Parents, Be Careful What You Wish For...

So many parents put pressure on their sons and daughters to earn all As and Bs, and this may not have the effect they are hoping for.

This may very well encourage students to take easy classes rather than the best classes, seek out easy professors rather than the best professors, and ultimately limit the overall academic risks they are willing to take. 

Recent studies in higher education have noted that many students have embraced a "credentialist-collegiate orientation" as they pursue a degree while exerting as little effort as possible.  These "credentialists" have only one goal -- to earn a degree.  For these students "success" is achieved through "controlling college by shaping schedules, taming professors and limiting workload" -- doing no more than is necessary to earn the A or B.  (College Life Through the Eyes of Students -- Grigsby, Mary) 

In Rebekah Nathan's My Freshman Year, students offered the following course recommendations:
  • "Take Professor Jones, the man to see when you need an 'A'."
  • "Don't take 302 with Smith because you can't understand what he wants you to know and he doesn't  give As."
  • "I loved 101.  It was sooo fun!  And sooo easy!"
  • "Need to boost your GPA?  Take 242."
  • "145 sucks.  Never take it.  You do 3 times the amount of work for the same credits and lower grades."
  • "Sign up for 235.  The course is boring but it's sooo easy, and there's tons of extra credit."
Believe it or not, some universities are actually enabling this easy-A-mentality by allowing students to view each professor's average grade distribution.  Thus, prior to enrolling in classes many students will go online to find out which professors dish out the highest grades.  Then, these students make their course selection based on schedule shaping and professors average grades.  

I highly encourage parents to re-frame their motivational ploys as well as the questions they pose for their college-age children.
  • Instead of inquiring about grades, inquire about what your son or daughter actually learned.  
  • Ask them what they took away from each class.  
  • Ask them how they might apply what they learned to their present life and/or future work.  
  • Ask them if anything they learned caused them to rethink past events in their life.  
  • Ask them if anything they learned might be of benefit to you (the parent).  
  • Encourage your sons and daughters to share advice or tips with you that might help improve your home or work life.
Let your children know that there is more to college than just earning As and Bs or earning a high GPA.  I for one will confess to having earned a high GPA as an undergraduate student while learning and retaining very little. 

Let your children know that you would rather them earn a lower grade while taking an interesting, engaging, challenging course instead of earning a higher grade in an easy, boring, blow-off course.  Encourage Academic Risk-Taking!!! 

Let your children know that there is a distinct difference between memorizing information and learning information (more on this to come in later posts).  So many students (including the past undergraduate version of myself) simply memorize information for exams rather than learning information for later in life.  What happens is that students do well on their exams and then immediately forget what they memorized.  Undergraduates are notorious for approaching academia with short-term rather than long-term learning goals.  

Here is one simple recommendation for students:  Keep a notepad or a document on your computer labeled "Aha Moments."  This notepad or document should be reserved for interesting information, stats, quotes, theories, etc. that jumped out at you.  There doesn't have to be any rhyme or reason for why it stands out to you.  If you find it at all interesting and think the information may be of use to you or anyone else, write it down.  Be sure to include enough information so that you can recall what the concept, idea, fact, or theory was about.  This document or notepad will eventually contain random thoughts or concepts from a wide range of classes and will help you begin to see how ideas can crossover from discipline to discipline.  This will also help you see how information in one area can prove applicable in areas of life you never thought possible.

In the end, you will have a notepad or document that will be full of insightful ideas that will act as a knowledge-filled artifact of the time, experience, and money you poured into your undergraduate degree.  This will be something that you can reference later on to remind yourself of specific things you learned.

Advice for College and College Bound Students

  • Start exploring possible career options ASAP!  The earlier you start your journey of career exploration, the better off you will be.
  • Select a major based upon the career you wish to attain.  Select a second major or minor as a contingency plan -- career option #2.  This sounds obvious, but you would be surprised how many students select a major based on ease and whether or not they can graduate on time.  These students fail to understand what careers they will be qualified or unqualified to pursue.
  • Educate yourself about the student loans you are taking out -- know exactly how much debt you are getting yourself into and how much you will eventually owe.  
  • Learn a second language!  Don't just take the classes because it's required, make an honest effort to actually learn the language.  This is one of the biggest regrets I have in life. 
  • Take on an internship.  The more internships the better.  Internships are a great way to test out careers and speak to professionals regarding their likes and dislikes about the job. 
  • Study abroad.  Explore the country of the second language you are learning.  This will help you become fluent in the language and will look amazing on a resume. 
  • Never underestimate what you can accomplish in 15 minutes!  Just because you only have 15 minutes between classes or meetings that doesn't mean you should just waste that time on facebook, twitter, etc.  Make use of that time by starting your readings for the evening, brainstorm paper or project ideas you have coming up, or read up on current events.
  • Be mindful of the identity you are creating for yourself with every post you place on facebook.  What you think is funny at 18-20 will later embarrass you at 30.  Additionally, it may cost you the perfect job when your potential employer does an in-depth search of you on the internet. 
  • The above is just a mere sampling of the topics and areas that would be explored more broadly in the individual life coaching sessions.  

