5 Strategies for Honoring Graduating Seniors

Believe it or not, graduation is almost upon us! Let’s make these weeks count, especially with our graduating seniors. Here’s an article (from the archives) to get us thinking about how to best serve seniors in their last stretch. Don’t forgot to pop back to the blog here to share about one way you plan to honor the college seniors on your campus!

What Students Need, Companies Want, and We Can Cultivate

In light of my last post on pirates and child-like play, I thought this article (from the archives) would be the perfect follow-up. Can you guess what top quality makes college seniors successful in their transition and employers eager to hire? 

Find out here!

After you read the article, don’t forget to stop back to leave a comment about one thing that stands out to you or how you’re working to nourish this quality with your students!

Pirates Don’t Use Computers

While playing an imaginary game with my four-year-old son, I slipped onto to my computer to check what felt like a very time-sensitive email at the time. He quickly caught me and chided me with these words, “Pirates don’t use computers!” He wanted us to play, have an adventure, and find the lost treasure! My screen was both anachronistic and annoying in his pirate world.

So true. Though this was just moment with my child on an ordinary Tuesday, it made me think not only about how we use technology wisely but also about how well I play. With my son. And with my students.

Not long after this incident, my son’s preschool teacher loaned me a short book called Play Like a Pirate by Quinn Rollins. Our little parent-teacher conference led to a conversation on pedagogy, and before you think we were taking ourselves way too seriously for a meeting about four-year-olds, I should say that our discussion was all about play!

I cruised through the book, and even though Play Like a Pirate is geared towards K-12 teachers, I took away a renewed commitment to make learning as fun as possible. If we’re not having a good time, our students won’t either; if we’re bored, they’ll be bored too. Whether we’re opening the Scriptures, training our RAs, or teaching student development theory, we should be having a blast. So much so that it’s obvious and contagious.

I probably won’t bring action figures or Barbie dolls to class as Rollins suggests, but I’m considering the ways that play fits into our work with college students. On a practical level, I just may bring some play-doh the next time I teach counseling theory and I have some thoughts on how I may incorporate comic strips/graphic novels in a module on diversity.

The book also made me think about the time I brought a pogo stick to Senior EXIT. It was in the middle of the semester when the PA winter and the stress of classes had gotten the best of the students, and we all needed to release some tension. There’s nothing like a pogo stick to lighten the mood and let us have some fun before jumping into a serious topic.

Interestingly enough, my kids and I found that pogo stick in a trash pile in front of our neighbor’s house. I usually discourage my children from picking through junk piles during bulk trash week (I promise, they’ve never come home with a used mattress or anything like that). But this was a shiny thing of beauty with its 1990s decals still clinging to the metal. They don’t make ‘em like the used to. We snagged that treasure.

It may not be play-doh and pogo sticks for you, but how do you bring passion and play into your work with students? Teaching and learning with college students is an amazing privilege. I want my love for them and what I teach to shine through at each turn. This is not to say we won’t have bad days or times when we slog through or need to address tough stuff, but overall, our students should see us leading the way in our love for what we do. Because when we do, there’s all sorts of treasure to be found!

I’m curious, in what practical ways do you bring passion and play into your work with students? What makes it challenging for you to do so? Leave a comment below. I want to hear from you!  

Live Training Course!

If you viewed the last video, then you know I have something super exciting I want to share with you! 

It’s a special, limited-time opportunity that I can’t wait to tell you about: a live training course for practitioners (student affairs professionals, college ministers and church leaders) who want to equip students to thrive after college. 

Are you ready to take your efforts to the next level? Check out this page and act quickly. The course begins next week! There are only a limited number of seats and this offer is only good until this Friday at 11:59pm ET. 

5 “Must-Have” Features of the Best Interventions to Equip Students for Life After College

I’m excited to share the second video in this series!

If you’re wondering where to start or what to works towards, this next video covers 5 “must have” features we should include in any intervention to equip students for life after college.

I also touch on the question of “Who is responsible for our college seniors?” I’m curious what you think about that question as well as what feature(s) you might be implementing or planning to work towards.

