Homesickness and Adjusting to Community Living

This week’s message for first-year families is about two common issues students face in their first few weeks of school: negotiating residence hall (aka dormitory) life and homesickness.

Many students have never shared a room with a sibling before, so having someone else in their room is new.  There may be adjustment issues between roommates: is it ok to borrow personal property or clothing, what time should the lights should go out, how loud can music be, when is ‘study time’ vs. ‘friends time.’  And not only are our students sharing a room, but also a bathroom (with 20-30ish other students), the common area or lounge, etc.  This is for sure a big adjustment.  Being a good hallmate is about respecting other people – not making tons of noise in the middle of the night, cleaning up after yourself and not leaving a mess in the common spaces, respecting other people’s property, etc.

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 alone, 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 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.  If that does not solve the issue, 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:

There is also the issue of homesickness, which can come at different times – 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.  For some students, they might not feel homesick at all – and that is OK too.

So 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.  Hint: if you send enough to share, your student can open his/her room up to hallmates and make a few friends that way.
  • Encourage your students to seek out groups and activities so they 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. Let your students set the schedule of how frequently they wish to talk to you.
  • 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.



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 solve their own problems. Use the Stop, Drop, and Roll method when your student contacts you with a problem.  The flyer also lists contact information for serious concerns where family intervention might be appropriate.

Orientation 2017 slide shows

Select slide shows from Orientation sessions are available online.