How to Successfully Transition to College with Dr. Andrea Malkin Brenner – College Bound Mentor Podcast #5

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This is Episode #5 and you’ll hear special guest Dr. Andrea Malkin Brenner share how to make sure students and parents have the smoothest transition to college possible. Listen to the episode on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, and your other favorite podcast spots – follow and leave a 5-star review if you’re enjoying the show!

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College Bound Mentor Podcast Episode #5: How to Successfully Transition to College with Dr. Andrea Malkin Brenner

Transitioning from high school to college is one of the biggest changes in a student’s life. And that can be incredibly intimidating – for both students and parents. In this episode, we welcome special guest Dr. Andrea Malkin Brenner to make sure students and parents have the smoothest transition to college possible. Andrea has 25 years of experience as a college professor and university administrator, is the Co-Author of How to College: What to Know Before You Go (and When You’re There), and is the creator of the Talking College card decks. Hear the biggest differences between high school and college, the opportunity to reinvent yourself, how to develop independence as a college student, how to leverage the helpful resources available on campus, and how to decide what students and parents should each pay for. This episode covers everything from transitioning to college to becoming independent. Here’s a small sample of what you will hear in this episode:

  • How can students prepare for the transition to college?
  • Why is critical thinking more important in college?
  • How do you find your way in a large university?
  • What campus resources should you take advantage of as a college student?
  • How does the 168 Hours Exercise work?
  • What should students do if they’re not loving their freshman year?
  • How should parents and students decide who pays for what?
  • What’s an exercise students and parents can do together before going off to college?

Learn more about Andrea at and

Check out the episode and show notes below for much more detail.

Show Notes

  • How to Successfully Transition to College with Dr. Andrea Malkin Brenner

What is the College Bound Mentor podcast?

Lisa, Abby, and Stefanie know college. They also know students. With over 30 years combined experience mentoring young people, they’ll show you why understanding yourself is the key to finding the right college. Each episode, hear trends, case studies, and interviews with students who have gone through it all – giving you valuable insight to survive the college application process and beyond. Hosted by Lisa Bleich, Abby Power, and Stefanie Forman, Partners of College Bound Mentor.


Please note: this transcript is not 100% accurate.

Dr. Andrea Malkin Brenner 0:01
If you just love whatever that particular topic is, find a club join it it doesn’t exist create one.

Lisa Bleich 0:08
Hey CBMers, Welcome back to College Bound Mentor, where we help you survive the college application process and beyond. Were your co hosts Lisa,

Stefanie Forman 0:27
and Stefanie.

Lisa Bleich 0:27
And today we’ll be speaking with our guest, Dr. Andrea Brenner about how to make a successful transition to college. And that’s really by starting in high school. Dr. Andrea Malkin Brenner is the creator of the Talking College card deck and co-author of How to College: What to know before you go and when you’re there. The Leading guide for college bound students and their parents and guardians. Dr. Brenner brings 25 years of experience as a college professor and university administrator to her presentations with high school and college audiences, see Dr. Bronner’s website for her articles, podcasts, recordings and upcoming talks and webinars. And we’ll also have a link to that on our site. I first met Andrea at an educational conference in Washington DC, right. I think that was last year. Yes. Right. And I was really impressed by your card system that you had created to help families talk about the big issue surrounding college going, you know, from finances to fit independence. And then Stephanie, where did you meet her? So

Stefanie Forman 1:22
I met her we were at the IECDE, which is the independent educational consultant Association, that annual conference at Mohegan Sun casino in, in Connecticut, funny place to have it, but it was it was lovely. And, you know, they’re long days. And I think we saw this huge crowd around the table. And I’m like, Lisa, let’s go over there. What’s going on over there? And then Lisa’s like, I know her and right. Yeah, we both read your books. And talk about Lisa. Yes. Yeah.

Lisa Bleich 1:57
So welcome. So it’s so nice. Yeah.

Dr. Andrea Malkin Brenner 1:59
Thanks for having me.

Lisa Bleich 2:00
Yeah, it’s our pleasure. It’s a lot of things I think was really interesting about your book was that you you break down and then you talk about the big pieces, the big rocks that families have to understand, and particularly students need to get under the belt before they leave for college. And then of course, what to do once they’re there in college. So can you talk a little bit about those those big pieces, and maybe start with the idea of the new college you identity. And

