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How to Answer This Dreaded Question Over Holiday Break

Lexington, Kentucky (December 13, 2021) – The holiday season is upon us, and it will bring changes in the usual routines and habits. For many, change is welcome. After the stress of the finals is over, going home can be a special time for friends, family, and fun traditions.

While it can be a magical time, coming home after being away in college can present a new set of challenges. From challenging conversations to setting new boundaries, Nancy Stevens, Head of New Student and Family Programs, based in the Office of Student Success, offers some tips on how to prepare for going home this holiday season and making sure that once you arrive, it stays that way. The happiest time of the year.

UKNow: How would you advise students to get ready to go home for the long winter break?

Stephens: Even in the midst of the chaos of getting ready for the finals and making plans to go home, take some time to think about your expectations for the break.

  • Who do you want to spend time with?
  • What do you want to accomplish?
  • What can you do to prepare yourself for springtime success?
  • What are other people’s expectations of you? If you’re not sure, ask up front rather than risking conflict in the future from unspoken expectations that didn’t come true because you’re not a brainchild. Share your hopes for the break with your loved ones.

UKNow: Students find a new sense of freedom while in college; However, when they come home for vacation, parents often expect their student to resort to the rules that were in place while living at home in high school. How can students and families get on the same page about ground rules while at home?

Stephens: Discussing house rules is an important part of discussing expectations before a break, especially if you’re a first-year student and haven’t been home much during the fall. You may be used to coming and going whenever you want while in the UK, but be aware that doing the same at home can be annoying for other family members. Many family members are eager to spoil their wild cats when they come home, but contributing to household chores can go a long way to showing the maturity that comes with increased independence. Respect the needs of the people with whom you share the space, and try to give them grace while you both adjust to being at home together; I hope they do the same for you.

UKNow: When returning home, students are bombarded with the question, “So, how is school?” How can students answer this question, especially if things aren’t going the way they had hoped?

Stephens: Every well-meaning family member would like to know what you study, what you hope to do after the UK and how you like school. The answers to these questions will depend on how things go and who you talk to. The family members who help fund your education need an honest assessment of how you can best support you, but the neighbor you run into may not need the details.

Talk to your family about your goals for the spring and ask for their support in holding you accountable as you work towards them. If there are areas of improvement you would like to focus on, share some of the initial steps you plan to take when you return to the UK in January. These steps may include meeting an integrated success coach, talking to your counselor, or making an appointment with a Stuckert Career and/or Counseling Center. The career center and counseling center have sections on their websites devoted to information for families, so you may want to encourage your loved ones to check them out.

UKNow: For many students, values ​​change while in college as they discover themselves. How can students handle conversations about these shifts in values ​​with loved ones?

Stephens: One of the hallmarks of a college experience is exposure to new ways of thinking and the different people that influence your view of the world. Emerging adulthood is a time to refine your opinions based on new experiences and information, but if these new opinions differ from those of your family, there is potential for conflict. You know your family better and can decide whether your approach should be based on direct contact or outright avoidance of potentially controversial issues.

UKNow: What good techniques should students use to avoid conflict with family members when discussing difficult topics related to school? For example, a major change or the decision to leave the class.

Stephens: Some students may fear having a difficult conversation with their families about issues such as a change of major, finances, or a bad grade in the fall semester. For these conversations, pick a time to talk when stress levels are lower and people aren’t rushing to the next holiday activity. Come prepared with all the relevant information and anticipate the questions you might be asked.

  • In the event of a major change, share your thinking and the steps you have taken (talking to an advisor and/or professor, reviewing majors online, checking myUK GPS to see the impact on your graduation date, etc.).
  • For a financial conversation, you can share the UK resources you have or will use, including MoneyCATS, iGrad, Student Employment and your financial aid advisor.
  • If you need to talk about a low score in one or more fall semesters, talk honestly about the problems you’re having, what you did to address them, and what you can do in the future. Take responsibility for the things you can control, including your study time, your use of UK resources and the self-knowledge you have gained from the experience.

For many of our students, home is a supportive place full of people who want nothing but the best for you. However, this may not be the case for all of our students so please use the UK resources at your disposal if for whatever reason home isn’t always an easy place to be. The same advice is true if you are unable to return home during the rest period. The UK Counseling Center is here to support you, and Let’s Talk is particularly suited to both in-person and online options. Many of our first-generation students may find people at home who they want to support but don’t always know how to, especially if they don’t understand the challenges that come with being a college student. First-Generation Student Services provides resources and support to both first-generation students and their families.

If your family would benefit from receiving information from the UK on how best to support your collective success, encourage them to join the UK Parents Association if they have not already done so. Joining is free, and members receive the Cat Chat email newsletter two to three times per month during the school year so they can stay up to date on campus events.

For more information about our Student and New Family Programs, click here. To learn more about Office for Student Success, click here.

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