College of Graduate and Outreach Programs
James Madison University
As I have worked with JMU students throughout my professional career -- undergraduates just starting their academic journeys, seniors preparing to choose a career path, and graduate students entering and completing their master’s or doctorate programs – my experience as a parent of two daughters who have now completed their bachelor’s degrees makes a significant impact on how I interact with those students. Each child chose different paths and experienced different challenges in reaching their goals. My perspective from having worked with students on the administrative side has influenced my perspective as a parent. Several key points stand out as essential in helping students achieve academic success:
Guide them – don’t go there for them. Although they will always be our children, they are no longer children – they are learning how to be adults. When they learn through doing, their self-confidence grows and their ability to problem-solve increases. Provide them with information, set them in the right direction to locate the resources they need, then let them go.
Accept their decisions. If they are to be expected to make their own decisions as adults, we must be willing to accept the decisions they make, even if we disagree with them. We can and should provide input and advice, present alternatives and different perspectives, but ultimately, the final decisions will be theirs and they will need to deal with the consequences.
Accept missteps. Sometimes the path to success is interrupted. Although it may not seem like it at the time, sometimes the lessons learned this way can be learned no other way. Accept mistakes when they happen and help them see solutions.
Expect them to invest in their education. Nothing is as valuable as something you’ve invested in yourself, and that includes time, effort, and your own financial resources.
Celebrate their successes, encourage them, and trust in their abilities to become adults on their own, be available for them, and listen to them.