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Returning To College With A New Outlook

Parents of college freshmen look forward to their child coming home for the Winter break. But parental excitement can turn to worry when their child announces that they do not want to return to college after the holiday. This is not an unusual situation as thirty percent of college freshman will not return for their sophomore year with a large percentage not returning after the Thanksgiving or holiday break.

In a recent New York Times article, “When a College Student Comes Home To Stay,” authors William Stixrud and Ned Johnson discussed this trend. The authors noted that college freshmen are often devastated about not feeling emotionally able to return to school. In addition, they experience intense worry that they have disappointed their parents.

It is easy to understand how freshman year can be overwhelming as college life is a highly dysregulated environment. There is little structure, inconsistent sleep and eating patterns, and often a great deal of alcohol and drug usage. To add to this mix, students often feel intense pressure to succeed socially as well as get good grades. According to the American College Health Association, 62 percent of undergrads reported feeling “overwhelming anxiety.”

If your child says that he does not want to return to college after the Thanksgiving break or after winter break, there are steps a parent can take to offer support and guidance.

The following are suggestions for parents to assist their child with a plan for returning to college:

1.) Encourage your child to find a job: Working helps young adults learn to manage their time and budget their finances. Discuss with your child that a first job may not be the beginning of their career but it can be a wonderful opportunity to gain job skills. Grocery store jobs or retail jobs teach young adults responsibility, the importance of punctuality, and how to get along with co-workers and supervisors.

2.) Encourage your child to take a class at your local community college: Discuss with your child that he or she can take a class for the sole purpose of exploring a interesting subject without the pressure of needing to get a good grade. Often times college freshman become overwhelmed, and discouraged, by required courses that are of little interest. Discovering a true passion may motivate a young adult to return to college more focused and invigorated.

3.) Address any mental health issues: Parents often want to believe that enrolling in college will eliminate any mental health issues that were present in high school. However, college life tends to exacerbate issues due to the lack of support from family and close friends. Taking time off from college may allow a young person to gain a better understanding of their strengths and challenges. When returning to college,  parents can require that their child be able to demonstrate knowledge about campus support services in case the need arises.

4.) Life Skills Coaching: A life skills coach can provide the support a returning college freshman needs to regain their confidence. Learning time management and executive functioning skills can help a young adult learn to budget their time and stay on top of their school work. Coaches can assist young adults with how to get involved in campus activities. Further, a coach can help a young adult increase their self-reliance and independence allowing for a successful re-entry to college.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Jeri Rochman, JD, MS, is the Advance LA Director of Community Outreach, a Life Skills Coach, National Board Certified Counselor and Certified Parent Educator. Interested in learning more about Advance LA’s services? She can be reached at jrochman@thehelpgroup.org.