Advice to students: Take risks, failure will not kill you

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Even though every first day I would curl up on the living room sofa with the shakes before breakfast, as a kid I loved school.
In grammar school, I wanted to be first in line, salivated over books and got picked really late for dodge ball.
In high school, I had a great group of friends, was active in numerous clubs and had leadership roles in a couple, and earned straight As.
College changed things a bit. During my undergrad years, I focused way too much on my boyfriend attending school in North Jersey and didn’t think to join anything or make friends until a year after we split up, and by then – senior year – it was really too late to try to get acclimated.
While attending grad school in my 40s, I returned to my love of learning, giddily earning my master’s in writing arts from Rowan University 25 years after I earned my bachelor’s degree in communication there.
Today, in addition to working full time as a PR person at Rowan, I also teach one or two courses a year in the university’s Department of Public Relations and Advertising. And I’m still learning.
And so, while I do not have children, as a former kid, as a long-time student and as an adjunct professor, I offer some suggestions as September quickly approaches to the parents of those kids curled up with the shakes and the college students leaving home for the first time.
• Students – Join something that interests you. Clubs, projects, activities, events – these will help you learn more about who you are and what you want to be. They will help you meet people who share your passions and may become your friends. They will bind you to people and places and philosophies. And related to this, take risks. Failure will not kill you. Achievements – especially unexpected ones – will make you soar.
• Parents and students – Ask questions. Push if you have to. Parents – If you have a problem with an IEP, for example, advocate for your child. Students – if you don’t understand something, there is no shame in asking a question. Ever. That’s a key way to learn.
• Students and parents – get help. Schools – at least my school – are equipped to help students with academic, emotional and physical needs. Check out tutoring centers if you are struggling with math. See a counselor if you have having trouble coping with any type of situation. Ask for accommodations if you have cognitive or physical issues. Administrators, professors, teachers, aides – a whole slew of people in education – are not just there to draw a paycheck. They are committed to young people and to education.
• Parents – let go. Let go in small increments when your kids are young, after issuing all the warnings, explaining all the values and while still offering a safety net, so you can let go in larger ones when they are older. Your ultimate goal is to raise a happy, healthy, contributing adult who can stand on his/her own feet.
• Students – have fun. I quote my late grandmother (who used to drive me crazy with this phrase, I confess) – “These are the best years of your life.”

Patricia Quigley is a member of Incarnation Parish, Mantua.