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Top 5 Comfort Traps First Year Students Face

by Shannon Bennett
Just after graduating from college this year, Shannon provided CollegeTipsForParents.org with the following article, which offers some great insights about common roadblocks and other issues many college freshmen encounter.

Traditionally, going away to college is viewed as a life-changing, coming of age experience in which a young person departs on his or her own, ready to get the first taste of independence and adulthood.

Roadblocks along the way are expected, maybe even anticipated, but it's scary to be tossed into a brand new environment, all alone, and to be expected to find a place in it.

The temptation of what's familiar and comfortable may become extreme, and there are a few things that, if easily at hand, may prevent a first year student from making the necessary adjustments to college life.

Be wary of the following comfort traps that could keep your student from branching out into his or her new environment:

1.) The Significant Other

It's the most clichéd story in the books. Freshman student comes to college, clinging to the passionate high school love affair that was, keeping up a picture of his or her beloved propped lovingly on the night stand, and vehemently believing that the relationship will last, regardless of distance.

As we all know, this rarely happens, and there's a fair amount of damage that feeling obligated to a significant other who isn't present can do, especially to a young person on the first limb of adult life.

Instead of filling spare time with activities and attempts to reach out and make new friends, the Freshman is likely to spend this time on the phone or chatting online with his or her paramour, both of them progressively becoming more anxious about any time spent with new and unknown acquaintances.

This encourages a dependency on the relationship, and a habit of spending more time reminiscing than moving forward and exploring the new environment college has provided.

Though your student won't take kindly to being told he or she should break it off with the High School Sweetheart, it may be worth mentioning that being completely obligation-free, when starting out at college, is the best way to adjust quickly, and that, in time, if that relationship really is The One, then things will come back together in due course.

2.) Weekend Trips Home

If your student has only moved an hour or so away, he or she may be tempted to spend every weekend making the trek back home and re-settling into the things he or she is used to.

This is dangerous, as looking forward to weekends in the Old Bedroom, already decorated, or hanging out with the Old Friends, already established, discourage the student from creating new versions of these things at school.

3.) Moving to College with The Gang

This one's obvious. People who go with a large group of high school friends to college, most of the time, stay in that same group of friends all the way through.

For them, it is unnecessary to meet anyone else, and even if they do make a new acquaintance here and there, the establishment of the bigger group generally remains dominant.

4.) Frequent Phone Calls Home

Watch out for marathon phone calls home from your student. Be supportive, but urge him or her to hang up and perhaps seek out an activity to pull him or her out of the slump.

The first year is going to be difficult, and your student will need someone to listen, but be careful not to become a crutch, or it may go from long phone calls, to returning home completely.

5.) TV on DVD

Engrossing entertainment like seasons of television or computer games are a popular distraction from the difficulty of adjusting to a new environment for the first time.

It's an easy, comfortable go-to for most students, and often makes it easy to spend days locked up in a dorm room instead of exploring the options on campus.

Though your student is ultimately responsible for avoiding these pitfalls, it's helpful to keep an eye out for them, and let your student know that he or she has a large community and new options out there to explore.

The Goal, after all, is to experience a new environment, not simply to live in it. College should teach your student new things about him- or herself, and help the student grow as an individual.

The Comfort of Home, while always a good thing in small doses, may discourage that growth, and take away part of what going away to college is all about.

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