where your campus counseling office is — it’s confidential and usually free”
Counseling services is the one resource that I refer students to the most and I am always thanked for the assistance. Students face issues large and small in college, academic and non-academic, but support systems are at the ready to ensure that class progress is as undisturbed as possible.
12. Say, “I appreciate you reading these texts, but, hey, can’t wait until we talk, too”
As much as parents are eager to stay in touch with their kids at any cost and through any means possible, adults who know the importance of “richer” communication (i.e., face-to-face and phone interactions) must continue to insist that these real conversations continue. This is the only way that our students will learn and practice authentic communication skills, such as reading and responding to verbal and nonverbal cues. Professors and parents must take the lead on this critical instruction while students are in college.
When I was in my Post-Secondary Ed degree program, I learned that adult learners’ brains connect to printed words on a screen (hence, so much PowerPoint in the classroom!). Even if your student deletes your texts, they have a half-chance of remembering the information. If your student smartly hangs on to them, they have a nice checklist of reminders right at their fingertips.
Hopefully, when you have that next phone or in-person conversation, your student will tell you how much your suggestions helped.
Featured image courtesy of Podravka licensed via Creative Commons.