Although we may not realize it on a college campus, grandparents are everywhere. According to information from the U.S. Census Bureau, nearly one in every four adults living in the United States identifies as a grandparent. Most of those individuals are baby boomers, ranging from ages 45 to 64. This suggests that the majority of college students in the United States are likely to have experienced being alive with at least one grandparent in their life. It is predicted that this number will rise over the next decade, allowing U.S. grandparents the opportunity to further partake in the lives of both their grandchildren and adult children.

For many college students, grandparents function as a support system and play a vital role as advocates for higher education. When discussing the connection between college students and their grandparents, the conversation steers toward a direction of financial assistance — how much to contribute, when to contribute, how to contribute. While the financial component of college is overbearing, it is imperative that college students, parents and grandparents understand that there are far more important ways that the older and younger generations can and should be connected. Oftentimes, grandparents just want to provide guidance for their grandchildren, and passing on their knowledge and wisdom is an effective way of doing so. In fact, a study conducted by researchers at Boston College has discovered that emotional connections between grandparents and their college grandchildren reduces depressive symptoms in both groups. Education — coveted by all and essential to success today — is a never-ending pursuit, and the support of grandparents in that pursuit can be invaluable.

While my Nana passed away long before I applied to college, her words resonated with me most entering this new chapter of my life: “The world is your oyster, Chel. Strive for success and do not settle for anything less.” Oysters are small enough to fit in the palm of your hand, yet manage to pack such a powerfully delicious taste. For a while, I didn’t want my world to be anything like a small oyster; I chased a bigger world filled with opportunity, diversity and space to grow. And it wasn’t until I attended a college with almost 20,000 students that I realized I actually wanted the world to be my oyster; being a part of a smaller, tight-knit community that offered me opportunity, diversity and room to grow. But I cannot take credit for this realization — those were my Nana’s words.

If it were not for her, I never would have pushed myself to embrace change. I will never shy away from the opportunity of achievement, accomplishment and triumph because of my Nana. Even without her presence during my college career, she has bestowed an everlasting effect on me, and I graciously hope that other students take the opportunity to connect and communicate with their grandparents during this pivotal stage in their lives. It creates a safe space for deep-rooted bonds with those who will gift us with invaluable knowledge, experiences and endless love.

Chelsea Strong is a junior majoring in financial economics.