Dr. Andrea Malkin Brenner 2:28
absolutely, so I would say the four main categories that students really need to be and families need to be thinking about before the transition to college are sort of the physical, the social, the emotional, and then the academic, four major transitional areas. The way that we started our book, really talking about the new college U, is a great way to kind of dive into all of those, I think that it is common for a high school student to identify themselves the way they are either connected to their extracurricular and co curricular activities, or their academic interests. So you know, I’m a chemistry kid, or I’m a band kid, or I’m a drama kid, whatever it might be, I’m an athlete. But you know, reinventing yourself when you head off to college is a real thing. You know, students no longer have to play that role. Of course, there is, you know, the high school athlete who becomes the college athletes not going to shake that identity. But just because, you know, you were known as you know, the math kid doesn’t mean that’s has to be what you pursue in college. And so college is really a time to check out lots of different avenues academic, social, emotional, and especially extracurricular. And I think that’s really, really key as to, you know, we hear a lot about kind of finding your people in college. And the way to do it is to really dig into your passions. And and for students to kind of think outside the box as well, they might want to join a club, an organization or attend a lecture that they are completely unfamiliar with. And this is really a time to kind of look at things from different angles, open your mind. And so I would say identifying, kind of reinventing yourself identifying who you are, is really key. And I think another crucial piece is understanding what it’s like to be by yourself. College is a very social environment. But there will be big blocks of time in a day where you aren’t going to be by yourself. You might be studying, you might be walking from one end of campus to another or to a job. And there are students who just really freak out they get really, really anxious if they’re, you know, fear of missing out fear of that being in a group. And so I do encourage high school students who I work with to, you know, before they head to college, to spend a day alone, try to just spend a few hours off your phone, go walk around a college campus or a museum or a park and just kind of be with yourself and see what that feels like. And

Lisa Bleich 4:54
I feel like that’s so hard right now because this generation is so connected to their phones, usually That’s the time when they would call their mom or their parents and write and check in when they’re walking between classes I often have parents will say, hey, you know, so and so called me, that’s the time that we talk when they walk in between classes, because it is really hard to be alone and be comfortable with that. And I think that’s a really good point that you bring up. Another thing that you’ve talked about is the academic piece. And I thought it was really helpful to outline the differences in the expectations between high school and college. And on page 57. In your book, you have this wonderful chart that extends a lot and it breaks it down. So can you talk about the big differences between a high school class expectation and a college class expectation,

Dr. Andrea Malkin Brenner 5:43
I would love to, it’s actually my favorite thing to talk about in this world. Because I don’t think we prepare our high school students for how different college academics are going to be. And different doesn’t always mean harder, it means kind of a different way to process things. So one, for sure, one major difference is that a high school students life is very routine. Regardless, if it’s an independent school or a public school, they are usually in class around 35 hours a week, they may take up to seven different classes. And those classes, you know, may meet every day or every other day, their lunchtime is assigned to them that time of the first bell and when the last bell rings, that’s all assigned to them, there really isn’t a lot to choose. College is presenting a lot of problems for a lot of students who don’t have great time management skills. And I would say the majority of 17 and 18 year olds do struggle with time management for sure. I don’t think that’s a that’s necessarily problematic. I think it’s fairly typical. But you know, in college, you’re not going to have that routine class schedule, you know, one day, you may have class all day and into the evening, and the next day, you might have no classes at all. And how does, how does that student you know, know how to spend their time, are they going to, you know, Netflix and naps nap all day, or if they’re into gaming, I mean, these are big time wasters. But also, there’s the free time like you’ve never had before. And we also want students to be able to explore things on their free time, which is which is important, it’s sometimes it’s very tough to have a balance. So I would say the time in the classroom is very different. And I would also say preparation for class is different. My own two kids I can I can speak from my son who if he did not get those regular reminders from his teachers, you know, don’t forget this paper is due on Friday, I think he would really be lost. And those reminders don’t come in college as frequently as they do in high school, it’s really up for the student to kind of figure out, make sure they have a really good system for recording all of their assignments, even if that’s chunking it and breaking it down. This is the day I’m going to have my draft due, this is the day my papers do. Or I’m going to study you know these chapters on this day and these chapters on this day, and really marking up an assignment book with a lot more stuff than they necessarily had in high school. Because those reminders don’t necessarily come as fast and furiously in college as they do in high school. And along the same lines, a college classmate only have two or three graded projects or papers. So the grades are weighted more heavily than they are in high school. If there are parents out there who are listening, you know, you may have heard your high school students say, you know, I did poorly on this assignment. But that’s okay, I have seven more assignments in this marking period. And they’re actually telling the truth. It’s very different in college, it’s really kind of hard to bring up a grade if a student is floundering. So those are those are two of probably of many, but big changes. And

Lisa Bleich 8:43
I think that’s really good the idea of chunking out time and thinking about it. A good rule of thumb is that you’re going to spend as much time in the class, if you’re, if your classmates three hours during the week that you’re going to spend as much what is it like three times as much time preparing for it? Right? That’s absolutely the ratio. And I think that students have a really hard time that when we ever we always ask our current freshmen in college, what are some lessons that they wish they had known? Or what are the things that they learned and that’s always the one that they talk about, is this idea of time management, management and being able to understand that it’s a lot of free time, and that they need to learn how to manage that free time. The other thing that I liked about your chart that I was thinking about was actually the expectation the difference in terms of rote memorization, or regurgitation in high school versus going deeper and digging deeper and being able to work on those critical thinking skills. Can you talk a little bit about that?

