What’s Your Go-To Gift for Graduating Seniors?

I received this image above from a college minister in North Carolina who went all-out with gifts for her seniors, saying “sometimes you just have to spoil your student leaders.”

If you are already gifting After College to your seniors…or you’d like to next academic year…this is just a reminder that NOW is the time to stock up while copies are 40% + FREE US shipping (until 7/25). Order here: https://www.ivpress.com/pages/summer-reading.

Here are some other fun ideas to prime the pump!*

  • Gift book
  • School swag: branded mugs, journals, lanyards, picture frame
  • Gift of a one year membership to your alumni association
  • Personalized notes from faculty and staff
  • Framed print of a special group photo
  • Writing journal + gift card to a local coffee shop with request for your student to buy a favorite drink and journal about what God taught them over the year
  • Special pen for writing down their dreams
  • Playlist of songs that capture moments of your time together
  • Swag from this site (https://igbok.com/). We appreciate the message of IGBOK as a final thought to give to students. We gave IGBOK magnets and/or stickers (in addition to a copy After College and a personalized note for each student.)
  • I also love gifts with ampersands (&) because they symbolize that the chapter of college is coming to a close, & the story continues!

OK, your turn. What would you add to this list? What’s your go-to?

Leave a comment below, or drop me a line. I’d love to hear from you!

-Erica

*This question about graduation gift ideas was posted on the Collegiate Collective Facebook Group some time ago; many of these ideas come from those who replied to that post.

Just Get Started: Something You Can Use Right Away

As promised, this next video talks about the importance of just starting somewhere. 

If you missed the first video, check that out before you watch this one. 

The video below includes ideas you can try right away. Just get started! Or, if you’re trucking along, make a commitment to take things to next level. Leave a comment below about what you’re up to or what you’re planning to try. Let’s encourage each other!

Rooting for you,

Erica 

P.S. Have you registered yet for the LIVE webinar later this week? I hope you can join me as I talk about The 3 Most Important Topics to Address with Seniors Before They Graduate.

Click here for instant access to the FREE resources I mention in the video.

Don’t forget to leave a comment below!

Is Transformation Possible?

I’m rolling out some FREE, fun things this week, and this video below is the first!

When it comes to equipping students for life after college, it’s easy to doubt our own efforts. We may wonder: Are we even making a difference?

In this video, I talk about how we started small. Very small. We didn’t quite know what we were doing, and we certainly doubted if we were making a difference.

But things didn’t stay that way forever.

I hope this video encourages you to get started or keep going, no matter how small or seemingly insignificant your attempts may feel right now.

Growth and transformation in your own work — and in the lives of students — is possible!

Don’t forget to leave a comment below, and subscribe on the right if you don’t want to miss out on the next video.

I’d love to hear from you!

-Erica

PS: Oh, one more thing you won’t want to miss: I’m hosting a FREE, live webinar later this week on The 3 Most Important Topics to Address with College Seniors Before They Graduate. Check it out, and hope to see you there!

5 Mistakes to Avoid When Equipping Students for Life After College

Click here for FREE access to downloadable PDF.

Many years ago, when my team and I started equipping students to thrive after college, we felt like we were creating in the dark. There were not many resources out there – for students or for those who work with them. We did a lot of building from the ground up, spun our wheels many times, and learned from the burn. 

I want to save you time and the frustration of spinning your wheels. Or, if you’re trucking along, I want to help you maximize your efforts and bring them to the next level. 

If you want to learn some of the pitfalls leaders should watch out for as well as how to turn the opposite actions into best practices, check out the attached PDF: 5 Mistakes to Avoid When Equipping Students for Life after College. Click here, so you can discover what they are. 

Oh, one more thing. There’s more good stuff on the way! Keep your eyes on your inbox so you don’t miss out. 🙂

Now is the time to prepare students to thrive after college!

Rooting for you,

-Erica 

Are You Turning This Perceived Weakness into a Strength for Students?

Let me guess: Often, you feel like you’re in an uphill battle. You’re trying to convince students to take advantage of resources you have to offer, but they don’t know what they don’t know, so they opt out.

I get it. I’ve been just as frustrated, but I’ve also learned that there’s something we can do about it.

Instead of blaming students, we can work to alter their perceptions and normalize the help-seeking process for them.

Do your students perceive the need for help as something for the weak, remedial, or those who can’t figure things out on their own?

