We help many parents and families who are deeply concerned about how their young adults will transition into college. In our search to connect our clients with great resources, we recently had the pleasure of welcoming Joanna Lilley to our In The Trenches podcast. It would be fair to say that Joanna Lilley’s superpower is helping support, guide, and direct young adults that are failing out of college.
Lilley earned her stripes working in higher education as an academic coach within the student success and retention teams. With her ten years of front-line experience working at universities, along with her master’s degree in Counseling from West Virginia University, Lilley is well-equipped to offer resources and direction to families in need. In her work, Lilley says that she has met some amazing youth that are “so hungry for help, that I just wanted to help them and be a connector to amazing programs” that can help these youth get back on solid footing.
Colleges and universities around the world offer great learning opportunities, but they also present our current Generation Z with some challenges. Today’s world is not the same world our parents grew up in, and many parents are at a loss regarding how to help a struggling young adult prepare and get ready for college.
Why Students Fail With College
With the bulk of Generation Z youth having grown up under the protective umbrella of well-intentioned parents and relative financial ease, one might question why students continue to fail to succeed at college. While the debate rages regarding the causes of why so many youths are failing college–is it poor time management, lack of motivation and focus, poor study habits, mental health struggles, technology distractions—there is one factor that Lilley sees as the overarching issue, which influences these other problems: emotional intelligence.
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Failing College–Is Emotional Intelligence To Blame?
Emotional intelligence is the ability to manage both your own emotions and understand the emotions of people around you. The term encompasses self-awareness, self-regulation, motivation, empathy, and social skills.
From her own experience working with youth, Lilley feels that many of today’s youth experience a “high degree of angst and anxiety because they have never known a life without technology. With the knowledge of the world at their fingertips, there has been no need for critical thinking.” No need for hypotheses or debate, as Google or Siri can deliver the answer within seconds. Living life behind screens and always comparing your life to everyone else’s highlight reels leads to deep-seated anxiety and discontent.
When a child is denied the chance to develop emotional intelligence, launching into college successfully will be challenging at best. These youth do not yet possess the skills to know what they want and how to get it.
Is Higher Education Part Of The Problem?
Having spent 10 years working with struggling youth in universities, Lilly is convinced that universities are slow-moving systems that can’t keep up with how to help and support the Generation Z demographic as they enter and navigate college life. With a 1 to 50 ratio of student to counselor, it’s becoming impossible to direct and guide the students that come to them for help.
And because higher education is a business, focused on retention, they often find their hands are tied when connecting students with outside resources. Sometimes staying in school is not the right path and healing must take place before reentry into academics. An educational institution might not suggest such a thing as a gap year, but an educational consultant might. They always have the best interests of your child in mind; they want them to succeed academically and in life just as much as you do. These professionals will work incredibly hard for your child to get them the resources and help that they need to confidently step back into collegiate life once essential skills are gained and mastered.
Are Parents Part Of The Problem?
We live in a world where parents are scared and nervous about safety and will do anything to make sure their kids are safe. They are overly involved and overly invested in the lives of their children. And although this might seem like a good thing, this helicopter parenting creates a child that is bereft of problem solvings and critical thinking skills because everything has always been done for them. Now you have a co-dependent relationship where neither parent nor child is comfortable with letting go or being let go.
However, Lilley does say that she has met some amazing youth that have parents who are comfortable with letting their kids figure life out, allowing them to tap into their own intuition and develop solid problem solving skills. Instead of storming the castle when their child fails a class, these parents sit back and offer support but lay the responsibility at the feet of the child, and they give them space to find the answers. This translates as trust. Young adults that are trusted to live their lives and make their own choices will thrive and spread their wings. Life will no longer seem like a scary, unpredictable place, but a time of opportunity and exploration. Mistakes aren’t fatal, but a way to gain valuable information on how to succeed.
Common Mistakes Young Adults Make In The College Process
Having your child leave home is often an adjustment for both parent and child. First time college parents often spend countless hours thinking about how to help their young adult succeed in college. Watch for these common mistakes if you have young adult that is preparing to attend college:
1. Not researching colleges thoroughly.
Encourage your child to consider a wide range of colleges, and pick a handful to visit. An in person visit is a great way to determine if a college is a good fit, with the added benefit that attending college and leaving the home will not seem so scary if you both have been to the campus and have an idea of what to expect.
2. Not understanding financial aid/cost of college.
Spend time understanding what the true financial cost is of the colleges you are considering, including tuition, housing, books, and household bills and food. Research financial aid and scholarship programs that can reduce the cost of college or make it more affordable.
3. Not getting involved in extracurriculars.
College is an exciting time that offers plenty of social activities during the first few weeks of school. Encourage your young adult to connect with others and get involved in one way or another. Find a club or organization that matches your child’s passion or interests. Intramurals are a great way to meet new people while also getting in some exercise.
4. Skipping class.
The snowball effect is real. Skipping class is the first step to falling behind in classes and becoming quickly overwhelmed.
5. Losing sight of time management.
No college professor is going to send your child a reminder on their phone to turn in their research paper or set their alarm clock for class. Prepare now to help your child develop time management skills by letting them calendar and manage their own appointments and deadlines. If your child is struggling here, reach out to an educational consultant for help.
How Educational Consulting Can Help Your Failing College Student
Educational consultants are professionals working in the educational field that are passionate about identifying the root causes of academic struggles. They are skilled at “proactively supporting young adults with a mental health history who are launching into the collegiate world or reactively providing support when the young adult launches and unravels.”
With a 1 to 50 student to counselor ratio, colleges and universities are struggling to meet the demands of their incoming freshmen. This is where an educational consultant can help. Because educational consultants often have a diverse set of skills, they work effectively with students, teachers, universities, and parents at all levels of the educational system–K-12 and beyond.
READ MORE: 5 Back To School Red Flags In Young Adults
Pure Life Adventure–Helping Young Adults Deal With Anxiety
Pure Life Adventure is passionate about change. We work with your child and help them foster resiliency, independence, and a zest for life, leaving the worry and anxiety behind. Our high adventure program is well suited to help the Generation Z kids work through issues and challenges that leave them feeling anxious and unsure of how to move forward. Anxiety is the most common mental health disorder in adults today. Young adults are particularly vulnerable, as symptoms of anxiety disorders typically present before the age of 21. “Millennials”, the young adult generation of today, are becoming known as the “anxious generation” as study after study shows higher levels of anxiety in their generation than ever before.
The good news is that anxiety is highly treatable. Our mission is to help, heal, and support. We work with families and students every day that are dealing with crippling anxiety.
If you are supporting a young adult that is dealing with high levels of anxiety, learn more by downloading our whitepaper titled Young Adult Anxiety. This paper will address why college is so stressful, how to ask for help if your child is struggling; identifying the signs that you (or a loved one might have an anxiety disorder; the dangers of self-medicating for anxiety; and tips for parents on managing anxiety.
You can also learn more about Pure Life’s Wilderness Adventure Therapy–a holistic program that combines research-based therapeutic techniques with an emphasis on adventure therapy, cultural immersion, and wellness and community service. Contact us today to see how we can help.