Mini-Post: The College Conversation That I Hope Parents & Students Will Have This Thanksgiving

Posted by on Nov 21, 2012 in Communicating with Professors, General | 6 comments

Talk about it before the pie, after the pie… when you’re chipping away at it for breakfast. The college conversation is going to come up while you’re visiting. Give it a little twist.

To all my treasured blog readers, I hope you have a magnificent holiday! I wish you all abundance.

I was thinking about all of the students who will be visiting home or even speaking to their parents from afar during these next few days. Inevitably, this seemingly benign, but potentially charged question will arise:

“How’s college going?” or “How are your classes?”

Now if college is going great, then a wonderful discussion, right? (Too fuzzy?).

If things aren’t going so well, then the conversation could become tense, uncomfortable… disastrous. And who wants that?

So I have two requests during this holiday:

First, for parents: Instead of asking the above, I am going to suggest a twist–a far more productive question for your student:

“Hey, I know you’re coming to the end of your term. Have you checked your grades with your professor to make sure they have everything recorded correctly for you?”

Now this question will likely take your student off-guard. You can add, “I’ve heard sometimes profs make mistakes when they record grades.” (Yeah, you can totally lay this one on us).

The reason I’m proposing it is because too many students come to profs at the bitter end of the semester or quarter and decide to suddenly worry about their grades. Your student has a far better chance of either taking care of a problem or just confirming their good standing by having a quick check-in when they return from the holidays. You can offer that gentle reminder–and open up the conversation about how college is going in a slightly different way. If your student is struggling, they may still become defensive, or you may get a mumble, but hopefully you’ll put a question in their mind of, “Hey, I wonder if I should check my grades.”

Students, now your side of this: Any guess what I’m going to say? Go see your professors when you return to school and check your grades! The time to have those conversations is not weeks from now, it’s immediately … before your term ends.

Over the past week or so, at least six students have smartly e-mailed or come in to see me to check various grades–and our term here in the Pacific Northwest doesn’t end for several more weeks. I can take care of many problems now, far more easily than I can on December 15th when our term is done. Aside from the grade check-in’s, ensuring grade accuracy is definitely important. My course management system didn’t transfer a whole set of grades from an assignment recently, and I only knew about it because a student told me. Thank goodness! Also, profs make mistakes. We’re human, after all.

I blogged about all of this in a post called “Your Must-Do Move After Mid-Terms,” but, of course, an end-of-term conversation is different than a mid-term conversation due to the time. Still, you can definitely modify some of these tips.

I don’t want to bring this up, but if you think you might be failing, I have a helpful post about how to have that conversation with your prof, as well: “You Failed Your Class, Now What?”

I hope you have amazing holidays full of connecting communication.

Let’s make those college conversations positive and productive. You deserve it!


  1. This is excellent advice for professors and students. It can help to prevent those very difficult situations and surprises that may arise when grades for the term become available on-line. – A Must Read. Happy Thanksgiving from all of us at Student Caring!

    • David, thank you so much! I’m sorry for the delay on my response to this. I hope all students took it… and I’m about to now post about the next steps :-) .

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