Let’s work to change this perceived weakness into a strength!

Successful Students Seek Help

In Thriving in Transitions, one of the contributors, Jillian Kinzie, talks about the importance of normalizing the help-seeking process for students. She writes,

“Students in transition need to not know only the campus resources that are available and how to access them, but also that successful students seek out those resources(p. 15).

Let’s show our students that strong and successful people seek out help.

Normalizing the Help-Seeking Process

Alumni panels are great place to feature individuals who have sought help along the way to their success.

I’ll never forget the time one of our alumnae panelists shared how she started seeing a personal counselor during her first year out of college. Her parents recent divorce coupled with the many stressors of the transition brought her to a place need. Sasha’s* vulnerability on the panel led to a student approaching me later on, confessing that she too had been struggling with a similar situation of her own parent’s divorce, among other issues. She asked, “Where can I get some professional help?”

When we normalize the help-seeking process, struggling students feel empowered to get what they need to thrive.

Putting This into Practice

If you are not in these roles already, show your students that successful students…

  • …seek out professors during office hours. These visits can foster academic success and build relational capital, which is crucial for life after college.
  • …seek out career and calling services/centers on campus. Help students avoid the April panic (Oh no! I’m graduating, and I don’t have a job!), and preemptively invite students into a career preparation process.
  • …seek out multi-generational relationships at church or elsewhere. Life after college is filled with generational diversity. Let’s prepare our students by encouraging cross-generational connections now.

Can you invite some former students to share how the help-seeking process has shaped them into the thriving alumni they are today?

I’m taking my own advice, and I invited two former ENGL 15 students to share their experiences with my current writing students this week. These two students made the most of the resources available to them; I want to show my current students that strong students seek help!

What’s one way you plan to normalize the help-seeking process for your students? Leave a comment below!

P.S. Speaking of help-seeking, where are you stuck when it comes to equipping students to thrive after college? I’m here to help! I’d love to chat for 15-20 minutes. Click here, and we’ll find a time!

*Name changed to protect privacy.

Are You Prepared to Respond to Students’ Mental Health Issues?

I’m the daughter of a psychiatric social worker. Conversations about mental health issues – especially acute cases (like a client who ate cigarettes or an ER patient who consumed a bottle of Clorox) – were not uncommon at mealtimes growing up. For nearly my entire life my dad worked at a county clinic (which later privatized) while also serving on-call for the local hospital. He had a pager (yes, this was the 90s) which beeped when the emergency room needed him to come in to conduct a psychiatric evaluation. More often than not he wasn’t called out, and we joked about his pretty sweet gig: “sleeping for dollars.”

Until recently. Within the last ten year or so, there has not been a single night during which my dad has slept for dollars. He’s been called out – often more than once or all night long – every time he’s been on-call. While we can debate the reasons why, no one will argue the fact that mental health issues are on the rise in our local communities and on our college campuses today. If we want to be prepared to serve our current students, we need far more knowledge and skills than what I picked up at the dinner table growing up.

On many campuses the demand for counseling services far exceeds the professional help available. Colleges and universities across the nation are looking for creative ways to provide students with more access to care while also working within the limits of their budgets and personnel. Faculty and staff without formal counseling degrees or licenses can no longer rely on those who do to solely meet the demands of students in distress. If we want to care for students in this present moment, we must see ourselves as “allied professional counselors” and get the training we need to be effective helpers.

Whether you work in college ministry, student affairs, or as a faculty member, here are some practical suggestions for preparing to serve students and their mental health needs:

Caring for students and their mental health is a shared objective. No matter our role, we’re not in this alone, nor should we try to be. Caring for students’ mental health creates a beautiful opportunity to “soften silos” across campus, departments, or college ministry tribes as we collaborate towards a shared end. It’s incredibly important to know when and where to make referrals to professionals. At the same time, when we refer a student, it doesn’t mean we drop them or stop caring. As a college ministers, my staff team and I would often make referrals; however, we continued to meet with and disciple students while they also met regularly with a trained therapist. In some cases, students chose to give us access to the information discussed in counseling sessions so we could all work together in helping the student become as healthy as possible. Because students often have touchpoints with caring individuals across different functional areas on campus, many colleges have “care teams” who come together to discuss and create a shared plan for helping the student. We are not alone. As we build trusted relationships across campus and the community, the better prepared we will be serve our students.

