This is intriguing: A Baltimore, MD school has replaced detention with meditation to remarkable positive results. It turns out the time in the Mindful Moment Room is a golden ticket for young students who previously got into trouble on a regular basis.
Mindfulness is simply the state of being aware of our present moment on the planet and in our lives. It’s about focusing our attention on appreciating the here and now.
College is that quintessential time when students are swept up into a flurry of activity from morning to night, and it’s astonishingly easy to lose sight of yourself, your motivations, and your goals when moving so fast.
That is why mindfulness is so powerful for college students.
It helps them manage emotions, improve their memory, increase their attention span, enhance their ability to learn, and has physical benefits as well. And being mindful of who we are and where we are prevents us from doing things we would not be proud of tomorrow or a year from now or when we are sitting in a rocking chair thinking back on our lives. (Does anyone do that anymore??) Mindfulness can help us avoid regrets. And no one likes those.
Many students complain that they simply don’t have time to meditate or do meditative yoga or some of the traditional mindfulness practices.
Here’s an idea. In her commencement speech at UC Berkeley, Sheryl Sandberg offered a suggestion for a fabulous mindfulness practice: every night, write down three moments of joy before going to bed. (I would suggest using the same notebook or computer document each time.) This exercise not only focuses your attention on the things you are grateful for so that you go to bed feeling joy and gratitude, but citing these night after night after night turns out to be a way of articulating your most important life values. Then you can observe how they change over time so that you can make even better decision in your daily life through time.
This practice takes but moments every evening, and the results are more than worth it.
They’ve prepared for college for years. They studied hard, did volunteer work, participated in sports, theater, music, whatever. They agonized over the decision, finally submitted the deposit to secure their place in the freshman class, said their goodbyes, and packed carefully.
Just a few weeks in, many college freshmen don’t know what hit them. They are so homesick, they can’t stand it. They just want to go home, sleep in their own bed, and eat homemade food.
This is part and parcel of the predictable Culture Shock Cycle, one that everyone experiences to one degree or another when they move to a new place or even just start a new job.
I went through extreme culture shock when I moved to Cambridge, MA and little when I settled down in Heidelberg, Germany. You really can’t predict how easy or hard it is going to be.
This part of the transition to college can hit them like a ton of bricks. The good news is that the Culture Shock Cycle has known phases and the worst one doesn’t have to last too long. It’s a normal part of adjusting to a new home.
The first phase is the Honeymoon, where you are elated. Everything is bright and shiny. Then comes Withdrawal, when everything is irritating. Suddenly the roommate’s flaws seem overwhelming, the professors horrible, and the dining hall food disgusting. Students objectify everything about the new environment and see it negatively ad are homesick beyond belief. Reports home sound grim. They try to maintain a happy tone of voice, but parents can hear right through it. They are desperate to get out of there and can’t wait to go home for Thanksgiving. They might cry and start asking if they can come home for the weekend soon rather than wait until November.
I didn’t know it then, and in fact I didn’t realize it for many years, but this is precisely the phase I found myself in when I called my parents crying in the third week of the semester. My mother responded by asking if I could wait until Thanksgiving to come back. :) Though I felt like my life was coming to an end, and I just knew I couldn’t bear a single day longer at that college, I survived. I did more than survive. I began to adjust in a positive and productive way.
That is because Withdrawal is usually followed relatively quickly by a third phase called Adjustment. The new environment becomes ever more familiar, and students notice that they are beginning to negotiate it well. They have adjusted to the amount of work, dropped out of an extra-curricular or two, and tried to figure out which of their new “friends” is a real friend. The reports home are no longer as elated as they once were, but they also aren’t as grim as they were at the lowest point either. They are more even-keeled. The new campus is feeling a bit like home.
They are quickly moving to the fourth and final stage of Culture Shock, which is called Independence. By the time they have reached the last phase, they have fully integrated into your new environment and can now call it home.
So, if your college freshman has started to describe their college as hell on earth, hang in there. Brighter days are coming. Listen, send care packages, and know that most college freshmen get through the four phases of the Culture Shock Cycle by the end of the first semester.
Why is College so Expensive? Is it Really Administrative Bloat? Yes, and at Least Some of it is Justifiable.
It’s a perennial question: why has the cost of a college degree skyrocketed in the past decades, with the price accelerating more quickly than any other common good? From 1980-2014, the average annual college tuition increased by almost 260% compared to the nearly 120% increase in consumer items.
This inquiry becomes even more pressing in light of our country’s abysmal college completion rates. Less than 50% of undergraduates complete a degree in four years. Only slightly over 50% complete a degree in their lifetimes.
If the completion rates are so low, one might reason, why then are costs escalating? Usually a higher price tag means increased quality and better outcomes.
