So many of my colleagues spend time “Preparing Students” for University Life. Whether intellectually, emotionally, spiritually, or simply teaching them how to make friends; we all have a heart to help students navigate the transition from High School to College. If you’re a parent preparing for your most prized possession to enter the University Setting, BEWARE!!!
A recent article posted on the CBS website reports that more college freshman describe themselves as “depressed” than in the last 50 years of gathering data. After surveying 227 four-year universities, both private and public the study shows “…back in the late 1980s, roughly 38 percent of students reported that they spent more than 16 hours a week as high school seniors hanging out with friends, while just 18 percent spent five hours or less. Remarkably, those numbers have now flipped. Only 18 percent of today’s freshmen said they spent more than 16 hours with friends, while 39 percent spent five hours or less socializing.”
I’ve written extensively about the source of this problem, and I predicted this shift in my latest book ALONE: Finding Connection in a Lonely World.
Student Spiritual Trajectory
The study also reported that 27.4% of University Freshman stated they didn’t have ANY RELIGIOUS affiliation. Some might be able to look at that and say, “GOOD!! religion is on the decline.” But I’m concerned.
The recent debate between Religion and Spirituality is forcing clergy to ask themselves, “How do we serve the next generation?” I think that’s healthy. For the last 50 years, youth groups at churches and small groups at schools have tried to crack the code on the next generation, trying to figure out how to implement good values, give students a moral compass, and ultimately lead them to an understanding of who God is.
Well, according to this particular study, we’re not doing a very good job. I have my theories about why, but that’s a book full of writing. Bottom line, we’re failing to meet our young people where they are in terms of the importance of spiritual development. Numbers don’t lie, and for the first time in American history 30% of 30 and unders identify themselves as The Nones.
For those of us who are helping students know about God, we’ve got a monumental mountain to climb.
What do you do about it?
As a parent myself, I think it’s important for us to talk through tis one. We can see the research and get scared, or at the very least worried, for our kids. But more importantly, what do we do when we see this tidal wave of research pointing to an almost certain failure for our kids? We can either take the position that every student has to go through this, so they’ll figure it out. Or, we can resort back to solutions.
1.) Every kid is different.
As I’ve worked with thousands of students around the world, it’s silly to think that a one solution fits all proposal will work. You need to evaluate your student, honestly. If you can’t see your student through a lens objectively, go ask someone you can trust. Ask them what they think about your kid, and if they don’t say anything negative, go find someone else. Every human on the planet has issues, and that includes YOUR KID. So take time to evaluate where they are, and what environment might be good to help them become better adults.
2.) College isn’t for everyone
After High school, that is. I believe the University system is the way the world spins. If your student decides not to go to college, they will have difficulty engaging in the real world. Of course there are a few examples of billionaires who dropped out of college, but they are the anomaly, not the rule. University is important, but I’ve seen the maturity level of High School seniors drop for the last decade. The majority of High School Seniors aren’t ready to deal with the social, intellectual, and environmental pressures presented to them at the University. We just haven’t taken the time to educate them on what’s coming either from their experience or phase of life.
It’s OK for students to take a break between High School and College to work on ‘growing up.’ After all, you can do some real damage to your future if you enter a University and begin forming a lack luster transcript that will follow you through your whole academic career. TAKE A BREAK!!
3.) Mentoring is IMPORTANT
Everybody needs somebody who can help them wade through the rough transitional waters from kid to adult. If your student doesn’t have someone outside of your family, taking time to mentor and guide them; your setting them up for failure.
Ask your friends in your community to come in and help give guidance. Students will begin to find real value when they see someone outside of their family is taking an interest in them. It helps to have a 9-11 speed dial when they feel depressed or like they’re failing. I can’t over express how much your kid needs a mentor.
4.) Put them in positions to engage with others
We run a facility in Colorado where students have to put away their electronics and look each other in the eye. I know it sounds old-fashioned, but when we collectively say “Put your phones away” students are forced to engage with each other in the moment. They learn body language. They laugh together. They learn how to create environments of fun. AND…they develop long-lasting friendships.
You won’t see this on a college application. It won’t impress admission counselors. But if they ever get a chance to interview face to face, they’ll have a leg up on students who don’t have the ability to talk outside a text message or social media platform.
(All that to say, come join us at KIVU this summer. I’ll show you what I mean. When you pick up your student from our two-week program, you’re going to be introduced to someone who can create an environment of community in any surrounding.)
We can do this TOGETHER. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. After all, this is what I’ve devoted my life to…Helping parents raise well healed adults. I’m with you!!