Dr. Andrea Malkin Brenner 9:45
Sure. We toss around the concept of critical thinking all the time, but not many high schools really dig into what that actually means. So student needs to be very conscious in college of the amount of time In that they are spending actually studying, but also listening and learning, right. So there are many different ways to learn. Learning from peers is a huge piece of it. writing drafts of papers is another really big piece of it. Meeting with professors is an absolutely important part. And we know from data that most students at the college level don’t start going regularly to office hours until their sophomore spring, which is problematic. Do we really need them? Well, I think that they’re, I think there’s fear for sure. I also think that they haven’t gotten their first set of grades yet. And and in looking back on their, that their first year experience, I think they realize, you know, maybe I could have done things better. And making an office hour appointment with a professor or a TA undergraduate or graduate TA is crucial to really doing well, especially if writing is not your forte. So I would encourage students as early as possible to make those appointments, some of the things that take place in an office hour with a professor is so different than it is in high school, when you might go in during lunch time to check in with a high school teacher about an upcoming test, it’s really getting to know them. And there is a mentorship piece that comes with visiting professors that I don’t necessarily know that happens is readily in high school. And so it’s learning about somebody’s life experience. I mean, it’s something as simple as having a cup of tea in a professor’s office hour, or seeing a picture of their dog and realizing that they’re a real human being. But also it’s getting to know them asking about their own career path, asking if they have advice for you know, how can I be a better writer in your class? Or, you know, how do you think I am when it comes to questions. So it got a little off topic here. But going back to the critical thinking piece, and I think one really important part of that is for students to go into class, very open eyes. And I’ve seen this I mean, I was a professor for 25 years. So I know that I’ve seen this in my own classes. But when you have something really great to say, and you’re kind of just waiting for that moment to be able to say it, a professor is very tuned into that with students. And so I always encourage, right, exactly. I always encourage students, you know, listen to what people are discussing, right. And I know you may have ideas, I’ve got a real smart thing to say it, I want to get this out. But that is not what critical thinking is about. And that’s not what college level learning is about. Right? It’s about adult conversations, adult discussions. It’s about learning things and debating with people and having your mind changed, right? Or it’s kind of coming in with a black and white answer about how you feel about something. And leaving maybe a little more gray, oh, I’ve I’ve actually learned a little bit more about the other side, whatever that might be or a different perspective. And now it’s kind of helping me to see things differently. One other piece that I think is really important when it comes to academics is sort of the professional nature of college. That’s different than high school. I don’t think faculty and staff on college campuses expect perfection, they certainly expect for sure students to be messy, and to make mistakes with the way they talk. And they write and they listen and things like that. But it’s crucial for high school students to come into a college environment. If they don’t know how to do this in high school, it’s important to learn that summer before college, how do you write a professional email? How do you leave a professional voicemail? What’s appropriate if you’re going to take notes in an office hour, and even if it’s comfortable for you to pull out your phone, that might not sit well with a professor who’s 65. And maybe you should have a notebook with you, knowing how to introduce yourself how to speak about your interests. And to be really honest about what you want to do. And I say that to students all the time is you don’t have to come in saying you know, I have this is my career path. 100% I know what this is what I want to do. And sometimes that actually might rub somebody the wrong in a grown up the wrong way. But kind of say, here are my interests. Here’s something I know nothing about. But I just took this class and it’s totally opened my brain to think about things differently. And I’d like to pursue, you know, this general area. So I just I think it’s kind of how we portray ourselves. And I think it’s the idea that we’re not unlike in high school when it’s all about the grades. I think in college, it’s really much more about the learning.

Lisa Bleich 14:31
I was just gonna say so my, my daughter and her husband both teach at University of Toronto, and this last year was the first year that her husband, who teaches Astro statistics, taught freshmen and she’s been teaching freshmen for a while writing and stuff like that. And and she said you never you know, it’s a freshman in your office when they’re crying. Like that’s just par for the course when a freshman comes in and they they wanted and then they start to cry and he was not used to that. At. So it’s it’s an interesting thing. So I guess, do you see that a lot where freshmen would cry in your office?

