A Thanksgiving Warning

Leaving campus last night and driving to work this morning there is a marked difference in parking spots. I work on a campus where there is a strategy to getting a place to park. So, on mornings like today, a quick look around, and you know it must be time for a break or holiday.

Many students across the country are headed home or have already made it to their destination for Thanksgiving break. Thanksgiving break is a nice time for parents to reconnect with their students. For many, you may not have seen your child for a significant amount of time since move-in day. As much as you are looking forward to it, I am sending you this warning: You may get sick of each other sooner than you anticipated.

Students have been on their own for the last few months. They may come home, drop their things, only to take off to catch up with high school friends. Remember FOMO (Fear of Missing Out) is a real thing for our media and socially savvy children. Thanksgiving Eve is the busiest party night for bars and pubs across the US. Don’t be surprised if a newly turned 21-year-old wants to go out. Don’t be surprised if an under 21-year-old wants to go out too.

Back in my residence life days, I used to encourage parents to adjust their expectations for their new adult children. Consider setting new rules for children who have been, for the most part, independent over the last few months. I would also remind students that they will be back under their parents’ roof.  Remember to be respectful of your parents’ rules. Don’t forget to spend time with the people who helped you get to college. Help your parents around the house. My favorite suggestion: help the cook clean up after the big meal. If the cook is one of your parents, time in the kitchen can be time spent on catching up. How about asking your parents what has been going on in their life while you have been away. Recognition of their life without you (yes, life exists without you), may just astound them – in a good way. If the cook is not your parent, help anyway. Your mom and dad will notice, and it will fill them with pride.

Enjoy this time together. Be aware and sensitive to the changes that have likely occurred in the parent/child relationship. Be thankful for each other rather than sick of each other. Most importantly give your parents a hug (maybe even more than one).

***Here is another blog on the same topic. It’s very good!! Thanksgiving, with College Students: Fantasy, Reality and Getting it Right.



It’s getting close to that time of year when students are focusing on the next break in the academic calendar. Only just around the corner, Thanksgiving is dangling in front of us like a carrot. It’s not just the students who see the break ahead, but faculty and staff too. We all know that we have a few days of R&R, and for some, this may include much-anticipated family traditions.

Traditions don’t just apply to family. Traditions can be a part of any group or organization. My family has a few traditions, and I’ve started a few with my kids over the years. I have a wonderfully crazy group of friends that began with friendships in kindergarten. When we are together, we can tell you stories of our traditions and how they began. Even on college campuses across America, you will find traditions that are unique to the institution. On my campus, we have an annual Banana Day. Yep, Banana Day.

What is it that we like about traditions? I think it’s that feeling of knowing what to expect and look forward to. Traditions become part of the culture. On a college campus, annual traditions create a sense of connectivity between students, alumni, faculty and staff. Regardless of how silly or serious, traditions can make us feel proud to be a part of a group.

Thanksgiving in and of itself is an American tradition. As a non-religious holiday, it is a tradition that all Americans can celebrate. Did you know that many colleges and universities have specific traditions that relate directly to Thanksgiving? Here are just a few:

Ohio State University holds a Thanksgiving dinner every year. It started with less than 40 students who were not going home for the holidays. Now, Ohio State University holds a Thanksgiving dinner for hundreds of students who remain on campus during the break. They even keep the residence halls open too.

Lehigh University hosts a Turkey Trot for the campus before the holiday. The run is a good way to burn some calories before the big meal, and it’s tons of fun too.

Many international students are not going home over the break. Often you will hear of generous faculty and staff that open their homes to these students. In fact, I know of several faculty that do this every year, and they love it. The Thanksgiving Match-Up at Smith College has taken this general idea and formalized it. Can you imagine the interesting and educational conversations around the table? In fact, if international students make a connection with the host faculty member, it often leads to a lifetime friendship.

Lebanon Valley College has a 50+ year tradition of the football team leading the college community to the college president’s lawn, requesting the day before Thanksgiving off. The March to Kreiderheim (the name of the president’s house) began when LVC won a football game against a rival school and petitioned for the day off. What once began as a march of football players now involves hundreds of members of the college community. I’ll bet it’s not too often that their president says no.

Does your college have a Thanksgiving tradition? If so, I would love to hear about it.

Financial Aid and Some Upcoming Changes

Attending college today is an enormous expense that many families plan for well in advance. Even with the best savings plan in place, you still may fall short of the required amount. Federal Student Aid can help students with the cost of higher education.
I am not an expert in the field of financial aid, yet I recognize that funding an education can be a source of much anxiety and confusion. I will do my best to impart some basic knowledge concerning the Federal Student Aid programs that are available. Hopefully, this will be a quick overview to eliminate some of that anxiety and confusion.
The information below was gathered from the Federal Student Aid website. I highly encourage you to spend some time looking at the site if you have financial aid questions.
The office of Federal Student Aid offers more than $150 billion annually for colleges and career schools in the form of grants, loans, and work-study funding. That’s a lot of money that is available to students across the country seeking a higher education! This money can be used for tuition, room and board, and books. To be awarded any money, you must begin by filling out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, commonly referred to as the FAFSA.


When applying, keep in mind there are FAFSA deadlines. There are federal and state deadlines, as well as deadlines imposed by your colleges. Remember, the financial aid process is separate from the school application process. If you would like to receive federal aid, you will have to fill out both the school application and the FAFSA. If you are eligible for financial aid, you will receive an award letter (from the accepting college) explaining federal and non-federal options that the school is offering.


There are three types of financial aid: grants, student loans, and work-study. Below is a brief overview:

I.   Grants – Money awarded to students that does not need to be repaid.

II.   Loans – Money that is being borrowed for school and does need to be repaid.

A. Federal Loan

  • Offered at low fixed interest rates
  • Repayment plans may be deferred or adjusted based on income.
  • Loans may be consolidated to only monthly bill
  • Student loan interest may be deducted on taxes
  • Some federal loans may even be forgiven based on your career or employment.

B. Non-Federal Loan

  • Money borrowed from a lender such as a bank, credit union, state agency or school.
  • This money must be paid back, often at various interest rates.

*If you plan on borrowing money for education, the federal loan should be used first.

III.   Student Work-Study – Part-time, on-campus employment earning at least minimum wage.

I find knowing the three types of financial aid is a good basis for understanding. You can read more in-depth information from the Federal Student Aid webpage. For more detailed information on Private and federal loans, I recommend the chart provided on their webpage. Also, each university and college has financial aid officers and should have information on their university webpage. Both are a resource for you.

New changes: For the 2017-2018 academic year, the FAFSA will become available October 1, 2016 – rather than in January 1, 2017. Families will have more time to prepare their financial information. In addition, parents will be asked to report income from two years prior. For example, students using the FAFSA for the academic year of 2017-2018 will need to retrieve tax information from 2015, and can file as early as October 1, 2016. This change will help better align FAFSA with many admissions application deadlines.
For more information on FAFSA, please visit the Federal Student Aid website.