Our Gen X families may recall the great U2 anthem I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For. For many first-year students, they are still actively going through the adjustment to college. They might not have found their friend group yet. They might have tried a few things to fit in and get acclimated, but it hasn’t really gelled yet. They may be questioning whether Wake is the right place for them. They still haven’t found what they’re looking for.
First-year students often arrive on campus with some preconceived notions of what the “perfect” college experience looks like. This could translate into the idea that they should already know what they want to major in, that they will have found their best friends for life in the first week or two of school, and they expect to have a college experience that is without significant challenges. College is supposed to be fun, right?
In the initial weeks and months on campus, new students often find themselves confused and unsettled as their college experience is different than what they expected. This may be hard to relate to as a parent or family member: if you have gone to college yourself, you may not remember any struggles you had at the beginning – your memories may be primarily about the collective four years of fun you had, all the good times. But your students may feel like their classmates or friends at other schools are having the perfect college experience, and ‘something must be wrong with me because I feel lonely, or anxious, or like I don’t fit in,’ etc. This is normal and to be expected.
We have students every year who feel like they aren’t settled here, that they don’t fit in, or that they haven’t found their stride. Where you can help your Deac is to emphasize that the start of college is about exploration and process, rather than perfection and outcomes. Help remind them that even if it seems like everyone has their act together, all new students are walking around with hidden insecurities, anxieties, and emotions they don’t show the world.
So if your Deac still hasn’t found what they are looking for, what should you do?
Encourage your Deac to take advantage of the activities offered every day, including weekends. There are a bunch of activities to choose from each week. Students can also make friends through their residence hall, classes, and student organizations. If your Deac still needs some help finding their place, encourage them to try the Office of Student Engagement – students can make an appointment to talk with the Office of Student Engagement (either professional staff, or student Engagement Consultants) about how to get involved in campus activities. The staff can help your Deac connect to opportunities on campus, whether they are looking for the perfect student organization, find more friends, etc. This office’s motto is “Helping every Deacon find their place.”
Deacs can also talk to their academic adviser, Resident Adviser (RA), or professional staff in any of our support offices. There are tons of folks on campus who can help your Deac find what they’re looking for – we just need to know they need some assistance. (And yes, they have to be the ones to ask – that’s the only way we know they want help!)
Being a few months in to college and not feeling ‘at home’ yet is normal! It can take new students a full semester, sometimes even a full year, to be comfortable at college. Help them normalize that idea too – it may be a huge relief if they know they aren’t the only ones feeling this way 🙂
— by Betsy Chapman, Ph.D. (’92, MA ’94)
To contact the Office of Family Engagement, please visit our contact page.
If Your Student Has a Problem
One of the best ways parents/families can help their students is to let them handle their business as independently as possible. Use the Stop, Drop, and Roll method when your student contacts you with a problem, a decision to make, etc.