Tough Student Transitions…
Sorority life in the fall is full of theme parties and football games…homecoming displays and parades…philanthropies and big/little sister revelations…inspiration week…So many incredible opportunities for my daughter to forge friendships and relieve a bit of academic stress. Yet, I had forgotten just how overwhelming and lonely that first semester of college can be for a new freshman. Even when pledging a sorority along with several other young women, it is a challenge to create those initial bonds amidst work, class schedules and studying.
In these first few weeks of her first college semester, I have spent a good deal of time listening to Mary Claire share her heartache and frustration in trying to find her own rhythm, in her stories about the choices others make and her wonderment in how she fits in with those, in her search to seek out friends who share her common values. I wonder if other parents reading this blog have experienced the same highs and lows I have with Mary Claire, who, from my perspective, is doing an excellent job in balancing sleep, academic projects and exams, smart social choices, etc. Yet, from her perspective she often feels overwhelmed, tired and lonely in not feeling like she’s ‘on top of her game’ like she felt in high school.
Why the difference in perspectives? She feeling like a nobody and me seeing her as so vibrant with much success ahead of her? Experience and maturity will allow her at some point to be okay with not feeling comfortable in her new “home” just yet. In the mean time, what can we do to support and encourage our new college student? I would welcome ideas as the semester rolls on. Personally, I have been briefly checking in with Mary Claire on a daily basis and when listening to her share her day with me, I find at least one success to highlight for her. Because we share the same college town, her Dad or I have taken her to lunch a few times as well. Even buying her a few food items when I do my own family shopping can be a thoughtful gesture. If you don’t live in the same town, mailing a ‘care package’ in the next few weeks with family favorites would be HUGE in lifting an overwhelmed freshman’s spirits! I know just listening to her articulate her feelings over the phone has relieved some of her stress.
Encourage your daughter to eat a meal or two at the sorority house each week in addition to her Monday night formal dinner. Often the sorority will offer free or reduced meal rates for new members to entice them to come over more often since they do not live in just yet. It can be difficult at first to make those connections with their new sisters so every interaction in healthy environments helps. The night Mary Claire learned who her big sister was and the evening of the All House Retreat were two of her favorite experiences she shared with me where she began to feel closer to her new college family.
Additionally, It is so important for them to know when they need to ask for help; Making that advisor appointment in planning for next semester, knocking on a Residence Hall Assistant’s door if they have a roommate issue or talking one on one with the sorority new member educator if they are not feeling connected can all be ways to create comfort and confidence. Asking for help is a life skill we all need to continue to practice. Check in on her won’t you?
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