Beyond excessive caffeine consumption and erratic sleep patterns, being a post-secondary student is similar – in many ways – to being a new parent. Having experienced both simultaneously while completing my Master’s degree, I couldn’t help but draw comparisons between the two. The following are four pieces of advice that apply to both scenarios:
- You must take challenges in stride and revel in every victory, however small. Find solace in knowing that you are not alone in your uncertainties and missteps. Embrace mistakes as learning experiences and take the time to recognize every accomplishment and success.
- Do what works for you. Ultimately, this is your journey, and you need to do what comes most naturally, regardless of what is popular or perceived as “the best way”.
- You need a village. Mental and emotional health can be especially vulnerable during these times. Surrounding yourself with a strong support system is the best safeguard against threats to your health and well-being.
- The days are long but the years are short. These are the days. You will inevitably look back on them with fondness and appreciation for the experiences, knowledge, and perspective they provided you with. Soak it all in – the inspiring, the mundane, and the downright difficult.
Where do Student Affairs Professionals fall within this analogy?
I’d like to think of Student Affairs Professionals as the wise and supportive grandparents, who withhold judgement and offer guidance when it is sought. Here are three things that I know to be true in this regard:
- Among new parents, unsolicited advice is rarely helpful or appreciated, regardless of the provider’s intentions. Similarly, students do not want to feel as though they are being judged or told what to do.
- Just as grandparents have at least one grown child’s worth of parenting experience under their belt, SAPro’s have treaded the waters of post-secondary education, putting them in a great position to offer empathy and understanding.
- Raising a child deepens a parent’s gratitude for all that their own parents have done for them. I’d like to think the same applies to students, as their higher ed experiences foster appreciation for the SAPro’s supporting them.
My dad accompanied me to one of a few parenting classes in my husband’s absence, and after a full day of having admittedly over-the-top precautions drilled into our brains, he turned to me in shock. “You are lucky to be alive, kid.” Hyperbole? Yes, but the times, they are a changin’, and grandparents find themselves retiring old-school remedies in favour of today’s scientifically-proven approaches to child care. Similarly, Student Affairs Professionals must keep up with the trends and issues permeating higher education today, so that they can engage and support students in a manner that is meaningful, relevant, and conducive to their overall success. For the time being, at least.