What is to blame here? There seems to be plenty of that to go around: climbing walls, fancy dining halls, and other luxurious (and, by implication, unnecessary) amenities, exorbitant coaches’ salaries, lavish athletics facilities, student aid to increase access to higher ed, and reduced state subsidies.
But in the most searing analyses, of which there are many, the biggest culprit is, hands-down, “administrative bloat,” shorthand for the ever-escalating and unnecessary increase in the number of non-faculty positions at every college and university.
Put succinctly by Paul F. Campos, “…a major factor driving increasing costs is the constant expansion of university administration. According to the Department of Education data, administrative positions at colleges and universities grew by 60 percent between 1993 and 2009, which Bloomberg reported was 10 times the rate of growth of tenured faculty positions.”
And here’s another: “A report fromthe Goldwater Institute found that, “between 1993 and 2007, the number of full-time administrators per 100 students at America’s leading universities grew by 39 percent, while the number of employees engaged in teaching, research or service grew by only 18 percent.” Notably, the study also found that, “In 2007, it took 13.1 more employees to educate the same number of students than it did in 1993.” The reality is that at American universities’ faculty make up less than half of all employees.”
This seems indeed to be a vexing state of affairs.
I can’t resist adding one more quotation – please bear with me – since it points to an even graver consequence: “Universities have added these administrators and professional employees even as they’ve substantially shifted classroom teaching duties from full-time faculty to less-expensive part-time adjunct faculty and teaching assistants, the figures show. … [t]here are now two nonacademic employees at public and two and a half at private universities and colleges for every one full-time, tenure-track member of the faculty….”
So, administrators are bloating the salary rolls and colleges are hiring part-time, much less expensive instructors to balance their ledgers.
Sure, some blame “celebrity faculty” who cost a lot; they are wooed to move from one college to another by the lure of star salaries, relatively speaking. (Real Hollywood stars haven’t actually earned that little since they waited tables.) But data show that faculty salaries have remained pretty flat overall.
And of course, some would argue that presidents should not receive millions of dollars worth of annual compensation. So, maybe we should attribute a bit of the cost escalation to this administrative cost.
But, I think there is one good reason for rising college costs that we should excavate a bit more deeply. I maintain that it raises administrative budgets and rolls justifiably. In other words, some of the “administrative bloat” is warranted and necessary.
To serve populations of students from every conceivable socio-economic, racial, ethnic, religious, educational, and national background takes well-trained, well-educated, dedicated human beings.
These are all expensive endeavors, and they reflect the opening up of the institution, which can only be good for society at large. If we want to admit students from every conceivable background, with every imaginable aspiration to our institutions, we need to help them get to the finish line because the playing field is not level. We have an obligation to support all students well.
So, some of the administrative increases arise from the fact that colleges no longer serve one narrow slice, but rather the whole of society at large. And that is a good thing.
Colleges shouldn’t have to decide between teaching students well and supporting them well. There must be funding for both. One should not come at the expense of the other.
People who are trained and committed to helping students make the right academic choices for them and their families, staff who specialize in providing tutoring and other forms of academic support, to supporting physical and mental health, to determining and implementing the needs of disabled student needs, and to helping students finance their education and grow through extra-curricular, co-curricular, and residential education are all necessary in the twenty-first century college and university. These are all just part and parcel of a good university operation, the nature of which has changed a lot since 1980.
We have to stop being nostalgic about an era in which we supported a narrow slice of society on college campuses, come to terms with what it costs to support all students well, and stop pitting the teaching and support costs against one another.
 http://www.cbpp.org/research/state-budget-and-tax/years-of-cuts-threaten-to-put-college-out-of-reach-for-more-students and http://www.cnbc.com/2015/06/16/why-college-costs-are-so-high-and-rising.html
THE FRESHMAN TEN, up and coming for submission! Dystel & Goderich Literary Management -- Newsletter 67: September 2016
Check out the blurb on THE FRESHMAN TEN, up and coming for submission!
"The United States enrolls almost ten million college students in four-year institutions every year. Over six million take out loans in anticipation of earning a degree that will hopefully ensure a lifetime of stable earnings and a fulfilling career. The stakes are high. And yet only about fifty percent of those students will leave with a bachelor’s in hand six years after the first day they set foot on campus. The United States is in the midst of a college drop-out crisis. Three-time Ivy-league dean Monique Rinere tackles this disquieting reality by offering an innovative approach to the college selection and preparation process. Defining the period from receiving college acceptances and rejections to the end of the first semester as the “Freshman Ten,” Rinere articulates the main obstacles to college success and provides the questions that people should be asking their prospective schools—although the reality is that few do. Through true and, at times, disturbing anecdotes, THE FRESHMAN TEN illuminates the predictable ways she has seen dozens if not hundreds of students stumble, fall, and even fail out of Princeton, Harvard, and Columbia. It outlines concrete steps that students can take in the summer before freshman year and the first semester to ensure they can avoid these unproductive failures and rise to the challenge of college to end up on the right side of the retention statistics. THE FRESHMAN TEN is the ultimate guide for what students and their parents should know and do and includes targeted quizzes and checklists to shepherd them along each step."
