Does your high schooler have any New Year’s Resolutions? Should they?
New Year’s is often about making resolutions: things we want to start doing, goals we want to reach, and maybe some habits we want to quit. Whatever form they take, our resolutions involve making changes in our lives. After listening to hundreds of students through the years tell of the goals and resolutions they have made for their lives, I would boil those down into three areas that come up time and again: academic, physical, and spiritual.
The interesting thing is, each of these areas plays a unique role as college-bound kids chart a path to college. And whether your kid is headed for college this August or a few years from now, you can play an important role NOW in helping these goals go beyond “New Year’s Resolutions” to habits that last throughout their high school and college years.
The Academic Resolution: Make Better Grades
Fortunately, students that resolve to make better grades usually have some idea of how to go about it. The most common methods I hear high school kids mention are:
- Turn assignments in on time
- Complete readings before class
- Study for tests early – not just the night before the test
- Listen more closely in class
- Take better notes
- Go back through graded homework and tests, correcting where errors were made
If your child has an academic resolution for this semester or their college career, be encouraged that the methods for improvement are often this straightforward. And College Prep Parents are in a great position to help facilitate some of these strategies – if your student buys into truly wanting to improve.
Meanwhile, another method that isn’t so obvious can be a great habit to start – and it’s one they’ll need your help with. I call it, “You Teach Me.”
The old saying that you really don’t learn something well until you try to teach it comes into play here. Rather than asking your son or daughter the classic “What did you learn in school today?” question (and getting the equally classic response, “Nothing,” in return), have your student explain a recent lesson to you. They should teach you from their notes and from any lecture and discussion they remember. With even a short “lesson,” a student presenting and explaining what they have covered in class helps them interact with the material on a deeper level. If the student wants to allow questions, great. If not, simply presenting the material to a silent parent is a greater benefit than letting notes grow cold in a backpack or locker.
And here’s the longer-lasting benefit: If your student realizes the benefit of “learning by teaching,” this habit can certainly continue in various forms in college. Study groups and impromptu dorm review sessions are built on this idea.
The Physical Resolution: Get in Shape
Another common resolution of high school students involves physical exercise and diet. This is a concern for many in high school, and it continues when they head to college.
Here’s why I mention it on a blog for College Prep Parents: As your kid thinks about college, you want to encourage them to plan for a healthy lifestyle. If they think about that now, they’re much more likely to stay fit… with all the benefits that come from those habits (including academic success).
College representatives visiting my students usually stress the healthy lifestyle that their campus supports. Whether it is food choices in the cafeteria, hiking and biking trails around campus, weight rooms, climbing walls, or yoga classes, the kid that goes to college these days has few excuses to be a couch potato. The link between good health and academic success is widely promoted on many college campuses, and a College Prep Parent is in a position to be a big encouragement to their kid as they get ready to take full advantage of the college experience.
As you and your student look at potential schools online and on campus tours, be sure to include this aspect in your investigations. Here are five ways to do that:
- Be sure to check out the student recreation center. What are the hours? Are trainers available? What about classes? (Often reasonably priced lessons are offered in “lifelong” sports such as tennis, golf, and racquetball.) When on campus, be sure to notice how busy the rec center is too.
- Check out the physical education (“kinesiology”) opportunities on campus. Are any of these courses required as part of the “core curriculum”? Sometimes students gain a lifelong skill simply because “I had to take it in college”!
- Most high school athletes don’t play intercollegiate sports in college… but be sure to investigate the intramural athletic program.
- Pay close attention to the food services on campus (hours, variety, location, prices for meal plans). Remember that “unlimited” on-campus options might tempt certain students to overeat, whereas other students might be helped by this same opportunity (since they can take advantage of healthy options less available off-campus).
- When you visit, do you see people running on campus early in the morning, or after classes? Is it bike friendly? Are facilities like tennis courts and volleyball courts available, in good shape, and being used?
Helping your student be aware of this side of college life will help them start college with a plan to be healthy. You don’t want them only to make this resolution in reaction to a “freshman fifteen” kind of crisis.
The Spiritual Resolution: Own My Faith
Of course, most parents would be thrilled to see their children, regardless of age, adopt any type of spiritual resolution. But it takes on a different tone when the child gets to the age where they are beginning to really “own” their faith personally. As a student nears the moment when they leave for college, whether they will move away or live at home, they start the emotional move toward much more independence. (And you want them to make this mental move!)
This needs to be coupled with a spirituality that doesn’t simply ride mom’s or dad’s coattails.
While younger students might resolve to be more involved in spiritual things because it would please others, I have seen older students seek a deeper faith because they knew they needed it. The College Prep Parent is again in a position to be a special kind of help and encouragement as their child progresses toward independence.
Seven things you might consider:
- Encourage your student to leave a spiritual legacy at their high school. Is there a younger student they can mentor? Are their opportunities to “give back” in the form of tutoring, leading an organization, or maybe helping those with special needs?
- Could you encourage your child to find an adult or older student to mentor them?
- Is there a teacher or coach who has already poured into your child’s life? Help your student show them thanks. Cultivating an attitude of appreciation for those who have built into their life can transform a high school student into a confident, sharing person who is focused on the needs of others. (And praise from a parent for this kind of grateful behavior can help show a kid that they are on the right track.)
- If your kid needs a new Bible, celebrate the event in some special way. If you are buying it, get the one they pick out.
- Begin to ask your student for prayer requests – and share your own as well. What can you pray about for them? What can your child pray about for you? Be sure to be consistent with this conversation, and be sure to follow up. (And be sure to actually pray for their requests!)
- Great conversations about wise decision-making can occur during the college shopping process. Parents, be ready to share with your college shopper how you came to some of your own big decisions. Prayerful, honest exchanges between parent and child during college planning can make some very special memories.
- Help you kid research churches and ministries around the colleges that interest them – and make this exploration part of your college tours. This may not mean anything more from you than simply listening to what your daughter or son finds out on their own. Then once they choose a college, learning more about the churches they have found promising will give them time to prayerfully weigh their options before arriving on campus.