During the summer, I get to see clients who are home from college. Over the last couple of years, I have started noticing a new trend. More college students are reporting feelings of isolation and loneliness while at school. At first I thought it was just a few students who maybe didn’t have a lot of strengths in making and keeping friendships. However, this summer has changed my assumptions. The trend of college students returning home and not having made great friendships while in school is increasing within my practice.
This honestly is a shock to me. Back in the days of when I was in college, if you lived in the dorms or on campus, you were guaranteed an active social life. Sure, there were always a few students who kept to themselves and never really integrated into the college lifestyle. But those were the exceptions. Now it seems that happy, friendly, bright and socially normal college students are lonely and not making the lifelong friendships they thought they would while in school.
So what’s happening? How can a student be among so many other people in the exact same life circumstance and feel alone? There are a few common factors to the lonely college student. Listed are the common problems, as well as some suggestions:
PROBLEM: Too many students are floating between different groups of friends and not rooting into any one group. Having a lot of acquaintances does not make for deep connections. It keeps things at a surface level and doesn’t allow for true friendships to develop.
SOLUTION: Pick one group to connect with the most. Stay with that group even if you feel like an outsider for awhile. It takes time to graft into a group. In time you will know the inside jokes, have been included during fun memories and will have a feeling of belonging within the group of friends.
PROBLEM: Many college students are pre-occupied with a boyfriend or girlfriend from home who is not at their school. Some students will go through the motions of doing school but when it’s time for socializing, they retreat to their dorm rooms or apartments to get on the phone or skype with their beloved from home.
SOLUTION: Set up a schedule to talk to or skype your boyfriend/girlfriend from home and make sure the schedule allows for enough time and energy for making friends at school. Isolating while at school is always a recipe for poor school performance and can lead to feeling depressed. It’s important that a couple not be so dependent on one another that they fail to really nurture other friendships. If this is the case, the relationship is headed to becoming toxic quickly.
Encourage your college student to balance school & friendships. If you are a student, make sure you don’t neglect your social life because it does have a direct impact on how well you do in school and your level of enjoyment overall.