I was glad to see her thriving with terrific friends, enthusiastically engaging in the sorority experience, excited about her classes and already looking forward to sophomore year housing plans, campus internship, winter service trip to Ghana and professors she’d be learning with.
This was a big change from my daughter during my visit for Parent’s Weekend in mid-October and much of her first semester. During those times, she was often feeling very lonely, questioning whether her school choice was the right one and missing home immensely.
As a person who jumps right into new situations, who has a wide array of close friends from many phases and stages of life and who has a lot to offer, she (and we) had not fully anticipated that the college adjustment process would be much more gradual than expected.
Adjusting to College Life
Our kids often hear us reflecting on college as being the “best years of our lives,” where lifelong friendships were formed.
I even had the luck of being (randomly) paired with a roommate who became one of my closest friends from the very first day of school.
And through social media, our kids are inundated with hundreds of online “friends” who look to be having a blast with their new BFFs at their schools.
(My daughter often tells my husband and me that we are so lucky to have gone to college before the advent of social media!)
Meanwhile, these newly-minted college freshmen are still trying to figure out who to have their next meal with at the dining hall, whether they will have anyone to go to a party with that night, or who they will sit next to in class.
The prospect of anyone at school becoming as good a friend as those they had at home or camp seems unfathomable at this early stage of the game.
Settling In Takes Time
Though it sounds cliche, in most cases it is true that ADJUSTING TO COLLEGE TAKES TIME.
With time and perseverance, new college students will push through and find “their place,” meet “their people,” have experiences that will make them feel at home, and begin to have — and enjoy — the experiences that initially attracted them to their school.
It takes time for friendships to form.
Acquaintances or fast friends from first semester may not evolve into closer relationships — whereas someone they casually met or new people they meet through a club, sport or sorority may become the true friends.
They need to get oriented to the college workload, and start to get a sense of their potential major and what professors they want to have next semester.
And if the reality of life at school is ultimately not what a student envisioned, the decision isn’t permanent – some may decide to leverage the learnings and transfer to a school that is ultimately a better fit.
Though I am admittedly stereotyping, I’d say this is tougher for girls.
In general, they tend to be more sensitive, more emotional and more self-conscious — and where there are girls, there is usually some form of drama.
Boys often seem to bond over watching or playing sports, having a beer together or just goofing around. And in the end, the experience is different for each person – for some it will be very smooth, and for others it will be more challenging.
Transitioning to College Life
My daughter and I are both honest when asked “how’s it going” — we share that transitioning was tough and that it is going great now.
I am sure there will be more ups and downs to come over the next three years. We have since heard from many other people that their children had a challenging time adjusting to college and the situation gradually changed for the better.
Of course, having the mental health “talk” with your child before they leave will assure them that there will always be someone they can talk to if they are experiencing more than just “typical” freshman stress.
As a parent wanting to pay it forward to other parents – keep all this in mind as your young adult leaves home to embark on his/her college experience.
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By Tracy Levine. Following a 20-year career in corporate marketing, Tracy is enjoying her “second career” as a Jewish communal professional in the camping field – she’s a big believer in overnight camp as great prep for college, as well as having fun and a much-needed break from technology!