As I continue my little series on advice to college student and their parents, there is one issue that rears its head time and time again, and in which I feel must be addressed.

It is the idea of what constitutes success. Usually for students that means, good grades, make some friends, find a significant other, and then find a job when you graduate. For parents, they are similar: good grades, good grades, don’t spend too much money, find a job…most parents are a little weary if their student gets too committed to another person in college…they often feel it inhibits their child from certain ambitions, and having the freedom to go anywhere, no strings attached.

How a student and a parent defines success during the college years is very vital, I believe.

Re-Defining Success
I tend to work with a very committed, passionate, hardworking student. The students I get from UCLA, USC, LMU, SMC, music and acting schools, tend to be high achievers. Success in their eyes is the end result…the final product…making it! Having a career, pulling in a good salary…that is how success is often defined, whether they, or we admit it or not. And over the course of a student’s career in college, and over the course of a typical school year, I see this burden and strain begin to weigh heavily upon them. Success in their eyes is all about the end result: Get good grades, so I can please the parents; so I can get into grad school; so I can get a good job. Once I get these things, then I’m ready. I think this is success in both the parents and students eyes at times. I hear this story, time and time again.

I would like to see success defined more wholistically. Success as defined by not only grades; but one’s social life; meaning, do they have good friends, a good community, a good social support; are they well-rounded; do they get involved in extra-curricular activities; do they go to church, or have a small group Bible study; do they have time to have fun, and relax; do they have time to serve the community? I think these are things that we don’t often think about enough, until we have already graduated.

I would like to see success defined in the journey, in the progression from year 1 to year 4 or 5. Not defined only by getting through to get to the end result. I would like to see students and parents have the mindset that life is happening now…it’s not on hold until they graduate, then they are adults, and can live life. Too many students wait and wait, and postpone things, hoping that once they graduate, well then, they can do the things they want.

I work with lots of students. Those who are bookworms, and pull down the 4.0’s. That’s what defines them. I work with student-athletes, who run from practice to rehab to training, and from game to game, in and out of season. They are defined by that. I work with those in the Greek system, who have one event after the other, from the beginning to the end of the school year, and I rarely see them. They are defined by that. This is a stereotype, but this is what I often see, whether they see that or not. But the students who seem to be the most well-rounded, are the ones who are involved in more than one thing; who see their life, and success, as defined by more than the one thing they are known for, whether it be grades, athletics, socially.

The students who I often witness as being the most well rounded and healthy are the ones who study and find grades to be important; but they make time for friends and community; they make time to get invovled socially, go to sporting events, and volunteer in the community; they make time for worship and Sabbath. They strike a good balance between work and play and rest.

This is something that we are not usually good at as people. Living a balanced life. And this is something we are not always good at as parents…helping model this life to our students, or helping them achieve it themselves.

This is something I need to achieve in my own life as well. And too often do I hear the regrets from those who have been all consumed by one thing during their four years. They have missed out on a lot. And not often enough, I am able to see the ones who have lived a more balance college life, finishing up with no regrets, and with a hunger to move out into the world.

So how will you define success for yourself this next year? How will you as a parent define success for your student?

These are impportant questions to begin asking, so that you both have the freedom to explore them together.