Dr. Andrea Malkin Brenner 15:06
Yes. Yes. And you know, there are? Yes, yes, for sure. I did. And I think, you know, it’s, it’s, it’s about peeling back the layers, are you crying out of frustration? Are you crying because you’re not performing as well, as you were expecting? Are you crying because you were a straight A student in high school, and now things are just harder. Maybe you’re crying, because you haven’t really figured out how to, you know, plan your time accordingly. To be assigned. A reading in high school might be read these two chapters of a book this week, and in college, it might be read this book this week. And I think that can be completely overwhelming. One thing, though, I would say is, you know, when I taught, and especially when I taught first and second year students, I didn’t just get the students brain in my classroom, I get their whole being. And sometimes when they weren’t on their best, you know, it wasn’t a great day. For them. It was usually not because they didn’t understand the sociology, the sociologists, the sociology I was teaching them, it was because they had a fight with their roommate. And they didn’t know how to handle that, or they didn’t know where to go to refill a prescription. And so it was sort of the adulting pieces of life that can overwhelm a student to tears. And so planning for those things is really, really helpful.

Stefanie Forman 16:22
So if I was one of your students, I would feel very comfortable speaking to you, it’s clear that you’re warm, and you’re passionate, and that you care for your students. And I would imagine you lead with that. But what about like, what advice do you have for students who are either in a really large lecture hall or a really large university? Because Americans about mid size? What advice can you give to them? Because it can be really daunting and to find their place in the academic community?

Dr. Andrea Malkin Brenner 16:55
That’s a really great question, because not all professors are the same. And certainly not all class sizes are the same. Often in large classes, there are breakout sessions with TAs. And so I think grad TAs are the unsung heroes of the college campus. And I encourage students to you know, even if your professor doesn’t know, you, by the end of the semester, you know, I had one semester when I was teaching three classes at AU and I had 16, Ashleys, across three classes. And you know, they just unless that student comes and makes has an impact on me, their name, right, or their or their number, and that’s terrible to say, but it’s the truth. So whatever you can do to make yourself known, and so office hours are great, getting to know your TAs great connecting with other peers in your class, I think that’s really crucial. I like to tell students make sure you meet one person that ought to be a good friend. But just one peer in every class, you have somebody if you miss class, or you’re confused about something, you can touch base, and you know, other kids are just as afraid as you are. So I would say, if you can be the one with the guts to reach out on day one or day two and say, I don’t know anyone else in this class, you know, do you want to exchange numbers? Or where do you live on campus? Or do you want to get a coffee after class and talk about what we just heard or something like that. The other thing is not every professor is going to be your mentor. And that’s okay. And you know, it’s not just faculty on a college campus, that can be great mentors, there are wonderful staff members, anyone from your RA up to you know, a student activities director or a chaplain, there are people, academic advisors all over the place. And so I think it’s important if a student doesn’t connect with a professor, especially in a very large class, where they’re overwhelmed, to really dig in and try to find some of those other people who they can connect with.

Lisa Bleich 18:46
And that’s a really good point about resources. There’s so many resources, and they seem to proliferate each year for students to take care of everything. And one of the things that you talk about is this idea. And you mentioned it before, this idea of self care, this idea of mental health, and mental well being, what advice would you give to students so that they can make sure they avail themselves of those resources?

Dr. Andrea Malkin Brenner 19:12
Yeah, that’s a great point. There are hundreds of resources on a college campus, if you take any tour of a college, you will be blown away by the number that they introduce you to. But those resources are only useful if the student crosses the threshold, right? We can talk as much as we want about how many mental health counselors we have. But if a student doesn’t even know where the Counseling Center is, it’s not any use to them. So I would say start early before orientation. orientation can actually be disorienting to a lot of students. It’s just such an overwhelming parade of resources. And even though everybody’s good, meaning, well, meaning, it’s very challenging sometimes, especially if you’re trying to make friends and get along with your roommate and connect and find your way around and things like that. So it’s really important as soon as that student actually It’s their deposit, they decide this is my school, they can start connecting with that school online. And you know, this is one of the silver linings of COVID is that all those campus resources now have far better websites than they used to. And so I would encourage students to you know, if you think you’re going to need Disability Services, if you think you might need help with writing, especially if English as a second language, if you think that you would like to connect with a spiritual community, extracurricular activities, clubs and organizations, all of that can be done in advance, you can message people, message, even student leaders of clubs and organizations, I’m coming in as a as a new first year students, and I really want to try out for the acapella group, you know, what can you tell me about it, especially for students who have social anxiety, I think, a club and Activities Fair, which will take place on every college campus in the beginning, very similar to the ones thrown at high schools, but you know, 20 times the size, that can be overwhelming. And that’s not the best place to start learning about the resources on a college campus, it’s better to learn in advance. And I always say to students, you know, if you’re gonna use mental health services, the time to learn where they are, and how many free sessions you might have, and the hours, it’s not when you’re in crisis, it’s before. And so I think that’s really, really important. So it’s, and then I think it’s crucial for parents to learn about those resources, too. So when the student calls as they may very well do and say, to, you know, a mom or a dad, like, maybe this isn’t the right place for me, I’m unhappy, I’m homesick, whatever it might be, that the parent can pull out of their back pocket, you know, oh, don’t forget the counseling centers open these hours, this is where it’s located, that you’ve done your research as a parent to, so you can push students in the right direction.

