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Motivating Your College Student in the Summer

Photograph by Getty Images

Spring has barely sprung, but the time has come for college students to begin planning their summer. And, if your kids are anything like mine, the possibility of spending a couple of months at the rarely visited Casa de Parents—home of curfews, too few cars and in-your-face younger siblings—will be enough to spur them into action.

During his post-freshman year summer break, my oldest learned the hard way that his failure to plan resulted in being stuck at home. It's not that he didn't try to find a job. He started pounding the pavement during his spring break, but found that every part-time position available within a 10-mile radius of our house had already been snapped up by area high schoolers.

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While I was elated to have him back under my roof, he felt like a stranger in his own childhood home. One of his younger brothers had taken over his room almost as soon as he had gotten his acceptance letter. So, relegated to an air mattress in the family room for the duration, he claimed the half-bath as his own and devoted his summer to running and commiserating with any of his former high school chums suffering the same fate.

Overcome by guilt, I treated him like a guest; providing meals and maid service and wondering when our home had become a haven for wayward college students.

He'd do anything as long as it meant not living at home.

When he headed back to school that fall, he was already formulating plans for the following summer: He'd do anything as long as it meant not living at home. Nice, right?

I knew better than to take it personally. That drive to not renew his reservation for the following summer motivated him to apply for and get a residential advisor (RA) position at his university that he now does year round. Another plus, through this experience, he's changed his career trajectory from secondary education to student affairs. While I'd like to take credit for his clarity of vision, all I did was remind him that our door would always be open for him. Go me.

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As is usually the case, his younger brother learned from his older bro's mistake. Now a freshman himself, he has already signed up for summer classes at our community college. For me, it's a win-win. He'll be here at home, but will have something to show for his time here.

Whether they hope to get a job, study abroad, apply for an internship, or sign up for summer classes, now is the time take action. Might I suggest that you start by offering them a reservation at Casa de Parents? Speaking from experience, it's a real deal.

So, do you know where your college student will be this summer?

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