Thinking Ahead

Spring is almost here! While we have another month or so of cooler weather, we will soon begin to see flip-flops and shorts about the campus, and students studying outdoors. The days slowly become longer, and snowbanks gradually melt into puddles.

Of course, March also heralds yet another onslaught of midterms and papers, worries about roommates for next year, and the new American rite of passage: Spring Break. It can be a very difficult time of year for some students—either because of academic concerns, or social dramas. It is important to keep a close eye on your student at this point in the term, as the combination of pressures can become explosive. You should also make sure your student is keeping safety in mind while planning for spring break, if they are lucky enough to take a trip somewhere. The MTV-fueled excesses of modern spring break culture can turn even the most sensible student into a bit of a pagan for a few days. 

This is a time to plan for the upcoming summer; the quest for the perfect job, or internship, or vacation gets underway. Your student may notice that their peers seem to have astonishing opportunities lined up: a research position at Pfizer; an internship at the White House; a job at an orphanage in South Africa, followed by a month traveling in Europe; mountain biking in Tibet. They may be concerned that returning to their old summer camp as a counselor, lifeguarding at the local pool, or working in the family business simply isn’t glamorous or sufficiently resume-building. Try to reassure them that this first summer doesn’t have to be life-altering, or overly impressive. There’s plenty of time for that.

What your student may experience:

  • Midterms. Again. 
  • Students are considering who they might want to live with the following year; social groups are being codified. This means some students will feel left out, or may be disappointed when someone they really like chooses not to room with them. 
  • Students should also begin to think about summer plans including jobs or internships. They may be concerned about how they will fit into the family and the family’s expectations if they return home to live with their parents for the entire summer.
  • Financial Aid documents for following year are due.
  • Students make plans for spring break. This may lead to financial concerns for some. Others will be jealous of their friends who are able to afford exotic adventures. This may also lead to disagreements with family over different expectations for how and where this vacation will be spent.
  • Some students may demonstrate irresponsible behavior at parties over spring break, and suffer the consequences of that behavior.

What you can do to help:

  • Watch for mid-term signs of exhaustion, anxiety and stress in your student. Remind them about exercise and proper nutrition. Make referrals as necessary.
  • Ask your student about possible roommates for next year, and encourage them to approach their friends sooner rather than later. Be prepared to coach them through disappointment, if it does not work out.
  • Suggest your student consider their options for the summer, if they have not already done so. Specifically discuss how they would be re-incorporated into the family situation, if they return home.
  • Remind your students about financial aid deadlines, and prepare the necessary information yourself, if necessary.
  • If your student is planning a spring break trip, ask about finances, safety and alcohol. Review expectations about behavior, and have an emergency plan in place.