Lisa Bleich 21:51
That’s a really, really good point. The exercise that we both found really interesting was that 168 exercise, can you talk a little bit about that? I think it’s good for adults, as well and explain what it is and how you’ve seen students use it effectively.

Dr. Andrea Malkin Brenner 22:08
Yes, absolutely. And I did not create the exercise, but I used it many, many, many times. So there are 168 hours in a week. And it’s an exercise that I love to encourage high schools to to have their students do or families have their students do. So basically, what you do is you chart out your entire week, every single hour of the week on a chart, there’s a chart on my book, but you can create it on your own. And you start writing down what you do every hour of the day for one solid week. So that might include sleeping grooming, which would be you know, showering, getting ready. socializing, studying in school, at an extracurricular activity at a work environment, whatever it is, and every hour or half hour even is broken down. And so you can actually see what you do. And then at the end of the week, it’s a great and this will be a typical week notification, we can typically, at the end of the week, actually categorize all those numbers and figure out how many hours you spent studying how many hours you spent in your extracurricular activity, or doing sports or eating, or grooming or on social media, whatever it might be, and then actually taking a deep dive with sort of a young adult brain. What happened in that time? Why do I have social media so many social media hours? And should I be cutting that down? Should I be stepping out my studying, should I be stepping back on my relaxation time. And I think it’s a great way to kind of, it’s very hard for any of us not just to high school or college students to kind of assess where the time goes. And I think it’s really, really helpful if you look over the course of the week, a typical week, and you see what you’re actually doing with your time and what you’d like to change before college.

Lisa Bleich 23:54
Yeah, that’s a really, really good point. And the same thing about money. I remember when I taught at Whittier, I Whittier College, which is a small liberal arts college. I was teaching a class, I think it was on small business management, and I was having teaching students about Excel, and how to create profit and loss. And so I use an exercise I said, Okay, I want you guys to track your money, all of your expenses, all of the money that you have coming in. So essentially, you’re your own p&l, so your revenues and your expenses. And then let’s look at where you’re spending all of your money. So you want to guess where most of the guys are spending most of their money, no. Beer. They’re spending most of their money on alcohol, and they’re like, Wow, I didn’t really spend that much money on alcohol. And then I had one student who said, I don’t have any expenses. And I said, really? I said, How was that possible that you don’t have any expenses like you don’t have rent or telephone or going out? She said, No, my parents pay for everything. So I didn’t have any of that license. Those are actually your expenses is just that you have someone else putting the bill for that. Yeah, that’s a little bit about the financial side and how and what do you recommend to families? Yeah,

Dr. Andrea Malkin Brenner 25:10
absolutely. For sure. I taught and I talked about this a lot in my talking college card decks, because these are discussion prompts for students and their parents. And there’s a whole section on money. And I start off saying, every student should know what their college costs and what their family is paying. So you know, is this how much of an imposition? Is this on your your parents lives? Right? How much money do you have in scholarships? How much money are you loaning, etc? What is this going to look like? So I would say right off the bat, that’s something that’s really important to know. And then I love the idea of budgeting. And we have in the book, we have a whole budgeting sheet as well. Because I do think students don’t realize how much money they spend if they went to CVS to get toiletries or go to Starbucks, what things cost, right, and then maybe compare if you had your own coffeemaker, in your dorm room, and your own small container of milk, what is that per day compared to going to Starbucks to get a drink every day. So really kind of thinking about that, I think it’s also important to not only to dig into budget, but to realize the social economic status of the people around you. We know that most high schools are fairly homogeneous. And most colleges are much more diverse than those high schools, where the students came from. And so you might be a student who is able to, you know, go out for pizza on a Saturday night and pay out of pocket. But you might have a roommate who all of their food is coming from the meal plan, because that’s their scholarship period. And how do you actually talk across difference, like a social economic difference with new friends and classmates that you’re meeting? So I think that’s a really crucial part. And I think students and their parents should start talking about those things well in advance, just like you mentioned, Lisa, that, you know, there’s, there’s a student who said, like, I pay for nothing, my parents pay for everything. I think it’s really important for families to talk about things like Amazon deliveries, and is there an unlimited budget? Is the student paying for anything? You know, what about books, maybe is even a conversation that we are fine with you buying new books versus we expect you to buy used textbooks, or now most colleges have rental systems for their textbooks. So as long as you don’t mark it in, it’s much cheaper, and you can return them. And so you know, there’s so many different avenues of things to talk about. But college is often a time where students getting a credit card for the first time. They may never have had their own checkbook before. And you know, how are they going to pay these things? Who’s responsible for prompt payments? And and what if you need something? You know, what if you lose something? What if you have to replace something? With? What are the kinds of conversations you’re going to have about that?

