Online Learning & Your Student: Advice From a College Counselor

  • By cvbizz
  • April 29, 2020
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Melissa Milligan

Do you have a graduating senior? Whether you are looking at a high school or college graduation, it is a symbol of hard work, dedication, and perseverance. It is a passage into adulthood in a sense. A high school student branching out into the college world, and a college senior headed for the “real world.” It has taken not only personal investment but familial investment and is a treasured and sacred time—then enters Covid-19 with a symbolic gesture of “hold my drink” and shakes up the entire world. This undoubtedly has been an unprecedented time that will have lasting consequences and ramifications that will be far-reaching. What does this mean for our graduating children? For some, it is a time of sadness, loss, and uncertainty. Some will see it as the greatest time ever that not even Ferris Bueller could top. So how should we help our children navigate this time emotionally and mentally? What can we do to help them prepare for the new chapter ahead? With these questions and others, I set to work finding a college counselor who can give us all a little direction.

Megan Newton, MA, LPC, NCC

Thankfully, Megan Newton, MA, LPC, NCC, Director of Counseling and Disability Services at the University of South Carolina Beaufort was able to give me sometime this past week to answer some of my questions. With seven years under her belt in working with students, I found her advice and tips to be very helpful and important to share.

Please keep in mind as you read the following tips and advice that colleges and universities have guidance resources and counselors in place for their student body. The answers below are coming from a USCB counselor—however, you can reach out to your higher learning institution as to where to find more information specifically for your student at their school.

With the switch to online school, many students may be experiencing anxiety and frustration with such a big disruption in format–what would you say to a student experiencing this?

This is completely normal. I think everyone is experiencing this in their own way. Be patient with yourself during the adjustment process. Understand others are attempting to navigate the new normal as well. Find a healthy way to express your anxiety and frustration by using coping mechanisms that work for you. Download an app and do meditation each day. Get outside to take a walk, run, or bike ride. Use your creative side and color, paint, play music or craft.

Counselors are very important to school success and for those who were regularly utilizing these services how has continuity of these services been maintained?

We have reached out to all of our students who had been utilizing in-person services and offered virtual and phone appointments. We have tried to make the transition as easy as possible. We are also using social media and the USCB website to give students (also faculty and staff) resources on how to deal with this time. Next week we are offering virtual walk-in appointments for our seniors to process the end of the semester since it probably looks much different than they imagined. Overall, we are trying to stay connected and supportive.

Many students are working hard to maintain their GPA’s to finish strong as they are applying to schools—with the stress and anxiety that may come along with being able to do this, faced with possibly not being able to work to save for college, and staying home or at least social distancing that has changed everything—how do they balance everything when it may seem overwhelming?

Remember that we are all in this together and trying to navigate the new normal. No guide or book tells us exactly what to do in a situation like this, so it is important to give ourselves grace during this time. We are all doing the best we can with what we have. There will be days when we have a great balance, and then there will be days we feel we are falling apart. Know that this situation is temporary, and life will get back to some sense of normalcy at some point. I think we are fully aware of what is going wrong, what we do not have, and what is unstable. Try to focus instead on what is going well, what you have, and what is stable.

How about to all of those class of 2020 high schoolers missing out on graduation and proms–or at least severely delayed (if happening)–and have the anticipation of their freshman year, moving away from home into the dorms, or even if not leaving home but attending college for the first time–nerves as well–what should they know about being prepared for college?

Students and their loved ones are dealing with many losses. In order to heal and move forward, you have to grieve those losses. Name your losses and allow yourself to experience the emotions that come with it. When students begin college, it is important for students to get involved on their campus. Students tend to feel most connected to campus when they are involved not only in the classroom, but also with clubs, sports, or activities. Incoming freshmen are coming in with the commonality of missing out or delaying big events, so students are not alone in their experience.

Where should incoming freshmen or even existing students who may never have reached out before, find help while navigating college life?

Counseling is available to all currently enrolled students, however, not every student who is struggling may need counseling. They may need to talk with friends, family, roommates, or a trusted faculty/staff member on campus to discuss their concerns. It is so important to be intentional about making connections when you get to college. Everyone is on a new page learning a new normal. Start by going to activities and events your RA and Student Life put on. Make sure you take advantage of your professor’s office hours. Check-out tutoring and the writing center. Make an appointment to meet with your advisor to talk out your long-term plans and goals. Go to the rec center and take a class, join a club sport, or just cheer on some of the USCB teams.

To sum it all up, here are the takeaways for your student:

  1. Be patient with yourself…from online schooling to zoom/hang out/ facetime learning….we are all figuring this out together.
  2. Social media offers some great ways to stay connected with counselors, teachers, and friends—keep those connections going!
  3. This situation is temporary—balance can get wobbly at times, but everyone is navigating a new normal so hang in there! Reach out to friends, family, or teachers if you need too!
  4. It is ok to be sad and grieve important events that may have been canceled or changed and then move forward! Better days are coming!
  5. When the time comes, get involved in your new school! Join clubs, make friends, go to events, and make connections! These will be some of the greatest years of your life!

As a parent (and a graduating senior –with my second bachelor’s degree), it is important to remember that we set the tone as to how and what our children feel about situations. I choose to look at everything we still have and what is to come when things get back to normal.

Here is to the Class of 2020 (whatever stage or age you might be)…the class that time stood still on but has given you the opportunity to rise above a situation no other class has ever faced before…you, the Class of 2020, is a unique class destined for great things… after all a phoenix only rises from ashes…so spread your wings and fly!


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