How to Help Your Student Finish the Semester Strong

tips for supporting your college student during finals

By Diane Schwemm

Spring is finally here. On campuses around the country, trees and lawns green up and students spill out of doors. Music blasts from dorm windows and Frisbees fly.

A friend who is a recent graduate reminded me that, despite the beauty and exhilaration of the season, for college students the stretch between spring break and the end of second semester can be the most exhausting and stressful time of the entire year. Here are some strategies for supporting your student in a strong academic and personal finish to the school year.

  • Celebrate successes, big and small. Is she pulling up her grade in biology? Was a piece of her artwork chosen for a campus show? Maybe she resolved a personal problem with a friend, or made a contact that might lead to a summer internship. All these things take hard work of one kind or another. Let her know you’re proud; send flowers, or tuck a gift card in a handwritten note.
  • Remind her to take care of both physical and mental health. If she’s panicking as finals approach, encourage her to drop by the counseling center. She may hesitate if she hasn’t done this before, but just by putting it out there as a commonplace stress management option (which it is!) you normalize it. Check in with her about sleep and and nutrition, too. Remind her that her health is more important to you than anything.
  • Send one last care package. Yes, our students always want candy. This time, though, stuff the box with nuts and dried fruit. Put in a pair of flip-flops or sunglasses, a letter, and a fun magazine to read under a tree in the sun.
  • It’s not too late to adjust study habits. When spring fever hits, it can be tough to motivate your student the direction of the library. Encourage her to try one new thing to reinvigorate her studying. She could join a study group connected to one of her courses or find a new place to study, like a library or coffee shop off campus.
  • Give her permission not to be perfect. If she sounds overwhelmed when you talk, or if she’s being too hard on herself, listen and be a sounding board but then don’t hesitate to speak up and help her regain perspective. Remind her that it isn’t all about grades, about having the best room on campus next year, etc. Circle back to celebrating her accomplishments.
  • Fit in a quick, no-strings visit if you can. If you’re lucky enough to live within driving distance of your student’s campus, let her know you’d like to come to one of her home lacrosse games or her spring choral concert. If she wants you to take her out for a meal afterwards, great — if not, cheer her on and then be on your way.
  • Treat her to a study break. If you don’t live close by, send her a gift certificate to a local restaurant, or bus/train fare for an afternoon off campus.
  • Support, if needed, with summer job search efforts. If she hasn’t found anything yet, neither of you should fret. It will come together when she’s back home.
  • Finalize end-of-year travel plans. Make sure she’s got a plane ticket, or you’ve picked a day/time to come collect her. Be prepared for her feelings to be all over the map as the year winds down. Make sure there’s something fun on the family calendar to welcome her back (build in a few R&R days first, though!).

Finally, take some of your own advice. Parents deserve a little spring fever, too.