Lisa Bleich 27:59
We have a lot of come well, well, my kid, my kids are all out of college right now. But there was a lot of negotiation about am I paying for this? Are you paying for this? Because I essentially said, I’m gonna pay for room and board and tuition. And then everything else is on you. But there was always a lot of back and forth about well, does this count or you know, so insurance, but they knew that they were if they were going to go out for dinner that they were going to have to go back in. And I think the way that they spent their money because they knew it was coming out of their own pocket?

Dr. Andrea Malkin Brenner 28:27
No, I agree. I was talking to one family at a talk I was giving recently, and the mom had a new student going to college, but she already had a student in college. And she said, we have a deal that when my kid goes to CVS, all of the required items, soap shampoo, etc, stuff I’ll pay for, but anything that I deem a luxury item, which is you know, makeup or fun stuff for candy bars, or whatever. And so even in the same visit to that store, there would be two different credit cards used for two different purposes. So there’s families really just need to talk about it. Every family is different and can work it out on their own.

Stefanie Forman 29:01
I am very much looking forward to that day, because I have a young daughter who’s five and she has no concept and like just fine on Amazon, but and I’m like,

Dr. Andrea Malkin Brenner 29:11
occupied. Right, exactly.

Stefanie Forman 29:14
I look forward to the state of responsibility. So I think we also would love to hear your insights of how to get involved on campus. You spoke about it earlier. And how important is to find I mean, that’s ultimately that’s what everyone wants to find community and their own communities on college campuses. And so how, what’s your like, number one tip, like how do you dive in right away and these are for the students who are outgoing and gregarious and also for the students who it’s really hard for

Dr. Andrea Malkin Brenner 29:50
us if it’s okay with you. I’m gonna give two tips rather than one. Yeah. The first one is don’t expect to be best friends with your roommate. I think if you go in With an expectation that you’re aiming for best roommates, right, so respectful of each other’s time, belongings, noise, sound, you know, lights, all of that sort of stuff, making it a hospitable living environment. That is more than enough. And I think a lot of students kind of have this misinterpret, since the idea that they’re supposed to be best friends with a room and it’s all going to be perfect and wonderful. And this is going to be their bridesmaid down the road. I think so I think having being best roommates is is kind of what we should aim for, even if you know your roommate, even if that’s not a selection by the school, but your own school. And then I would say in terms of getting involved, certainly doing it as early as possible looking online. So if you want to audition for an acapella group, you see there are six of them. And you learn about each one of them and take you know, maybe even listen to concerts and things like that. I love to tell families that they should, their students should ideally aim for three extracurricular activities when they get to college, something for themselves, that’s a passion area. It could be rec, soccer, you know, yoga, meditation, photography club, whatever it is, that’s kind of their passion area, something that’ll be fun for them, then I say aim for something that gives back to the world. So that might be something through Greek life, volunteering to teach kids in the community, whatever it might be doing something for others who’ve got doing something for yourself doing something for others. And then the third one I like to suggest is something that’s either on your academic or career path. And it could be something small, it could be just, you know, joining a business fraternity or going to an economics club, or going to lectures on the psychology department, just something so you’re kind of learning and exploring, even if it’s just a few things each semester. That doesn’t mean you absolutely need to know as a freshman, what you’re going to do with your life and your career, but just kind of start exploring that academic or employment opportunity. And if you have all three of those lined up, you can drop one, if it feels overwhelming, you get dropped two, if it feels different, you can always add them. But I think it’s a great way to start. And you know, we know the data shows that students are more likely to find new friends in their extracurricular activities. That’s usually the people that they become close with, because they do share a passion. If you just love whatever that particular topic is, find a club, join it, if it doesn’t exist, create one, because you will find like minded people, they aren’t necessarily all going to be in your hall of your residence, or your dorm, your residence hall. I do think a lot of students are like, well, this is everybody there. They’re right here in my building. But in fact, they’re all over the place. And you might find somebody very different than you. But they you share the same passion area, and you’ll meet them through clubs and organizations.

