College is a time of great intellectual and emotional change for everyone involved: students, as well as their parents, siblings, and friends.
By week 5 or 6, new students start to figure out that college is not like high school. Papers start to come due; mid-terms are looming; group projects are underway. Socially, students start to feel the need for time management to fit in sleep, work, and athletics with their academic assignments. By now friendships have been established but will continue to change as the semester progresses. Most are looking forward to October break. Parents, too, look forward to having their college student around again. Parents may be disappointed to discover that students home on break just want to sleep or hang out with their home-town friends. Frank conversations may be needed about expectations. Students are now used to eating, sleeping, and socializing on their own schedule. Parents may expect the student to seamlessly return to the family’s schedule. When that doesn’t happen, disappointment, sadness, maybe even anger and resentment appear. Students may be feeling similar thoughts about their changing relationships with their childhood friends. It is a time of great change and adjustment for everyone. Patience, flexibility, and communication are the tools that will help get past this hurdle.
When students return to campus after October break, reality hits. If they did not take their academics seriously for the first part of the semester, they have a lot of catching up to do. On the family side, parents and siblings may experience separation anxiety all over again. It is not uncommon for students to start questioning their choices of majors, classes, and living situations. The weeks between October break and Thanksgiving are filled with tests and homework as students continue to make new friends and adjust to new relationships. Students also need to complete their Soundings requirements or risk having to repeat the course.
Thanksgiving break brings new challenges. Students may find themselves worrying about money. Where did all their summer savings go? They may spend Thanksgiving break sleeping and studying or they may reconnect with other high school friends also home from college. Some of those connections will still be solid, and some will have changed dramatically. The weeks after Thanksgiving are a blur of finishing projects and papers, and studying for finals. Some students experience homesickness as they think about the holiday traditions they are missing at home. Others are stressed because they have no time to shop for their families and friends and no money to spend.
The three weeks between the end of finals and the start of the spring semester maybe a time for everyone to take a deep breath, to revisit some favorite family pastimes, and to get reacquainted with this “new” college student.
Associate Dean of Students