There’s nothing like throwing hundreds or even thousands of new students together on a campus for the first time to create some moments of high drama. The swirl of anticipation and the heightened emotions make for the perfect breeding ground for unintended slights, crushing disappointments, and interpersonal conflicts. These can escalate so high and so fast during orientation that not a few college administrators will begin whispering under their breath: “I can’t wait until classes begin.” Academic work is a wonderful distraction from any drama that has reached a fevered pitch. But it takes a few weeks for students to settle in and realize how much work they actually have to do in college to stay afloat. Until mid-terms begin in earnest a few weeks down the road, freshmen often have a false sense of freedom and leisure. So, they pay more attention to the relationship, dorm room, orientation, club, or drug/drinking incidents than they deserve, at least from the perspective of an adult observer.
Having advised students for decades and spent my fair share of hours calming new students who were sure they couldn’t live another second with their roommate or who were crushed when they went too far in the alcohol/drug/sex arena and felt humiliated before every one of their new friends right at the beginning of their college career, I can say that some of the best advice you can give your children is that they stay calm and rise above. Here are some suggestions to help them do that:
For many years, as a dean at three Ivy League colleges and now as an AVP at a university with an extraordinary mission, I have had a front row seat to the obstacles to success that college students and their parents confront every year. Even at so-called elite, highly selective colleges such as Princeton, Harvard, and Columbia, where I spent some of my career, students struggle on a daily basis to remain healthy, happy, grounded, and to stay in school. I am dedicated to helping them.