Feeling Lonely? Five Tips for College Freshmen
If you are among the college freshmen who have transitioned to a campus, you probably just finished a whirlwind of orientation activities (even if online), settled into your room, and perhaps attended a few classes, or had some socially-distanced interactions with the other students on your hall. You have probably met a few nice people—but likely it doesn’t feel the same as it does with your high school friends— maybe it’s not even close. Here are a few points to keep in mind:
- Give it Time. Chances are you spent years forming the bonds you have with your high school friends. You have only known your roommate (if you have one) or the other students in your dorm for mere days. Strong friendships don’t happen overnight. And they may take longer to develop with social distancing restrictions. I recall several students over the years who called me in September of their freshman year expressing interest in transferring. When I checked back with them a few months later, a common reaction went like this: “Oh. Right. I forgot I called you about that. I love it here now.”
- Join Something. Did you know that the number one initiative a student can take to ensure their happiness in college is to join an activity? This is backed up by reams of research. So get yourself to a virtual club fair or log into the clubs and organizations page of the college website and find an activity to try. And if you don’t like the first one, try another. Go out for any intramural teams still being offered, tryout for a cappella, sign up to tutor elementary students who may not be able to go to school themselves, phone bank for the upcoming elections, DJ a campus radio show, or join the campus activities board to plan school events. There are many opportunities and at least one will fit you.
- Stay on Campus. Resist the urge to leave your campus on the weekend to go home or to visit high school friends at their colleges (with Covid this is not likely allowed anyway). The first few weekends at college are important opportunities to engage with your peers and explore all that the campus has to offer. While there are less offerings in Covid times, if you leave you will still miss out on making those important early connections.
- Ask for Help If You Need It. If you find yourself feeling sad or lonely for any reason, make an appointment with the counseling office on campus and talk with someone who not only serves as a sounding board, but also gets to know you and direct you to resources on campus that may be in line with your interests. Your Resident Assistant (RA) is also a good person to contact with any concerns.
- Call, Instagram, SnapChat, Text. While we don’t advise leaving campus in the crucial first weeks, that doesn’t mean you can’t connect with your friends and family in other ways. Keeping in touch with old friends will sustain you as you find your way in college. Hearing mom or dad’s voice might give you the comfort you need. And if your parents are not too far away, perhaps you can invite them to stop by and take you out for a Sunday picnic. If distance precludes that, ask them to send you an old-fashioned snail mail letter.
The first year of college marks a new beginning. I love this excerpt from one of my favorite books Angle of Repose by Wallace Stegner: “That old September feeling, left over from school days, of summer passing, vacation nearly done, obligations gathering, books and football in the air … Another fall, another turned page: there was something of jubilee in that annual autumnal beginning, as if last year’s mistakes had been wiped clean by summer.”
Enjoy your new beginning.