Three Important Questions to Ask Students This Semester

By Josh Roberts

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    As student development professionals, we believe the college years represent the single most developmentally appropriate time for a student to make the transition from young adulthood to adulthood.  And we believe that students will become better and stronger adults when they develop the habit of genuinely and regularly seeking the input of their parents, mentors, and trusted peers as they navigate life.  So, amidst the fun and festivities of the early part of this semester, I hope you will set aside some time to help your students think through these three important questions.

    1. Who are your role models on campus?

    We ought to be in the regular habit of reminding our students that their college years hold an important task beyond the pursuit of intellectual excellence in their chosen field.  Though this is an important task, college is also the time to develop lifelong mentorships and friendships that will build on the relational foundation God has given them.  It’s critical that each student be able to identify the administrators, professors, and key staff members that they are relying on for guidance, encouragement, and support during these college years.  We need to know who is influencing our students.  The more we know about the people influencing our students, the better we can continue to challenge, stretch, and nurture their growth.  As student development officers, we are likely in the best position on our campuses to create student-focused strategic partnerships with other university resources, appropriately report to parents and pastors and coaches about the relationships their students are forging, and to know what voices are the most prominent, respected, and sought after within our student body.  When we are quick to identify the campus voices that are most influential in the student experience, then we can often predict important campus conversations, equip our students to engage meaningfully in timely dialog, and more actively shape campus culture into the image of Christ.

    2. What do your friends struggle with?

    A well-seasoned minister once told me, “If you ask a student what they are struggling with, they’ll almost always lie to you, but if you ask them what their friends are struggling with, then they’ll freely tell you every little thing that is weighing on their soul.”  It’s our privilege to marshal all of our resources to help our students discover their created purpose and embrace their place in God’s story, but we know that there are many pitfalls and distractions to their healthy development.  Whether our students and their friend groups are struggling with self-image issues, anxiety, disordered eating, loneliness, alcohol or substance use, healthy dating habits, or anything else—a posture of genuine interest, open communication, and unconditional care will help them overcome their struggles.  Without fail, our students will either struggle with challenging issues threatening deep harm to their soul, or they will be called to minister to peers who are struggling with the challenges of the college years.   Many students may even find themselves both struggling and ministering, sometimes simultaneously. When we identify the type of sin and hurt that is plaguing our students, then we can help students develop the proper guardrails, decision-making processes, and values to lead them towards a God-honoring life.

    3. What do you need to do this semester to prepare for life after college?

    Sometimes life after college can seem overwhelming.  But it’s a lot less overwhelming if a student develops a keen sense of what they can be doing right now to prepare for it.  To better serve your pre-professional students, develop practices of engaging them in conversations about grad-school entrance exams, test taking dates, and what type of preparatory program may be right for them.  To better serve your students planning to enter the work-force, talk about when they plan to participate in an internship and what type of work environment from which they would learn the most.  Encourage all students to participate in interview preparation workshops with your school’s career development professionals, seek out a mentoring relationship with faculty or staff, and set goals to complete introductory career steps like job shadowing, informational interviewing, and building networking skills.  As we all know, life after college is not exclusively about vocation; our students also need our help in determining how best to sustain college friendships, what values should guide their decisions on who to live with and where to live, and what habits they need to practice now in order to keep them faithful, confident, and healthy as graduation draws nearer.

    Above all, each student development officer should use the beginning weeks of 2018 as a time to show students that you will be cheering them on throughout this semester and that you are excited to see the ways that they will grow and lead others during the upcoming semester…and beyond.

    JOSH ROBERTS is the Dean of Student Development at Lipscomb University where he is called to daily pursue the mission of equipping students to discover their created purpose and embrace their place in God’s story.  He and his wife, Cristen, live in Franklin, Tennessee and are the parents of Graydon, Ensley, Blythe, Lawson & Webb.


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