I had the opportunity last week to moderate a student panel of first-generation college students. They were sharing their experiences about preparing for. getting into, and doing well in college. I learned about the power of optimism and positive nagging from them.
Here’s what I learned, in a nutshell:
You can’t tell young people that you care about them enough and that you care about their future, especially about going to college. When you show them you are sincere – that you believe in them, they hear you. They do listen so our words and our actions have meaning.
I remember the first time a student quoted something I said back to me. I was giving the closing remarks at our scholarship selection day with 50 students and their support figures present. I knew we would only be able to select 10 of the students there. I made sure to tell them that whether or not they were selected for “my” scholarship, I expected each and every one of them to go to college. That the right attitude once they chose where to go would take them a long way. After all, I said, we have great taste in selecting our top 50 finalists, so just getting to this stage (out of 500 nominees) is pretty special, but we can only accept 10 students. Take all the gifts you’ve shown us here today and be great wherever you go. When a student we didn’t select transferred back to the university with a different scholarship, he said my words about “being great wherever you go” really stuck with him. So he worked hard, made Dean’s List at a great college, then decided to try again for his first choice college. It’s a little scary knowing your words can have power.
My advice – we must be relentless optimists with young people. Not a Pollyanna, everything is always perfect – but positive for their futures. We must hold that positivity and optimism for them when they lose it, can’t find it, or are just trying to build it up. Sincerely and authentically.
There are so many people, events, and messages that beat students down and are full of negativity, that we need to be the people who lift them up. You can’t underestimate the power of being a positive person, every day, consistently. On some days, you may be the only one.
Students really don’t mind if you nag them about their future plans if you’ve shown you care about them. Nagging is another sign that you care and it sends the message “you can do this – you can go to college.” It also lets students know you are paying attention to them and their progress. I think it says, “I know you and I care about where you’re going.” Positive nagging is a skill we can all practice!
As a parent, teacher/professor, librarian, janitor, principal, adviser, guidance counselor, supervisor, or friend, we can have an incredible impact on students. Let’s all use our power for good!
Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org, tweet @Zinjenzo, or just complete this with your thoughts. I’d love to know what you think!
Make it a great day! Thanks for reading!