Leave a comment below the video and let me know!


Why Equipping Students for Life After College Matters & How You Can Help

This is the first of series of videos for those who are serious about equipping students for life after college. In this video I get personal – see if you notice it before the reveal. 🙂 I also share why this matters – how intervening in the lives of students during the college years makes a difference in their transition…and beyond. Last, you’ll see one tip and one activity that you can use right away with students.

Special Video Message from Erica

Those who approach transitions (vs. avoid them) are more likely to thrive within them.

Here’s a special video message you don’t want to miss!

Your comments and feedback help me create customized content. Thank you for filling out the survey. If you haven’t, it’s not too late.

I want to hear from you! Please leave a comment below about one way you’re planning to approach the new year — something you plan to do next semester to start or continue to equip students to thrive after college.

What Home Remodels Teach Us About Transitions

My husband, Craig, and I love watching home remodel shows. We grieved the Fixer-Upper farewell with the rest of the HGTV-watching world, and we’ll continue to tune into some of our other favorites. The son of a contractor, Craig comes by this interest honestly. While I have no talent for repairs, seeing an old home restored inspires me. There is something beautiful—even biblical—that happens when someone uses their skill to take a broken-down building and restore it to a gorgeous home.  It’s fun to view these shows, but if you’ve ever lived in a home with a construction project or worked on one, living in it is often not as pleasant as seeing the transformation on TV.

When you’re in the messy middle of a remodel, the final outcome can seem far off. We were watching an episode of Property Brothers in which a newly-wed couple stood in the living room of their “new” home with the walls gutted, wires exposed, and sheetrock in pieces all over the floor. The wife exclaimed, “I think this was a mistake. We never should have done this.”

Often, the same is true for the transition out of college (or other major life transitions). Over the years, I’ve talked with alumni who—while in the middle of it—have seriously questioned if they’re on the right track. They want to know, “Did I make a mistake in moving here? Should have taken that other job offer? Maybe I should have moved back home? Maybe I shouldn’t have moved back home…” These questions are normal when we’re in transition! Just because something feels difficult or messy, it doesn’t mean we need to go elsewhere. Most likely, we are “in-process” and we need to be okay with that.

In his book Transitions, William Bridges discusses the cycle we go through during times of transition. The process has three parts:

  1. Ending
  2. Neutral Zone (or middle)
  3. New Beginning

At one point, he compares transitions to a house remodel, saying “It starts by making an ending and destroying what used to be. Then there is a time when it isn’t the old way anymore, but not yet the new way either… It’s a very confusing time.”  As we go through the “ending” part of the transition, there’s a process of “dismantling” that takes place. There may be a physical dismantling as we take pictures off our walls and pack up our belongings. But, let’s not miss the internal process. We may have to “take down” old ways of doing things or certain expectations. Whether we need to let go of our financial dependence on our parents or adjust our expectations when it comes to finding friends right away after college, let’s be faithful to go through the “ending” part of the transition.

Let’s also embrace the neutral zone or middle. It’s hard to be in an in-between time. Often, we want to run back to what’s familiar or rush ahead to the new thing. But, this fallow time is crucial for processing the past and preparing us for the future. In the same way a tree drop its leaves in the fall and goes through the fallow winter time in order to make way for new growth in the spring, we too need to give ourselves permission to be in the neutral zone.  We need to make time to reflect, mourn the ending, and to be okay with the questions that rise up in this time.

As we’re perhaps literally unpacking our belongings in a new location or at a new job, let’s also be mindful to “unpack” our time at our old context and even parts of the identity we formed while there. In a transitional time, we dismantle, but we also rebuild. The new thing will come. Though the future picture or new beginning may feel far off, let’s trust the process. Most importantly, let’s trust our God who is sovereign over all of it and who speaks a constant, daily promise of newness over us.

Contractors and their clients have to set their sights on the final outcome—the dream home—in order stay hopeful and focused in the process. We should do the same. Let’s dream big for our future as we fix our eyes on the One who holds it all.

