When your college student is struggling

When your college student is struggling

Your new college freshman was so excited about their future, their selected school, and all the hopes and dreams they had about the next four years of their life.  You shopped for dorm room décor, planned for the big move in day, and gave them that last big hug before you drove away.  You were sad they were gone but excited about their future.  But the fairytale didn't last and now your student is struggling to fit in and make friends.  Maybe they've even called crying wanting to come home.  As a parent, it's heartbreaking to see your child struggle and their big college dreams not manifest the way you all had hoped. 

sad college student

It's so hard.  And so normal.

While some students instantly find their friend group and their college experience is magical, for many the first six to eight weeks can be filled with worry, loneliness and self doubt.  This is a huge adjustment and your student may feel alone in their experience and filled with anxiety.  These feelings of loneliness and overwhelm in new college students are common.  A recent Mayo Clinic study showed that up to 44% of college students experience anxiety and depression.  As a parent, it's hard to watch your student struggle and not be able to fix the problem for them. 

So what can you do to help your student?

College freshman struggling

1. Listen to them

Don't try to minimize the feelings your student is having, but offer suggestions that may help them make friends and settle in.  Reinforce that these feelings are common and valid.  Encourage them to talk to their RA or school's counselor.  Or set up a zoom counseling appointment if you feel they need it. If the academics are the stressor, encourage them to find a tutor.  Be there when they need to talk and check in on them.  Don't reinforce failure fears, but offer encouragement and positivity while validating what they are feeling is real and hard.

College student having a hard time making friends

2. Encourage them to try to connect

If your student had a tight friend group in high school, the transition of starting over can be particularly hard.  Making new friends is difficult, and there are several ways you can encourage your student to put themselves out there to be available to make friends.  

  • Encourage them to join a club or religious group.  Finding a group with similar interests can go a long way towards the student finding their people.
  • Send them a dry erase board for their door.  If there is an event they are interested in, they can write details about the event and when they are planning to leave and other lonely students may show up to join them.
  • Suggest they host a junk food party with their neighbors. Everyone brings their favorite snacks and drinks and have a time decompress.
  • Mail them a doorstop and have them keep their door propped open when they are in their room studying or hanging out.  Encourage them to stop in and introduce themselves to other students that have their doors open.

Find more tips for your student in our free downloadable resource below.

College freshmen

3. Send them some joy

Receiving mail and surprises can go a long way towards cheering up your college student and making them feel loved.  Send texts with encouraging quotes, mail a handwritten card with a picture of their siblings or pets, have family send encouraging cards, send a door dash meal to their dorm, or send a college care package filled with snacks and fun that they can enjoy and share.  Stay connected to your child and let them know that no matter what, you are there for them.


 Download our free tips for when your college student is struggling HERE


Most incoming freshmen are mentally exhausted (insidehighered.com)
College students and depression - Mayo Clinic Health System
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