Homesickness and Adjusting to Community Living

There is no small measure of anxiety when families drop off their students at college.  You worry about whether your student will get along with his/her roommate, the adjustment to academic life, and how your student will deal with all the new freedoms and responsibilities.  It’s a lot to process – for both the parent or family member, and for the student.  This week’s message for first-year families is about two common issues students face in their first week or two of school:  homesickness and negotiating residence hall life.

Homesickness can come at different points – as soon as you said goodbye to your student after Orientation, after the first week or two of excitement has worn off, or the first time your student is invited to visit a roommate or hallmate’s home and spends time with someone else’s parents.  How can you help if you think your student is homesick?

  • Provide a comforting ear when your student calls you. Remind your student that college is always an adjustment and it’s normal to miss home and miss high school friends.
  • Suggest that your student talk to others on his/her hall – roommate, hallmate, RA. There are likely other students feeling the same way, and they can bond together.
  • Send care packages. Some of your student’s favorite non-perishable foods from home can be a great comfort.  And if you send enough to share, your student can open his/her room up to hallmates to enjoy the bounty (and make a few friends along the way).
  • Encourage your student to seek out groups and activities so he/she can find a “niche” to belong to. Though the Student Involvement Fair already took place, they can also search the Office of Student Engagement’s website for groups to join.
  • Resist the urge to call or email them too much. Offer support, but let your student navigate the waters him/herself.
  • If you are concerned that your student is unusually homesick or depressed, you can suggest he or she talk to the hall RA or the University Counseling Center for additional support.

One of the other first issues that students must adjust to is residence hall living and being a good neighbor.  Many students have never shared a room with a sibling, but suddenly find themselves in a residence hall room with a roommate.  There may be adjustment issues between roommates – over sharing of personal property or clothing, what time the lights should go out, how loud the music is, when is ‘study time’ vs. ‘friends time.’

If your student says there is an issue with his/her roommate, remind your student to talk to the roommate calmly and kindly about any issues of concern.  It is always best if the students work out their roommate disputes between them, without parental involvement.  Roommates are encouraged to complete a Roommate Agreement the first week of school to outline the do’s and don’ts of their room.  That informal contract can be renegotiated at any time – so if there is an issue, the roommates can and should talk about it and reach a new agreement.  If your student can’t reach agreement with the roommate, the next step is for the student to ask the RA for assistance in mediating the situation.  If that does not satisfy both roommates, the RA can involve the hall director in the mediation.

Learning to deal with interpersonal conflict is one of the more difficult lessons students learn outside the classroom.  It is also one of the most vital experiences your student can have and is integral to his or her long term success in personal and professional relationships.  Parents and families, encourage your students to be good neighbors to their roommate and hallmates, and if conflicts arise, to be honest and direct, to give and receive criticism with grace, and to find ways to compromise and reach agreement.  Some practical tips for students adjusting to roommates are available here:


For more information on how to contact the Office of Family Engagement, please visit our contact page.

If Your Student Has a Problem

One of the most important ways parents and families can help their students in college is by encouraging them to solve their own problems. Please bookmark or print out this Stop, Drop, and Roll flyer so you have it when your student contacts you with a problem.  Also, the flyer lists contact information for urgent and serious concerns where family intervention might be appropriate.

Orientation 2016 Handouts and Slide Shows

Select information and presentations from Orientation 2016 are available online.