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How to talk to your student about last semester

Nov 28, 2022
5 min Read
Anne DeLuca
A Creighton student talks to his parent

Your student is home for the holidays.

While there’s plenty of time for celebrating, it's also a good opportunity to discuss their time at Creighton. My best recommendation: Keep the conversation simple.

You can start with a single question: “If the last semester was a traffic light, how would you describe it?”

  • Green light: The semester went well.
  • Yellow light: The semester was OK.
  • Red light: The semester did not go well.

Based on how your students described their semester, we have some suggestions on where this conversation can go.

Green Light

College is the time to be challenged and to test the depths of your knowledge. Even if things are going well, you can remind your students of the importance of time management, socializing and taking care of their physical and mental health.

Yellow Light

Start with the above advice. If students share specific problems or areas that they’d like to improve, ask them if they've put together a plan for next semester.

If students have goals that they’d like to discuss for the upcoming semester, encourage them to visit the Success Center located in the lower level of the Reinert Alumni Memorial Library. They can also email

Red Light

It may be a little scary for your students to admit that they had a red-light semester. These students may be feeling increased stress and pressure. Use this opportunity to listen and offer support. The way you react to a red-light semester can set the tone for future challenges and problem solving.

Here are some tips: 

  • Ask your student to describe things in detail, and you should listen without judgement. Your student is sharing their story exactly as they want you to hear it. Have patience. Focus on listening.
  • After your student has shared, it’s OK to empathize. Ask, “How did that make you feel?” Or tell them, “I’m sorry you felt that way.” You may also share a time when you faced a “red light” and how you dealt with it. Taking the time to validate what they shared and showing you believe them helps you be on the same team before problem solving.
  • Ask if you can help put together a plan.
  • Pull out a piece of paper and draw a line down the middle. On the left side, write down what didn’t go well. On the right, include everything that did go well.
  • When you’ve compiled a list, start asking your student how they can problem solve through the left side. Then see how they can amplify or add to things on the right side. It might be your instinct to jump in and help fix everything, but encourage your student to test out their own problem-solving skills. Let them drive, this can help students build confidence in facing challenges.

After you’ve had this discussion, set some expectations about when they would like you to bring up school again. Maybe it’s not until after break. Maybe they don’t' want you to bring school up until two weeks into classes. Setting this expectation can help you and your student enjoy their holiday break.

Take this time to rest, rejuvenate, and make memories with your student!

— Anne DeLuca, MA, Director of the Office of Student and Family Support

Learning to ask for help or learning that it is ok to ask a question is a part of the adulting process at college. We are here to help students thrive at Creighton.

Need help? Have a question? Students and Families can make good use of the Success Center Support Desk by calling 402.280.1212 or via email at