Citation: Bridges, William. Transitions: Making Sense of Life’s Changes. Cambridge, MA: Da Capo, 2004, p. 115

Not What He Expected

When life after college does not pan out as expected, it can be easy to question, “Have done something wrong? Did I make a mistake in moving here, taking this job, or marrying this person?”

Just because something feels disorienting or distressing, it doesn’t mean we need to go somewhere else. In fact, we might be exactly where we need to be. Recent graduate, Jeff Schallick, comes to realize that his life and work have not turned out as expected. BUT, he’s not throwing in the towel. Instead, Jeff is determined to be faithful to his present calling, trusting in a bigger view and better dreamer for his life than himself.

Read more here…

Launching College Students Who Land in the Local Church

By September of his senior year, David had two great job offers. Two offers. In two totally different cities. As he compared the hiring packages, starting salaries and corporate cultures for each position, we challenged him to consider one more factor: location. As his campus ministers, we asked, Which offer will land you in a place where you can find a healthy church?

More Than an Afterthought

As students prepare for life after college, too often they focus a few items necessary for living on their own: securing a job, finding an apartment, having a paycheck in hand, and so on. Church becomes an afterthought. If we want to equip students to land in a local church after college, we need to help them consider this aspect of their lives long before they actually transition. There are many reasons why students don’t connect to a church after graduation: they can’t find one they like, they don’t know how to search, or they’re not convinced it matters. In the challenges of transitional times, church may feel like “one more thing” in the midst of other priorities.

If we want students to choose church, first and foremost we must offer a robust ecclesiology – what church is and why we go. Recent graduates need the church and the church needs them. They also need to know that their church experience in the next phase may look very different from college, and that’s okay! Most churches are not filled with individuals who are the same age or in the same life stage as they are. Age (and other) diversity may be an adjustment for some alumni. That’s why it’s crucial to offer good theology and healthy perspective. Church, in all of its mess and beauty, allows God to manifest his glory, us to experience community and the world to find hope. We are all diminished without it.

Students who understand why church matters are better prepared to find one when they leave. Post-college life requires purposefulness. Perhaps like no other time, accountability structures and social momentum have been removed; the onus is on them. If recent graduates know why they’re looking (it’s all about Jesus, not about me) and what they’re looking for (there’s no perfect church and no two churches are alike), they can make a short list of the non-negotiables they’re searching for in a church but be open from there.

List Non-Negotiables, Leverage Networks, & Consider Place

On a practical level, we can help our students discern their list of non-negotiables. For example, they can choose their musts (i.e. gospel-centered, bible-believing), their wants (i.e. band-led worship, people my age), and those things they’re flexible about (i.e. service times, small group structure). Also, we can help them leverage their network and ours for church recommendations. We keep a database of church recommendations that current students and alumni can access. Students can use it for suggestions, and once they’ve graduated and land in a local church, they can update the database with their recommendations.

Last but never least, let’s help our students consider place. We encourage students to think about moving to a location where they know they will have good church options, or if they’re not sure what’s next, we challenge them to move for a church community or church plant instead of for a job!

David took our challenge seriously. In fact, location was a key factor in accepting one offer over the other. He did some reconnaissance and learned that one of the positions would land in him in a city with dry spiritual soil and few gospel-centered churches. The other position took him to Philadelphia where he quickly plugged into a growing local church. Months later, David discovered that the job he accepted was not a fit. One could argue that he should have accepted the other offer! However, David does not see it this way at all. Because he had such a great church community, David was surrounded by support when he decided to leave his job. And, this community is the very reason he chose to find a new job in the area.

David credits the conversations he had during his senior year as pivotal in helping him find a healthy church after graduation – a crucial part of why he’s thriving beyond college…and why he has no desire to relocate. He’s found a church and community he wouldn’t trade.

This article first appeared in the Association of College Ministry Newsletter, © February 2018. Adapted from After College by Erica Young Reitz. © 2016 by Erica Young Reitz.  Used by permission of InterVarsity Press, P.O. Box 1400, Downers Grove  IL  60515-1426. www.ivpress.com