Though we’re not alone, college ministers and student development professionals are often first responders to mental health issues and crisis. As students build relationships with us and share their dilemmas, it’s likely that we may be the first to know about a serious issue (even before a roommate, parent, or professor). As we minister on the front lines, it’s crucial that we’re equipped with mental health first aid training. If you don’t already have this training, check into the next offering on your campus or in your community (or go here).

We need to know how to recognize and respond to potential warning signs of mental health issues, and to know when, how, and where to refer. We should

  • Know when to call the police or 911
  • Have an updated list of licensed on-campus and/or community counselors
  • Understand confidentiality (what it is and what it not, given our roles)
  • Know that all student affairs professionals are mandated reporters
  • Know who our Title IX officers are on campus

Let’s commit to equipping ourselves so we can better resources our students.

On one hand there are more students seeking services than ever before, but on the other hand there are far too many students suffering in silence. Students need to know they’re not alone. As someone dedicated to preparing students for life after college, it’s my deep hope that struggling students seek help before they graduate. Issues that present themselves in college may become more complex during the transitional time of leaving college. And, after graduation, students might find themselves with far less support.

We can help normalize mental health issues for our students by dealing with our biases as well as sharing the stories of those who have battled issues and found help. For example, each year (at multiple points) we would bring a panel of recent alumni before our current students. One year, a recent graduate shared some of her mental health struggles post-college and how a professional counselor helped her tremendously. This opened the door for another student in the room to come forward with her issues; she asked for a referral that night, and started getting the help she needed.

Every student should have access to the help they need. The more we collaborate and equip ourselves the better opportunity we have to serve students and their mental health issues. Few issues are matters of life and death. This could be one of them. So, let’s continue to “wake up” to the moment around us (literally, as in the case of my dad), and get what we need to love and serve our students.

What have you done to prepare yourself to serve students and their mental health issues?

What questions does this topic raise for you in your context?

This article is influenced by those who have shaped my understanding of mental health issues and counseling college students: Roger Young, Eric Wessel, Katie Tenny, Bec Shepski, Amy Solmon, Caleb P. Thompson, and the students I have journeyed with over the years. I also referred to Helping College Students by Amy Reynolds and this article, Distress Signals, in Messiah College’s Bridge Magazine (Winter 2018 Edition).  h

5 Questions to Ask Recent Alumni

As you reach out to recent graduates, here are some questions you can ask. I’m curious, what questions would you add to these?

Check out the article (from the archives) and stop back over to the blog here to comment! I’d love to hear from you. Most importantly, I’d love to know what you’re learning as you take a moment — perhaps right now — to reach out to a recent graduate. Today is a great day to check-in and encourage someone on his/her post-college journey! 🙂

Do These First: 3 Things Every Recent Should Prioritize After College

photo credit: InterVarsity

Life after college often feels overwhelming for recent graduates. It’s hard to know where to start. A few years ago, I reached out to a number of alums and asked them to share their advice on what to do first.

Here’s an article (from the archives) on 3 things every recent gradate should prioritize. It’s written for recent graduates, so feel free to pass it to your alums! 

More than the ideas in the article, I hope this post is an encouragement to send a text, make a call, or say a prayer for your recent graduates.

We need each other to stay faithful, and our former students need heaps of encouragement in this transition.

Will you take a quick action today to reach out to one or more of your alums? Let me know!

PS I’m curious what you would add to this article. What do you encourage your recent graduates to do first? Leave a comment on the blog here (below) – I’d love to hear from you!

What’s the most outrageous thing you’ve ever done? A podcast interview on life, start-ups and “after college.”

I recently had the opportunity to interview with Colleen Batchelder, the founder of LOUD Summit, a movement that exists to engage, empower and equip Millennials and Gen Z to change the world and be a light of hope.

In in the interview, I discuss themes of the book, but we also talked about business start-ups…and life — how we keeping putting one foot in front of the other to pursue faithfulness.

Check it out here.

If you listen until the end, you’ll get to hear my answers to the LOUD questions, which are the most fun!

  • What do you love most about life?
  • What’s the most outrageous thing you’ve ever done?
  • When have you felt like an underdog?
  • When have you had to depend on God most?

Don’t forget to leave a comment below about what stands out to you most about the interview. Or, share your answer to one more of these questions above. Thanks for adding to the conversation!