Stefanie Forman 32:49
I love that I think that’s so accessible the way you break that down, and those three different areas. And then going back I also love that advice. Because right we go into college and we’re like, yeah, roommate forever. And I guess on that same vein, because I think it’s really smart to set up that expectation. Something that Leeson, our, all of our colleagues talked about that happens every year, is that we have many students who don’t fall in love with college right away. Or they’re looking at what their friends are doing and what they’re experiencing. And it’s almost like this feeling of failure. Like I’m not conquering college. So what some advice and then they end up a lot of them end up loving it. And they have that experience that they want. But what is some advice that you would give to students and their parents on how to help each other during you know, this time, it’s they’re not loving their college experience right away?

Dr. Andrea Malkin Brenner 33:41
Yeah. And I think that’s a great point and kind of prepping family, especially students that there they may feel unsure of the school that they started at. So I would say don’t make any decisions until really even started talking about in depth until Thanksgiving. Because a lot of times things are terrible in October and fabulous in November. And so I can tell parents, you know, just use encouraging language. I know all transitions are challenging. This is one of the biggest life transitions, you’re at a developmental age where the all of this is going to feel overwhelming. So you’re in a very normal place. Let’s keep talking. But let’s talk through this at Thanksgiving. I would also encourage students who are struggling to talk to their RAS their resident assistants who have been trained to talk to students who are unsure or maybe even homesick to see you know, they have some advice for them about connecting. And then really spending some time talking with new college friends as well because I think the more open students are they’ll realize or other people who are also in the same situation. There’s always a counseling center on college campus. Those are great places they meet with first year students all the time, especially in that first semester to kind of talk them through This is Common these are dudes, this is ways to look at it, this is how to handle your stress. But to tell parents not to freak out, really to just expect that this is gonna, this may very likely happen that your student may not connect immediately. And kind of talk about this being a transitional time putting your self into making meaning other people joining clubs or organizations and putting yourself you know, really, really thinking hard about the academics. And then you know, it’s always a great idea to think start thinking early about the next semester, when it comes to academic classes. And I think and I’ll say this, which is actually connected to a different topic, but I think one of the things that, especially at large schools, a lot of first year students kind of go in with the idea that they’re going to be taking, like advanced astrophysics, their first semester of college, and they don’t realize how many core or intro level classes that they’re going to need. That’s not every college, but that’s majority of colleges. And so have a kind of a reality check that probably the beginning, it’s not going to be quite as fascinating as you thought it was going to be. And it’s maybe even be a little bit of a slog, but that doesn’t mean you can’t talk to upper class students in your academic department and see or even take a look online and see what classes are in the future to kind of get yourself excited about the next steps. Because the toughest, the toughest time is that first semester of college and in all avenues.

Lisa Bleich 36:25
Yeah, one of the things that was really interesting about your book was, it was very much focused on students being independent, and taking agency and taking control of their own lives. But what we see is that there’s a lot of parents that are still managing their kids lives, even as they see that. And it’s funny, because Ali, who is not here today, but she was she was telling us how when her son started freshman year, she was all over him, like, you know, you’re not taking that class, you’re taking this class, and she planned out the whole thing. And now he’s going into his senior year, next year, and she has no idea what his schedule is, and, and she asked to see it. And he’s like, Mom, no, you’re not, I don’t want you saying you have nothing to do with this. So there was that, that launching right of independence. But what would you recommend to parents so that they can support their kids without taking away their agency?

Dr. Andrea Malkin Brenner 37:23
Right? And I love to eat? That’s a great question. I’d love to say to parents, look, it’s not that you’re being cut out of parenting your child or guiding your child. It’s your responsibility, though two things one, step back in ways that your child’s can step up, right. So if your child is a junior or senior in high school, and you’re so worried waking them up with an alarm and making their lunch and reminding them to bring their cleats for soccer, you need to stop doing those things, your child has to fail in small comfortable ways at home, right? They’re not going to derail their future if they leave their history homework in the printer. But you are enabling them by drop pick, taking it out of the printer and dropping it off at school, right? So do not do that. Leave it in the printer, let your child figure out how to talk to their teacher have I did the assignment I left it at home, can I turn it in late and even if there’s a penalty for that, they will learn from that experience. So I would say fail and safe ways in high school is a great place to do that. I’m not talking about big safety, emergency medical stuff, I’m talking about failing unsafe ways. So that’s one ways that parents can kind of step back is to stop doing some of the enabling things that they’re doing. The other as I mentioned earlier, is as soon as you know where your child’s going to college is to really be plugged in being that you’re not the first fixer in that child’s life, they become their own fixer. So what are what are the things I love to say to families I do with my own kids is, don’t call me when you have a problem, unless it’s an emergency emergencies are always welcome. And parents should always be notified. But don’t call me when you have a problem. Call me when you have a problem. And you’ve kind of thought out some type of solution doesn’t have to be a perfected solution. But I want you to go through that adult process of problem solving. You know that that happens frequently. It certainly happens. i My daughter is out of college when my son is going to be a senior. And we do that all the time. He’ll call and be like, alright, I had this issue. This is what I did to solve it. And either it worked itself out or it’s still a problem and can you help me solve it? Rather than you know, Mom, I have a problem. What should I do? And the parent says, because the parents are really good fixer. We’re excellent at this right? And the parent says well, you should do this. You know? No, they need to figure that out on their own and use those resources. So the more the family knows about those resources and can say this sounds like a problem for your RA not me right? My heats broken. Oh, well I’m pretty sure that you should be talking to Residence Life about that. Right and not being the one to call the school to say my kids heats not working.

