Homesickness & Transition to College
Going to college involves a lot of changes, some of which can take some time to get used to. It's not until you leave home that you realize how much time you really spent with your family and friends, and how easy it was to find someone to talk to.
One of the toughest parts about college is finding a group of friends that you really connect with. Some of us have gone to school with the same people since kindergarten, for others it may just be a year.
Regardless, any friends and family that don't come with you to college knew you better than anyone you are just meeting. It can be a little unnerving to not feel that closeness, especially when you're in a completely new setting, possibly thousands of miles away from home.
The first few weeks, even months, of college can feel incredibly lonely. Putting yourself out there isn't easy. It takes a lot of energy and confidence to walk up to someone you don't know and introduce yourself. But it will get better and it will get easier.
Remember, everyone in their first year of college is in the same boat. Everyone is trying to figure out how to get around campus, how to make friends, or how to sign up for classes. It may seem like you're the only one who hasn't gotten the hang of it, but that is definitely not the case.
It's OK to call home and talk to mom or dad when you feel like you need that comfort, but remember that part of being in college and living on your own is learning how to comfort yourself.
Some people find it helps to have a long conversation with their parents after a particularly hard day. You can also try exercising, reading a book, listening to music, seeing a movie, or walking around your new town or city.
You might also check in with your own body: have you eaten, drank enough water today, remembered any medication? Physical well-being is a strong predictor of emotional well-being. Bottom line though, if you are lonely, call someone and chat until you feel better, then get back to your new life.
Here are some tips that might make your transition easier:
- If your college offers local meetups before school starts, go! Many schools organize get togethers for different cities that allow you to meet people in your incoming class before school starts. Even if these people don't become your best friend, it's nice to recognize a familiar face when you're on campus.
- Join a club (or two)! A lot of schools have club fairs in the beginning of the year that advertise every club, sports team, or organization the school has to offer. This is a great way to find people who have similar interests!
- Step out of your comfort zone. If you have a choice to pick a roommate, try to pick someone you don't know or let the school choose for you.
Living with someone you already know from home might actually make it harder for you to meet new people because you're already relying on something that's comfortable.
- Keep yourself busy! The more time you spend doing nothing, the more you will think about home, wishing you were there. By keeping yourself busy, not only can you distract yourself, but you might meet new people too!
- Talk to someone. Most people like you will have a residential assistant (RA) who lives in your dorm. His/her job is to make your transition to college easier and help you figure out the ropes.
- Stay healthy. Getting exercise, enough sleep, and eating healthy will not only make you feel better physically, but will give you more energy and help you relax.
- Have realistic expectations. It will take some time to feel comfortable in your new environment, with your new friends, and managing your new academic and social schedules. Don't put too much pressure on yourself if you haven't found your best friend within the first two months.
Making friends is another part of going to college that can be a little overwhelming. Read up on our Making New Friends article for some ideas about where to find people you might get along with!
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Written By: Katharine Booher,
public health education intern
Reviewed By: Nancy Brown, Ph.D.
Last Reviewed: October 2013
Below are links PAMF accessed when researching this topic. PAMF does not sponsor or endorse any of these sites, nor does PAMF guarantee the accuracy of the information contained on them.
The Launching Years: No Time to Stop Parenting, Johns Hopkins School of Education.
- When Your Kid Goes to College: A Parents Survival Guide, Barkin, C. (1998)
- Prepared Parent's Operational Manual: Sending Your Child to College, Carr. (2009)
- The Launching Years: Strategies for Parenting from Senior Year to College Life, Kastner, L. & Wyatt, J. (2002)
- You're On Your Own (But I'm Here If You Need Me): Mentoring Your Child During the College Years, Savage, M. (2003)
- What to Expect When Your Child Leaves for College: A Complete Guide for Parents Only, Spohn, M. (2008)