Allison McWilliams: (Re)Setting Expectations

Allison McWilliams, director of mentoring and alumni personal and career development in the Office of Personal and Career Development, writes occasional articles for Inside WFU. This is the fourth and final for the fall semester.  In each, she shares observations and suggestions with faculty and staff drawn from her professional experience with students.

Allison McWilliams, the Director of Career Education in the Wake Forest Office of Personal and Career Development on Monday, October 10, 2011.

Each year about this time a particular sense of stress combined with excitement combined with worry moves across our campus. There are only so many days left in the semester. There are finals to take and final papers to submit. There are travel plans to coordinate. There is either excitement or dread about going home for an extended period of time, or about not having a home to go to. There is the relief of a semester finally (almost) behind us, and perhaps some excitement about what next semester may bring. That transition piece, in particular, is something that I love about the academic year: at the end of each semester we get the chance for a re-set, to start anew with new expectations and goals. Nothing else in life is really like that (which is one of the reasons that the transition from college to career can be so jarring for our students), and it is a perk of which we all should take full advantage.

But it’s not enough to just be grateful for the opportunity of a do-over. It’s important, as mentors, that we spend some time with our students, even in the midst of all of this craziness, to help them to re-set expectations as well. Help them to re-frame the importance of that paper or test or final that they have lost nights of sleep over, only to discover that the end result did not meet their expectations. Help them to think about what going home might look like and feel like, especially with those first-year students who will be experiencing this extended break from their new home at Wake Forest for the first time. What might happen if their parents expect them to live under “high school rules” again? What will that loss of freedom feel like? How will they expect to re-engage with former relationships who do not know or understand their current ones? How will they answer questions like “What are you going to do this summer?” or “What are you going to do with a major in that?” or “What are you going to do with your life?”

College is full of exciting moments and transitions, which offer up extensive opportunities for mentors to ask thoughtful questions, to provide objective feedback, and to give students the gift of their wisdom and experience. Do not miss these important learning moments and opportunities to deepen your relationship with your students.