Ideas to include in my College Readiness Boot Camp Seminars
As a teacher and educator since 2003, I have learned a lot about the average college student. Of course, these students I teach mainly reside in the NYC area as I teach locally but a lot of said students do come from other places as many people want to be in and around NYC for career and just adventure. It is funny as we “New Yorkers” take it for granted and in fact do not think much about our home towns – especially when you live in the suburb and not in NYC proper but anywhere I have ever lived or traveled or worked, everyone wants to come here – I guess that old Frank Sinatra song “if you can make it here, you’ll make it anywhere…” still holds some weight.
For these students each one of them are trying to do better than their parents. They feel that this might not be possible, though. They know the sad truth is that the chances of them doing better than their parents is at risk; they hear and see it every day on the news and just by watching their older peers graduate and remain in retail and / or unemployed. I do not necessarily agree with “impossible” but I will say that it is “harder”. For me, I was the first person in my immediate family to get a Bachelor’s degree and the first in my whole family to get a graduate degree. For my kids, this will not be the major achievement for them – they would need to get a doctorate to kind of, so to speak, “beat” me – not that it should be a competition but as parents we also want our children to do better than us.
Students today definitely need help and assistance in standing out in the job market that is saturated with older generations who are not settled and / or postponing retirements and more. But they also need help in dealing with stress. I have watched my college classes trying to manage stress; I have had students tell me about their peers committing suicide or about their own or their friend’s substance abuse problems – and it does not happen less each year but more.
I always tell my classes that they have a lot on their plates and to realize that self-care is important. I recently read something talking about the stress levels of college students and how it is at an unprecedented high level and that more and more people are diagnosed with mental health issues and medications needed to maintain a sense of balance. And I can agree; I see it. It is everywhere. The new normal is one of stress and anxiety for most of our young people today.
I equate it to my students with the fact that way back when I was a “kid”, the big national tragedy we dealt with was the Challenger explosion and although that was terrible it did not equate to our lives as none of mine or my friends’ parents were astronauts. It was something bad but it was not really applicable to us. When most of my students were the age I was when the Challenger exploded, 9/11 happened and that was something that WAS applicable – how many parents work in large buildings in large cities or who fly for work or who are firemen or police officers, etc etc. Compound these worries with the overall interest in doing well in college as it will affect their whole lives and knowing that the cost of college is something they need to recoup then it leads to massive amounts of stress.
I do not have the answers but I do think it is important to make the points that the world changes rapidly, most students are more comfortable hiding behind technology as opposed to really engaging with the world around them. I think it is important sometimes to disconnect, to not watch the news, to just focus on the improvement of yourself with skills and knowledge that happens in college. The focus should be on doing well in school and getting real life skills for your next step, finding internships and work positions while in college and finding the ways that work for you to balance it all in a healthy way. So many students will pop Adderall medication (that does not belong to them) to try to focus and maintain energy levels when you can focus on having a healthy routine that helps maintain focus on school and fun activities. Of course, some students are abusing other types of medications and / or falling into illicit drugs such as heroin. That healthy mindset, though, and how to manage the stress and activities does need to be taught and modeled for the younger among us as most college students are just high school kids with a year or two more in age. So when you start college, you are assumed to be an adult, however you most definitely are not (yet).
I am trying to integrate some of these items into my college readiness boot camp seminars that I hope to be launching in early 2016. The ability to focus on how to be ready for college both in doing well and in keeping mentally well as the impacts of stress and anxiety can be so detrimental for all. Even my age group know the cautionary tales of our peers “burning out” in college despite being by all accounts “ready” for college – just getting to that taste of “freedom” and “adulthood” and choosing all of the wrong things instead of the right ones or getting overwhelmed and flunking out or worse.
My idea for preparing high school students for their next step is to help achieve some balance and to talk about putting the iPhone down – finding a balance between doing well and trying to do better than our parents. I think even as career professionals and entrepreneurs, these lessons are important. Being able to know when to stop “working” and start “enjoying” life and also knowing what is truly enjoyable and what is destructive.
What do you think about these insights in college students? Are they applicable to those of us working and/or running our own businesses? Let me know in the comments what else you would want your high school aged self and /or your children to know and be ready for regarding their next steps? Happy Hunting!
Lisa Vento Nielsen