The beginning of the best four years of your life – that is what a college student hears so often when they arrive at college for the freshman year. According to parents and other students, the world is now at their fingertips just waiting for them to explore it and find their place in it. It’s exciting, it’s nerve-racking, it’s overwhelming… and it’s completely different for each student.
The first few days and sometimes weeks of college aren’t actually school days – there are a series of parties and get-togethers where each student is trying to find their place. After that, things start to get serious: classes begin, the parties calm down (kind of…), hopefully there is a rhythm to the days and each student makes friends, gets involved and figures out how to manage it all while still paying attention to the academics (which is really why they are at college, after all). But what happens when things don’t go quite that smoothly? Maybe your student has the routine down but still doesn’t feel quite right? Maybe they aren’t having the incredible time that everyone raves about? Maybe they think that something is wrong? Friends and family ask, “How’s college?” and their reply is automatically “It’s amazing! The best! I absolutely love it!” …But that isn’t actually how they are feeling?
Now that they have finished their first semester it’s a good time to check in with them. How does your student really feel? Were they depressed at all, lonely, maybe even a little home sick? Did they talk about these feelings with their friends at school or from home? If they did, and each was telling the truth then they probably heard that indeed their friend also shared these feelings. Hopefully this won’t come as a shock to them – hopefully each student can admit that college can sometimes be less than incredible.
More often than not if each student is honest they can share that they have similar feelings. They may occur at different times and in relation to different events. Maybe a friend had a sad sorority experience? Or maybe someone had a difficult professor? Or maybe a roommate problem? Or maybe there were just some nights where the loneliness set in but dissipated in the morning? Chances are all our students feel that they are the only one having these feelings. That is why it is so important to open up and have this conversation. More than likely they will find that their friends had been feeling the exact same way but may have been too afraid of judgment to express it. If so, as the conversation progresses they won’t feel so alone. They will understood that there are plenty of people around who are just like them but too proud to admit it.
It’s important for your student to recognize all the feelings that they experienced this semester. It’s okay if they acknowledge that their first semester may not have been completely perfect. Your student should know that once they can be truthful about it then they can explore the why and the how and move on. The obvious truth that is so often overlooked is that college is a huge change. People tend to look back at their experience as a whole and remember the great times and eliminate the not-so-great ones. It is completely natural to have trouble your first semester. It might seem like you’re the only one, but more than likely you’re not. Everyone adjusts differently and there is nothing wrong with that. Don’t be afraid to express this, you’d be surprised how many people feel the same way. Just check in with your student and have a truthful conversation about their experience this semester. In almost every case students settle in, find their best friends, make memories, become inspired by classes and peers, find their balance and one-day wake in the middle of the best four years of their life.Tags: adjustment, college, college student, experience, Freshman, happy, home sick, honesty, lonely, semester