UPDATE: The Freshman 10 evolved into Countdown to College and is being published in March 2019 by Ballantine Books, an imprint of PenguinRandomHouse.
Most college and university employees know that many faculty sit in their offices during weekly office hours without a single undergraduate visitor.
This means that students are squandering an opportunity to do something that could enhance their intellectual and academic experience immeasurably: get to know faculty.
Why does research confirm time and time again that connecting with faculty in a substantive way is so beneficial? Here are a few reasons:
Researchers have confirmed that the heartfelt articulation of your values can have long-term effects on your personal success.
Keeping what’s important to you in the forefront of your mind on a regular basis turns out to be an effective way to ensure that you get to your goals on time and have fewer regrets.
It’s not always easy to define our values. Here’s a suggestion:
Values those speak to:
These are, in fact, my highest values: to be strong, artistic, flexible, to work hard, to be safe, to have a sense of humor, and to be happy. The only thing I would add is having close family and friends (which I am so very fortunate to have).
I can honestly admit to you that my college and graduate school years would have been exponentially enhanced if I had kept these values in mind on a daily or even a weekly basis.
I encourage you to try it now. List the people, the adjectives and nouns, and see what values those indicate for you. Remind yourself every day of what they are. It can’t hurt, and research has proven that it definitely can help.
When Felice registered for courses, she was overjoyed that they would only take up 14 hours a week. She had never had so much freedom. She immediately signed up for a dance troupe and an improv group. She got a work-study job for ten hours a week and started trying to find an internship. By mid-terms, she was in trouble. She couldn’t keep up with her coursework. The dance and improv performances were coming up fast, and she didn’t want to let her new friends down. But she also could not bring herself to ask for help with her classes. On the first day of finals, after having been awake for three days cramming, she walked into her adviser’s office, curled up into a ball, and just sobbed.
This is not an unusual scenario. It happens on every college campus multiple times every semester.
Fifty percent of students who graduated from college said they spent too much time socializing and not enough time studying. An equal percentage said they were not used to having so much freedom. It makes sense. High school is a relatively highly structured experience. In college, it’s up to you to give form and shape to your weeks.
Why? Because the week's class schedule is deceiving. It does not tell you nearly what you need to know. It merely indicates the hours you will sit in a lecture hall, classroom, and lab. What is not visible is the number of hours you will spend on each course outside of those spaces. Think of the initial schedule as a skeletal guide that you will fill out with other meaningful activities.
The national guideline says you should plan to spend three hours a week on work outside of class for every credit. So, if you are taking 15 credits, you should plan for 45 more hours a week on: reading, memorizing, writing, studying alone or in groups, presentation practice, problem sets, talking with the professor after class and in office hours, and meeting with teaching assistants.
To create the true weekly plan:
Now you know how much time you have every week for: eating and talking with friends over meals, laundry, showering, dressing, phone calls, running to the store, texting friends, and doing nothing.
The real schedule helps you see how much “freedom” you actually have and can help you avoid being among the fifty percent of your peers who leave college thinking they spent too much time socializing and not enough time studying. In short, planning ahead can help you have a far richer college experience.
I wrote in a previous post that students should be prepared to create their own board of advisers in college because college is never a one-stop advising experience. But, as one of my best friends said to me today, that is an incredibly daunting task. How are college students supposed to expand their board of advisers beyond the ones the college gives them? Is it really up to them? It is so incredibly intimidating to approach a graduate student, much less a professor!
Luckily, many colleges hold events in the form of teas, lunches, dinners or academic talks that invite faculty, graduate students, and undergraduates alike to participate. These are important programs because they give you a chance to interact with instructors in a casual setting, thus facilitating relationship-building with people who dedicate their lives to fields that may interest you in your four years on campus and beyond.
Whether you are a high school student exploring prospective colleges or a current college student trying to figure this out, here are some key questions to ask deans, RA’s, tour guides, professors, and other students:
Students who get to know faculty have a significantly better experience in college than those who don’t.
Be one of them.
For many years, as a dean at three Ivy League colleges and now as an AVP at a university with an extraordinary mission, I have had a front row seat to the obstacles to success that college students and their parents confront every year. Even at so-called elite, highly selective colleges such as Princeton, Harvard, and Columbia, where I spent some of my career, students struggle on a daily basis to remain healthy, happy, grounded, and to stay in school. I am dedicated to helping them.