Photo by Rachael Hyde
If there’s a recent high school grad in your life who is heading to college this month, this season might feel like a blur. Not only are your weeks filled with “lasts,” but you’re also trying to help them prepare for what’s next. Research shows that families tend to focus entirely on the logistics of the transition to college. But from parents, mentors, and ministry leaders, these emerging adults also need help thinking through bigger questions and issues. Like time.
In our latest Sticky Faith research, we’ve found that the majority of first-year college students are overwhelmed by how to spend their time, and anxious about all they are balancing. Most feel completely unprepared to juggle everything well.
In one college setting, leaders found that directing students to focus on a few key questions helps them more reflectively navigate how they spend their time. Here’s one exercise (courtesy of Harvard’s Richard J. Light via the NY Times) you might find helpful as you grab a last coffee or lunch face-to-face with an entering college student:
1. Ask them to make a list of how they want to spend their time at college.
What matters to them most in this next season? What would an ideal week look like if they could estimate their time in rough percentages? What are they concerned about when it comes to time in college?
2. Follow up in a month or so by sending them the list.
(Bonus points if you tuck it into a care package!) Invite them to write down how they actually spent their time over the last week and then compare it to the list they made prior to college. Then via text, call, chat, or in person if possible, ask: How were the lists the same or different? How well does your actual use of time match your goals? What do you want to do about that?
The majority of students don’t find a lot of overlap between these lists. But that’s not the end of the story. Reflecting on how we use our time can be a catalyst for better aligning our commitments with our convictions. Simply having the conversation can stir reminders of latent hopes and drifting values.
One more thing. Both conversations—before and after—need to be laden in grace. Don’t let time and priorities become another way to heap shame and guilt on an emerging adult whose identity is being tested day by day. Frame failure as the opportunity for learning and growth. And remind them that God is faithful, even when we are not.
What other good conversations have you had with a new college student?
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