Adjusting to College Life: The First Few Weeks

Adjusting to college life often means dealing with many things for the first time — all at the same time: learning to live with roommates, handling finances, taking care of household chores, interacting with people from other cultures with other beliefs, trying out romantic partnerships. This, in addition to new academic demands, learning how to study effectively, getting work done on time, and navigating the bureaucracy of a big institution.

Through these tasks, college students learn how they respond to life’s daily challenges and find the social and emotional support they need from the campus community, friends, and you — their family — to make their way.

Most students’ initial concerns are about forming friendships. When new students look around, it may seem that everyone else is self-confident and socially successful, when in reality, everyone has similar concerns.

Your child should find that within just a couple of weeks, some regular patterns — walking the same route to classes, eating at the same time with certain people — start to set in, making connections easier.

Still, sometimes those first friendships don’t happen as quickly as your child would like. Assure them that meaningful, new relationships do not develop overnight. Discuss ideas for connecting, such as leaving the dorm room door open when “hanging out,” inviting people to join them for a meal, or getting involved in campus activities. Help them understand that all freshmen are new to campus life; people they reach out to will most likely be relieved to have someone talk to them. While they’re sorting it out, don’t underestimate the restorative qualities of a care package from home, including notes and pictures from siblings, home-baked treats and popcorn they can share with dorm mates.

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