by Katie Yeaton
Midterms week has proven to be a strength and endurance test once again for both myself and my students. Today I met with one of my academic success coachees and I realized how true the phrase “I am a living document” is for both my students and myself. My coachee is considering leaving school in pursuit of another passion, but he was nervous to take the leap. He said he wasn't happy with school and that maybe it wasn't the “right time” for him to be in college. Of course, as Student Affairs professionals we want to encourage students to pursue their passions, challenge themselves, and do well academically -- aka stay in school. At the same time we need to listen to our students and be a soundboard for their ideas. I decided to be the soundboard in this appointment. I let my student know I supported him in his decision, whether that be continuing to pursue his career as a teacher or switch paths to go into the world of Nintendo, outdoors living, or whatever else he feels passionate about.
From our conversation I realized how much college is pushed on high schoolers and even younger ages; and while I do believe this advertising and college-readiness is good, I also believe we pitch another supportive message. Perhaps not all students feel ready for college. This could be for a multitude of reasons, academics, financial, maturity, etc. I feel sometimes we stress this linear path to education, as well as initiatives like 15 to Finish and overlook a student’s perspective. Maybe they have a family member who’s taken ill, or maybe they have been kicked out of their parents’ house and they have no way to pay for school, nonetheless to shelter and feed themselves. Do not get me wrong, I love these initiatives and pushes the government and colleges have for higher education. At the individual level though, I want to see more interactions and conversations with students regarding how many courses they feel they can handle or they can financially take per semester.
Going back to my title, “a living document”, we are all works in progress. The 15 to finish campaign appears effective and motivational for students and advisors, but it is a work in process. As my student showcased, maybe this semester is not his semester to be in college and maybe he needs more time outside of school to self-explore. Perhaps he needs to take a “non-linear” approach to education and attend a school further away from the stress of family. All of these choices are his decision to make and as I told him I am his soundboard, I could not make the decision for him, but I am here as support.
We are all living documents. The words change, but your framework and your core values stay the same. Be true to yourself and adventure into the unknown to discover your passion and purpose.
Have a beautiful week.