Connecting, IRL, with College Freshmen

IRL… The Transition to College 2018

In 2010 I made my first Powerpoint as a clinical therapist in private practice  It was a presentation on the transition from high school to college, and I had been hired to present at my alma mater, New Trier High School.  I gave the same presentation again the following spring and also ran some short term groups, considering myself an expert on the topic.

I continue to work with high school seniors, and even more with college students, and as I look back at that Powerpoint, I realize how much more is necessary to say and know about this transition so that it is a year most prepared for success.

Did you know 1 in 3 students leave college after their first year to transfer or come home?  It seems like an inaccurate statistic but I read it more than once, and if I search today I can find statistics that tell me 40% of students leave their first-year to transfer or come home.  It leads me to believe that the increase in Freshman orientation dollars are a consequence of this reality.

This fall I have seen a few articles about “your college freshman year” and laugh, because it reminds me of my 2010 Powerpoint.  Decorating your room, choosing your classes, contacting your roommate,.. all the practical advice that is certainly helpful.  But if I could do it again I would add so many more slides to the presentation.

  • What to do when your friends get into one sorority and you get into another?
  • How to REALLY survive when you don’t get into any… how to know you are still a worthy person?
  • How to handle the first time your new friends go out without you and forgot to text you?
  • When and whether to tell your new friends your sibling ODed or you have bulimia or you have OCD thoughts that you might kill your roommate?
  • What to do when your new roommate is mad at you because her crush is now late night messaging you?
  • What about when your new roommate says she wants to kill herself and you take her to the ER and she says it again next weekend and you don’t know when she is serious or if you are responsible, and you are only 18 and this is scary shit
  • Also, IRL how to say ‘no’ in situations you don’t want to regret. Really say no- even when it feels easier to say yes.  How to be empowered and self-respecting and all those things you would tell your best friend, but can’t bring yourself to always do.

I think an entire slide would need to be about “friend groups” because according to my clients, everyone has one and the groups love each other and are having so much fun and everyone else is already settled and secure and the truth is that nobody is, certainly not freshman year.

Don’t get me started on making roommate plans in October… just don’t make them.  I know “everyone is now set” but it will change, and your choices of who you want to live with will change, probably twice or three times.  And P.S. did you know that having a scale and ziplocs in your room is grounds for campus arrest?  And no, smoking weed every hour does not help your anxiety.

Homesickness?  Parents?  Grades?  Those can all be on one slide, because in the world these kids live in, it is more about right now, what is happening and how to survive it.  These kids got themselves accepted and enrolled.  Trust them.  I do.

I feel for these college freshmen in this new territory.  And each one who comes home is brave, each one who transfers is brave, and each one who stays is brave.  And all are a thousand times braver than I ever had to be.

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Lynn Zakeri

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