Thursday, September 5, 2013

Memorable Messages About College

By Richard L. Weaver II, Ph.D.

I do not remember a single memorable message about college given to me by my parents or by any other person. All I know is that as far as college was concerned, it was a foregone conclusion that everyone goes to college after high school. Perhaps, that was an embedded message that resulted from two important factors: 1) Both my parents were college educated. One was a science teacher, and the other was a university professor (a professor of conservation, natural resources, University of Michigan).

There was another element involved, too. 2) The second factor that undoubtedly had an influence on my life is that I chose (in the ninth grade) to become a doctor—probably a family doctor. Since that was my early choice, college was a necessity to obtain the goal I had set for myself.

But there are many people who do not fit into these categories, obviously, and for many of them, college is not a natural foregone conclusion. I think that if they were really aware of the circumstances in our society today, they would realize that college is a necessity—to broaden one’s job potential, to prepare oneself for life in the real world, and to be competitive in today’s job markets.

Be that as it may, this essay is really designed for the parents of children who want those children to have as one of their goals, a college education. Parents need to place emphasis on the quotation by Brian Tracy. He said, "If you wish to achieve worthwhile things in your personal and career life, you must become a worthwhile person in your own self-development."

There is some research published in January, 2012, in the academic journal, Communication Education (Volume 61, Number 1, January, 2012, pp. 44-66) that could have a bearing on parents’ success in making certain that college is a goal their children hold for their own future. The title of this 22-page article, "‘If You Can Dream It, You Can Achieve It.’ Parent Memorable Messages as Indicators of College Student Success," and its authors are Haley Kranstuber, Kristen Carr, and Angela M. Hosek. The final author is a faculty member in the Department of Communication Studies at Emerson College in Boston. The first two authors are working for their Ph.Ds in the Department of Communication Studies, University of Nebraska-Lincoln (433 Oldfather Hall, Lincoln, NE 68588-0329).

What makes this article so powerful is simple. It reports the results of a sophisticated study conducted by these authors that has positive implications for everyone: "Clearly, memorable messages about college are important and useful to college students, with far-reaching applications for both educators and parents" (p. 62).

Even more important than positive results is the fact that the authors reported some of the messages themselves. Although the specific messages may have differed some, there were five main themes (pp. 53-56): (I quote from the article, but I have refrained from using quotation marks for ease of reading.)
1) Work hard and/or play hard. Parents simply acknowledged the importance of
focus on college, and there were three subthemes within this supratheme:

a) Work hard. This memorable message emphasized the importance of students staying focused on their studies while in college. Many of the respondents noted the "point" of college was to get good grades, study hard, and/or graduate and minimized the idea that college is for life experience or for socializing.Here, I am adding a quotation that I find motivating. Hamilton Holt said this about hard work: "Nothing worthwhile comes easily. Work, continuous work and hard work, is the only way to accomplish results that last."

b) Balance work and play. Both academics and social activities are important to the college experience.

2) Play hard. These parents saw college as a time for fun and exploration, not necessarily a time for serious work. Messages such as "Don’t let your studies get in the way of your college career," or "College will be some of the best times in your life."

3) College as necessary. These were messages indicating that parents knew that a college education was mandatory for being competitive in the job market. A message such as "nowadays you have to go to college to get a great job," or "College will give you the best opportunity to do the things you want to do in life, and be able to live the life you want to lead."

4) My two cents: other advice for attending college. 

a) Do this: providing advice for good decisions. One such message was: "Your education is what you make out of it."

b) Don’t do this: cautionary tales. These messages related to risky health behaviors such as alcohol, drugs, partying, sex, and dropping out of college.

5) Support and encouragement. Parents fulfilled their children’s emotional needs during their transition to college. The messages parents sought to reassure children of their love and support, and encouraged them to use their talents to be successful in college. A message such as :"We love you, believe in you, and good luck," would be of this type.

There is more to it, with respect to results, than merely providing motivational messages. That is, the authors say, "Reflecting the students’ parental memorable messages may increase students’ perception of course relevancy and potentially increase student motivation" (p. 62). Wouldn’t that be terrific? A subtle, effective, perhaps, long-term effect of memorable messages is that students may see more relevancy in their courses and, thus, increase their motivation because of them. The point is, "Perceptions of memorable messages and parent relationships were also predictive of both college student motivation and empowerment" (p. 60).

The summary the authors used for their academic article reads as follows: "In conclusion, in the current study we analyzed the memorable messages that college students cite from parents and found that characteristics of these messages predict college student success. . ." (p. 63). The point of this essay is a simple one: Memorable messages are remembered, and they are effective. Use them — and remember what Mark Houlahan said, "If you want your life to be a magnificent story, then begin by realizing that you are the author and everyday you have the opportunity to write a new page." A college education will assure that the pages you write are significant, relevant, meaningful, eloquent, and consequential.

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Cuesta College, has a brief essay on "Characteristics of a Successful Student" and lists and discusses five characteristics.

At College, Career, Life, there is another set of characteristics discussed in the essay, "Characteristics of Successful College Students." Here they are listed as 1) Good time management skills, 2) Curiosity, 3) Persistence, 4) They talk to their professors and instructors, and 5) Ability to enjoy the moment while preparing for the future.

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Copyright September, 2013, by And Then Some Publishing LLC




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