Thoughts as we start the semester

Every spring, there is a little bit of an earthquake that happens with students. The familiar rhythm they had in the fall – when my classes were, who I ate my meals with, what I have to do to meet my faculty members’ expectations – all change now that they have new schedules.

For those students who have/will soon have new Greek affiliations, there are new activities and new people to know. For students who are independent, there are adjustments as Greek friends have different schedules and sometimes different priorities.

For our students who were abroad in the fall, there is typically some re-entry shock. For some students, that looks like a reexamination of what they formerly did on campus/thought was important; sometimes those things no longer fit in with a post-abroad worldview. They may feel like they don’t fit in to campus, or that the rest of campus stayed the same, but they now feel different.

For our seniors, there is a realization that this is my last semester. And often a lot of anxiety about what will come after graduation – for jobs, romantic relationships, etc.

No matter who your Deac is, likely they will feel some of these tectonic shifts in what had formerly felt like firm ground. That can be disconcerting to them, and disconcerting to their loved ones. I am here to tell you this is normal, and it will pass in time.

So if your Deac is feeling unsettled by the new shifts in their life, what can they do? Several options.

Increase their involvement on campus. Join new clubs or organizations. Volunteer with a service project. Students can use the Office of Student Engagement or browse The Link to find organizations and activities. The more engagement a student has, typically the greater their sense of belonging on campus.

Meet new people. For introverts like myself, this is a hard thing to do. Encourage your Deac to make connections with a few students in each of their classes; trade phone numbers so they can have study partners, people to share notes with, etc. Also, get to know more people in their residence halls (and for first year students, go to the events their Faculty Fellows put on for them; great way to meet others in their hall). Once they have met some new folks, invite those people to dinner, coffee, a movie on campus, lecture, or other activity. People crave connections, and sometimes it is hard to suggest those invitations, but urge your Deac to put themselves out there. Sometimes that means making the first move.

Connect with a mentor. This could be with a faculty member or an administrator. Visit faculty office hours or make an appointment to talk to a staff member. Having an adult in your corner as a thinking partner and mentor can help provide perspective and encouragement when times feel tough.

Actively cultivate your wellbeing. The very wise Penny Rue, Vice President of Campus Life, has said on many occasions that people need good nutrition, adequate sleep, and exercise to be at their best. So take that 20 minute walk around campus, swap some pizza for some veggies, and go to bed earlier than you normally do. I’m trying to work on this myself (after the last year or two of grad school, which was not optimal wellbeing, and I am amazed how much better I feel when I eat right, exercise, and sleep enough).

There are other areas of wellbeing to focus on, too – be attentive to mental health and seeking help from the University Counseling Center when needed, trying mindfulness, and more.

This is not an exhaustive list of options or support systems, just a few off the top of my head. Hopefully this will give you some thoughts on how best to support your Deac if they are feeling unsettled in the new semester.


— by Betsy Chapman, Ph.D. (’92, MA ’94)

Categories: the daily deac

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