Late September-Early October is a rough time of year for many college freshmen. While they have figured out their course schedules, they haven't yet found their firm footing on campuses. It's rough transitioning from seniors in high school to freshmen in college, so here are some tips to help freshmen go from forlorn to satisfied and even happy.
1. Positive talk. Many families are now only texting or speaking with their children on the phone. So when freshmen are unhappy, all they do is share sad stories. At home, you shared all kinds of stories, so we need to shift to some positive talk. We need to remind freshmen to focus on finding happiness and feature positive topics during each conversation.
2. Exercise. Many college freshmen, especially those who were athletes in high school but not in college, need to exercise. They are missing their daily endorphins, and literally and physically their bodies are depressed. So help them find exercise classes, discover the fantastic gyms on campus, encourage them to join intramural sports, or find them a trainer. Regular exercise will help them feel better right away.
3. Clear goals. With these students, we need to set clear goals each week for ways they can get engaged on campus. Their classes don't meet as often as in high school so they have more time on their hands. Help them find at least two new groups to join during the first semester or quarter. It's not too late. Think of what they loved doing at home from music to dance to robotics to competitive gaming to journalism. Think of anything brand new they want to try from ultimate frisbee to volunteering at a local school to working at the campus radio station. They can also get a job on campus and go to sporting events. They can go to religious services. Math and science kids can meet with professors and ask to volunteer in labs. No matter what, speak with your freshmen about different groups to try out each week.
4. Campus support programs. If your students continue to struggle, campuses have all kinds of programs to support them from counselors to tutoring to cultural support groups. Please encourage your freshmen to find support. Campuses really do care and want them to succeed. Resident assistants can be also be helpful as can older students in their majors, from their hometowns, or campus groups.
5. October visits. Most colleges have October family weekends. These are intentional as colleges know many freshmen are homesick right now and that a short visit from family members can perk them up. Try to visit. While there, please go around the campus and find even more ways for kids to get engaged on their college campuses. Go to a play, concert, lecture, or sporting event.
Should these tips not work immediately, have patience. Happiness in new settings and roles takes time. For truly unhappy freshmen, they still need to do well in school and be active, because no college wants to inherit unhappy transfer students.