Mister Roger's Imagination Motivation

Who can say it better than Mister Rogers!
Remixed by Symphony of Science's John Boswell for PBS Digital Studios

Additionally, I would like to share an excerpt from Dr. Ken Robinson's book,   
The Element: How Finding Your Passion Changes Everything."

An elementary school teacher was giving a drawing class to a group of six-year-old children.  At the back of the classroom sat a little girl who normally didn't pay much attention in school.  In the drawing class she did.  For more than twenty minutes, the girl sat with her arms curled around her paper, totally absorbed in what she was doing.  The teacher found this fascinating.  Eventually, she asked the girl what she was drawing.  Without looking up, the girl said, 'I'm drawing a picture of God.'  Surprised, the teacher said, 'But nobody knows what God looks like.'  The girl said, 'They will in a minute.'


When was the last time you let your imagination run completely free?   

Are you having trouble thinking of a specific time when you thoroughly relaxed, perhaps grabbed a cup of coffee or a mocha frappe, and just let your mind wander...

Let me ask you this, when was the last time you checked your Email?  Facebook?  Twitter?

In today's society we are bombarded with distractions.  Whenever we have a moment of downtime, we can easily fill it with texting, posting, or browsing.

Where does that get you?  Sure you may find out what your best friend ate for breakfast (strawberry cream filled toaster strudels) or why your neighbor was out on their roof (annual gutter cleaning)...

But where does all that get you in life? 

It has been said that we wear busyness as armor to shield ourselves from the people around us.  What in your life are you using as a shield or a crutch that keeps you from making the most of your life?  Is your time consumed by social media?  Have you committed yourself to watching too many TV shows courtesy of DVR? 

I am convinced (not that it takes much convincing) that people today spend far too much time with their face buried in their hand absorbed in gadgets and apps.  And not enough time with their head up engaging those very people right in front of them.  Or simply allowing themselves to have a free moment to think of the possibilities of their future.  

Like Mister Roger's said, "You can grow things in the garden of your mind, all you have to do is think and they'll grow..."

However, a garden and the plants that grow in it are a result of what the gardener is feeding it.  Plants are dependent upon the quality of the soil, the amount of sunlight they receive, and the volume of water they are being fed.  Ideas are also dependent upon what you (the gardener) are providing and feeding them.  

So the next time you have 15-minutes to spare, stop and thinking about how you want to spend that time and what you want to feed the garden of your mind (cheesy, I know, but hear me out).   

I recommend one of three things. 

The first is to look at the people around you.  Engage those people that you are crossing paths with everyday.  Sunglasses, cell phones, headphones, and tablets shield people from others around them.  Put them down, lower your guard, and open yourself up to the relational possibilities around you.

You may be sitting or standing next to someone that is in desperate need of human contact.  He or she may be having a rough day, week, month, or year.  And your acknowledgement of their existence could mean the world to them.  A simple, "Hi, how are you?"  That relational initiating moment could lead to a fun, encouraging, or venting conversation for the other person that transforms their day.  

When was the last time you took a moment to look around and consider what may be going on in the lives of those sitting or standing right next to you.  Don't underestimate your potential or the possibility that you could brighten someone's day.  A dear friend of mine, Leo Sebus, is known for saying, "Some people light up a room when they enter, and some people light up a room when they leave."  Which person do you want to be? 

The second is to just kick back, relax, and honestly consider, "I would be content and fulfilled if I were doing..." 

There is an important clarification to make here.  Some people are fulfilled by the actual work that they do and others are fulfilled by the life that their work affords them.  The very fortunate in this life are fulfilled by both.

This means that your passion could be acted out during your workweek or your passion could be pursued through volunteer work or family fun in the evenings and weekends.  Be careful not to miss out on the daily joys of this life as you become dependent upon a career or job to be the source of your passion.  You may eventually realize that the job you chased after all your life does not meet the high expectations you created in your mind.  Meanwhile, your true source of joy was right there in front of you all along - family, friends, and neighbors. 

The third is to keep an inspiring or motivating book on you at all times.  Perhaps something that will help guide you into a state of future-oriented thinking...  How do I see myself in my mid-30's, 40's, 50's, and so on?  What do I need or want to do to create that kind of a lifestyle for myself?  If you are going to bury your head in your hand, at least do so in a book that will help guide you, motivate you, or help you exercise your imagination.   

In closing, be very careful about what you are feeding the garden of your mind.  The fruits of your life are dependent upon what you are feeding your mind, heart, and soul. 

Now, stop reading this and go have some fun!