This is another post in the series of “The 5 P’s of Persuasion for College Success” I’m a homeschooling dad of 8 kids. So far, five of them have at least started the college process, and in this series I’m sharing some of the things that I have learned along the way.
Things will go wrong
College completion is a marathon, not a sprint.
It will take your kid (and you) years to navigate this process, and on your shared journey, things are going to go wrong.
You can rely on that.
I learned a long time ago that if I prayed that God would make me patient, He is faithful to answer that prayer – and I’ll experience LOTS of opportunities to practice.
I only half jokingly tell people
“God knew just how selfish a person I am and He gave me 8 kids to teach me patience and to be less selfish.”
Ok, so I’m not even half joking. But I’m learning!
Choose your response
I love the book The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People.
One of the life changing topics that Stephen Covey taught was his definition of responsibility.
He said “Responsibility means that we have the ability to choose our response to what happens to us.”
Since we KNOW things will go wrong, we can choose NOW how we will respond when they do.
Being patient as a part of your response will help you a lot more than getting mad.
6 areas of patience
- Be patient with yourself
Are you an expert in this process? Have you been acting as a guidance counselor for decades, helping hundreds of students? NO!
You’re learning the rules, the people, the process, the schedule and so much more.
When things go wrong, give yourself the grace to be patient with YOU!
Instead of saying “I should not have done…” try rephrasing it as
“It would be nice if I had…”
This is a key difference.
The first implies that there is ONE right way, and you are WRONG.
The second says “There are multiple options and I think I’d have liked the outcome better if I had tried something else.”
Being harsh or judgmental rarely helps. You’re learning.
Be patient with yourself.
- Be patient with your student
I doubt I’ll ever forget the day my kid came to my office and said:
“Dad. I have a problem. I was overwhelmed with my coursework this semester, so I started skipping my hard accounting class.
My plan was to get all caught up over spring break.
But when I logged in to look at my assignments I realized that because of my unexcused absences I’ve been kicked out of this class I need to graduate this semester.”
Yep. That really happened.
I was TEMPTED to go ballistic.
My kid had made a foolish choice that was likely to blow up the plan and cost him time and money. If I can be transparent with you, I wanted to blow my top and yell at him.
And some days I probably would have.
One of the things I’m learning is to be patient with our students.
Like me, they are learning. And like me, learners are not perfect.
They make mistakes. They are unwise. They choose poorly. (Just like me sometimes.)
On our college journey so far, due to mistakes my students have made, our students have had to drop classes, change majors, flunk (and retake classes) and get denied entrance to a school.
You’ll have LOTS of opportunities to learn patience with your student.
I want to point something out here:
Which student gains more valuable life experience:
a) the one who follows all the rules perfectly and gets straight A’s, or
b) the one who makes mistakes and has to learn to adapt?
Which one grows in character more?
Isn’t our primary goal to equip them to excel in life?
And a secondary goal to get them a credential?
We all learn more from the things we mess up than the things that go perfectly.
Academics is only one area of learning for your student in college.
Be patient with your student.
- Be patient with the rules
College has innumerable rules.
Some are undocumented. Some are conflicting. Some are nonsensical.
Arguing with the school about the rules is like trying to teach a pig to sing.
It doesn’t work, and you’ll annoy the pig.
Fighting the administration won’t work for you.
The people you talk to do not have the power to change the rules, even if thye agreed you were right and even if they wanted to. They don’t have that kind of power.
You have to be patient as you come up with a plan to work within the rules.
I remember having a dispute with a college about a change of major.
They denied the request.
I had explained in the application the rationale for the change.
I was right.
It didn’t matter.
Because it doesn’t matter who is right. It doesn’t matter if the rule is dumb.
While trying to “win” I asked my student’s advisor “The administration denied my request because I told the truth about my student’s plans? So you are telling me to lie?”
She patiently replied “No. I’m telling you if you want to get your request approved, you need to tell us you’ve changed your plan. You can always change your plan again after you get what you want.”
I changed the plan, got the request approved, then we changed back to our original plan.
Lots of rules. Don’t fight them. Be inquisitive about them.
Learn to ask “Is there a way we *could* get this to work?”
And be patient with the rules
- Be patient during delays
You will have delays. You need to accept that things don’t move at “the speed of now.”
There is a cadence to college. The cadence revolves around fall, spring and summer semesters.
Before and after each semester there are periods of application, planning, registration and administrative paperwork.
CErtain things only get done during a particular season of that cadence.
Often, if you want to do something that is unusual, (like dual enrollment, or taking classes at multiple colleges at once, or credit by exam) you’ll need advice or permission.
And the person who needs to provide it is available to do that on THEIR schedule, not yours.
I’m not saying you can’t push for things to happen – far from that!
But only an unreasonable person would think that they will always get immediate “yes” answers.
Recognize that it will take some time.
Feel free to patiently and pleasantly ask “Thanks for the info. Just out of curiosity, when would it be reasonable to expect an update on this?”
Be patient when faced with delays.
- Be patient with advisers
God bless these critical members of our overall team.
They have to deal with all the same rules, as well as disorganized students and frustrated parents.
Also, they are not highly compensated, and have LOTS of students to serve each semester.
Some of those families need LOTS of help. Some advisors are great. Others are not excellent.
Sometimes an advisor quits in the middle of an important process. Ugh!
My strategy with advisors is to explain our goal, describe the plan, and ask if they think that will work. If you can, try to use the available tools to identify not only the courses but also the specific sections that you want. The more you do for them, the more likely you are to get what you want.
Advisers can be VERY helpful because they know the rules and workarounds. Be nice to them, and be patient with them. Believe they are doing the best they know how.
- Be patient with faculty
Of all the groups, this is the one I’ve had the least contact with. Colleges expect our students to manage their own lives, and the LAST thing that a faculty member needs is to argue with a parent.
We need to equip our students for times when faculty or staff messes up.
In one case, one of my students (a natural high achiever) was on a group project.
The class was being taught by a TA.
The TA arbitrarily changed the grading rules after the assignment was turned in, resulting in a low grade for the group.
Over the weekend, and angry about the low score, one of my kid’s team members got into an email “flame war” with the TA. This email war resulted in a rapid fire exchange of messages that were more and more confrontational and with each side more embedded in their positions.
I’m grateful that my kid was wise enough to offer to mediate face to face.
Seeing the way this was going badly, on Sunday he emailed the team and TA and asked “Can we meet on Monday to talk a little about this?” and then mediated the discussion – they ended up getting it resolved without escalating to the professor or the administration.
As a parent of a college student, you’re not likely to talk to a prof or a TA. And someone will mess up, teaching poorly, teaching incorrect information, or giving an unjust grade.
Be patient, and help your kid learn a patient, pleasant response. SOMETIMES it will work out in their favor. Sometimes it won’t. And it’s better to be patient either way.
Patience give better results
When it comes to college, we know that things are going to go wrong.
We just don’t know when they will.
Impatience is always an option, but over the years I’ve found more success when choosing to respond with patience.
What has worked for you? What’s your patience story? (Or your cautionary tale?)
Let us know in the comments!