Higher Learning
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Higher Learning

Making March Matter

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Yesterday a student walked into my office and asked if I had a moment.

Over the course of this semester, I’ve been supporting her on a new effort she was getting off the ground, so I figured she wanted to provide a quick update or run a thought by me for feedback.

I could immediately sense that something was different this time.

When she sat down in the chair, she said, “is it okay if we talk about classes. I need to make a plan to graduate.”

I’m sharing this story today for three reasons.

First, as practitioners and student affairs professionals, we can’t assume that students know what we do. This student had no hesitation in seeking me out for advice for her community-based effort, but did not initially see me as a point of contact to help her connect the academic dots. Through our recent conversations, however, trust was built. And while she still may not be fully clear on all of the things I do, she at least now knows that I care about her well-being. That opened the door for her to step into my office yesterday. But again, we have to be more intentional about how we help our students see our roles earlier, and proactively build more bridges to them.

Second, we also can’t assume that everyone is okay, even when they make it appear as if they are. I generally lean in the opposite direction actually, especially at this time of year, and imagine that students are playing a lot of catch-up (with school work, job and summer internship hunting, self-care, life). It can become quite heavy for them, all in an instant.

I was reminded of this in another conversation yesterday. A guest speaker shared how she always authentically asks people how they are feeling, even in brief exchanges. I try to do the same, and make extra time to put together the fullest picture possible in order to provide the best level of care. Which is why when the student yesterday asked if I had a moment, I said “absolutely,” and in the course of our conversation we established a regular check-in cadence to ensure that she gets her degree in a few months.

The final point I want to share is that it is not too late. In fact, it is right on time.

We’ve had this saying for the past few years — “make March matter.” The idea was to push students to get caught up now, rather than let the backlog continue to pile up and fall into the trap of over-relying on finals time to make everything right. We also wanted them to focus more on the front end before the real east coast spring kicks in, providing further outdoor distraction.

This is what I shared with the student yesterday, a second-semester senior who expressed that she’s had struggles before and managed to pull through, but this time felt more concerning. This prompted her to seek me out in a new way.

I thanked her for her courage, and let her know that she has the time that she needs to get everything done. We mapped out a basic plan. I will check back in with her later this week to see how it is going.

If this is the boat you also find yourself on, you too have the time. Make March Matter, and use these moments well.

If it takes a motivational conversation to get you moving in the right direction, knock on someone’s door. Practitioners, ask your students how they are doing, and how they are feeling, and make the time to help them finish strong.

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