Lisa Bleich 39:56
Such great advice. I there’s always a joke in my family that I Never answer my cell phone. And so it actually ended up being a really good thing because whenever my youngest most would call me with a problem, by the time I got the message, it was maybe four or five hours later, I would call her back. She said, No, I figured it out. So really need me to figure it out for her. She just figured it out on her own. So is there like a thing? Is there anything else that you want to share? You know, as we’re thinking about moving into the summer, are there any things that either students or parents can do? Like top three things as they launch into college?

Dr. Andrea Malkin Brenner 40:30
My car decks have great what would you do scenarios? Even if you don’t buy the car decks? You can create your own? What would you do scenarios, parents? And so what would you do? If you lost your cell phone? What would you do? If you know you can’t find your winter coat in a snowstorm? What would you do? Whatever it is, knowing your child’s strengths and weaknesses, you know, what would you do in this scenario? So I wouldn’t say those are great dinner table conversations, any kind of what would you do college scenario that where there’s not necessarily one right answer, but there is a kind of teased out conversation. So I love that idea is an exercise that super easy for any family can do. And I talk about it quite a bit. It’s an exercise we created years ago, and it works really, really well. It’s about 20 minutes, as a parent and a student sit in the same room, but not so they can see each other’s papers, they each have one piece of paper and a pen. And you set a clock, depending on your children child’s ability to focus 1520 minutes, even 10 minutes, and say, Okay, I want you to make a list numbered list, I want you to write down everything, kids student, I want you to write down everything you think you need to learn before you go to college that you don’t yet know, parent, I want you to write down everything you think your child needs to learn before college that you think they don’t yet know. And you set a clock and everybody writes, and then you take a break, go do something else. And then you come back at another time and you compare the lists and you talk about them. And then you create a new list. That is a combination. And what happens when this is done is sometimes students are worried about things they don’t need to worry about. And almost every list of a high school often boy, it will say I’m nervous because they don’t know how to do my taxes, oh taxes, this aha moment of Wait a second, that’s not something you need to panic about right now. Right? Eventually you will learn that but let’s let’s talk about the things that are really important. And a parent will say, you know, my student doesn’t know how to do XYZ, their laundry, talking to adults make their own dentist appointment, whatever it might be. And then they can actually have a conversation about who is going to teach each one of these tasks. And I think the most important part of the exercise is that where the student is lacking, those areas do not have to be taught by the parents. And in fact, I think it’s a great idea to tease out a friend and older sibling and uncle, a neighbor, a teacher, whomever it is, that can teach them to do XYZ better or better prepare them for it. And then the student kind of has their own personalized list that can move on. The other thing that comes out of this exercise is a really open dialogue between parent and teen about what are you anxious about about college? You know, I see there’s a lot of stuff on your list about making friends, for example, is this a big worry for you? Let’s talk about ways that you can, you know, start tackling this early on.

Lisa Bleich 43:23
Yeah, that’s such good advice. Yeah, I love that too. Well, thank you so much, Andrea, for coming on to college male mentor, and thank you CBMs for tuning in. One thing I forgot to ask is Where do we find you?

Dr. Andrea Malkin Brenner 43:34
I’m sure absolutely. So, is my card deck website, But both are inter-related. So you can find me on both of those is sort of my talks for high schools and colleges. And you can find information about the book on both of those sites. And I’m I’m all over the place of people follow me on social media. There’s lots of free tips, free advice, there’s giveaways. I do lots of webinars. I do lots of talks at local high schools.

Lisa Bleich 44:03
Fantastic. Well, we will definitely add that to our resources. We appreciate you on our podcast and to catch more episodes of College Bound Mentor, make sure to Follow or Subscribe on your favorite podcast platform and tell a fellow parent or student about this podcast. To learn more, visit Until next time, you got this!

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