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Second Semester Blues

deb922deb922 Registered User Posts: 4,675 Senior Member
edited April 2007 in Parent Cafe
My college freshman is having a hard time second semester. Things are not going well for him, he's having a tough time socially. He made friends on his hall but he has the impression that they are tiring of him and he is tiring of them also.

Not one to believe that my kid is perfect, he is immature, introvertered, sensitive and easily fustrated. We love him, though. He thinks he's shy but he's not really shy but he's not very outgoing. He had great friends in HS, mostly girls and even a girlfriend but they broke up before they went to school and she's moved on. I think that they were great friends but I don't think that she was the love of his life and he didn't seem broken hearted when they broke up.

He wanted to go a techie school and the school he picked is very good in his major. It is very boy heavy, we were concerned with that because he has always had good friends who are girls and doesn't seem to relate to typical boy activities.

Could anyone tell me what I can do to help him? He's a very long way from home and in the dead of winter I don't think that we can fly him home or visit. That is one of the big problems with this school. It's not easy to get to, the weather is bad and getting home before spring break is hard. I've tried to get him to do something outside of the dorms and the friends that he has but he's taking 18 very hard credits and doesn't seem to have any time for much other than studying. Last night he called in tears, it was so hard. I told him to go to the counseling center. He said "great, one more things to fit into my schedule". I've told him that winter is very hard, and that things aren't new anymore and everyone is living on top of each other, of course you get on each others nerves.

I told him he could transfer but to try to find new people to do things with. It's the time of the year to find who to live with next year and he doesn't have anyone to room with and he's stressed about that. He feels that he is invisible and no one is listening to him.

This is so hard and I don't know how to respond. My H, of course, is avoiding this and hands the phone to me.
Post edited by deb922 on

Replies to: Second Semester Blues

  • ebeeeeeebeeeee Registered User Posts: 5,199 Senior Member
    Second semester blue sums it up. I have been concerned that my S may go through the same thing but so far if he has he isn't talking. You are saying the right things as far as winter, nothing being new, etc. Going to the counseling center would be a step in the right direction but I hear he doesn't feel he has time.
    Is there an RA in the dorm he could talk to?
  • cathymeecathymee Registered User Posts: 2,384 Senior Member
    everything you've listed is so common in the second semester.Plus the added stress of making a living arrangement for next year.Plus if he's in a location in the Northeast where the weather has been so unrelentingly bad,that piles stress upon stress.S's GF in Rochester has had 23 straight days of snow.
    The newness and fun of the first semester is gone.If he is looking for female companionship,he may feel his pickings are slim.
    He'll welcome the Spring Break,and from there, the weather will get better, and the end of the semester will be in sight.
  • palermopalermo Registered User Posts: 351 Member
    deb922, I thought I wrote this post. My son just told us he wants to transfer after what we thought was a good first semester. He now tells us he hates the school, he hates the kids, the professors can't teach, there is nothing to do on campus. I also suggested he talk to a counselor, clergy at the local church and received no response from him to this recommendation. I suggested he find a job, club, activity, volunteer work in the hopes that this will help get him involved in something on campus. My son is also at a techie school with a very heavy load (I think he is in class for 25 hours per week plus a lot of homework/lab reports), also in an area where the weather is pretty dismal. We have encouraged him to eat properly, exercise and get sleep regularly. It sounds like you are doing the right thing. Good luck and my heart goes out to you. Hopefully spring will arrive soon and things will look brighter for our sons.
  • maritemarite Registered User Posts: 21,586 Senior Member
    I think that February in the Northeast is about the worst month of the year. All the things you report apply to a lot of freshmen. At this time of the year, my S was also stressing about whom he would be rooming with next year and where they would end up (he was good friends with all his suitemates except one; fortunately, the odd man out decided to join another group). S also needed to think about summer jobs. And then, there is the weather (we're in the middle of a snowstorm).

    Is there a Dean of freshmen your S can talk to? Just being told that he is not the only person to go through this can be helpful. It would not be a regular meeting, just very likely a one-off that would not add to his overloaded schedule. Can he drop one course if he is taking an extra-heavy load? Also counsel him to take some short breaks. S has regular studybreaks organized by his House. Ask him to make sure he gets enough sleep and eats well. If he has low energy, things can look even more depressing than they are. Good luck to him and you!
  • coronax2coronax2 Registered User Posts: 1,045 Senior Member
    I'm so sorry Deb. I know I'd be at a loss for what to do too. Does he have to take such a demanding schedule this semester, or is it too late to drop one class? He may not want too, but if he has set very high standards for himself, he must be feeling very overwhelmed.

    It really makes sense that it has hit him second semester. All the newness of college has worn off, and he's faced with a lot of issues right now. From feeling isolated, to the hard class schedule, to having to try to make living arrangements for next year. I'm sure having you to talk to is a big help, and somehow he's got to get to a counselor.

    The problem with depression or sadness is it's self perpetuating. The worse you feel, the harder it is to want to make the effort to get better. I hope you can persuade him to talk to someone on campus. Best wishes.
  • GolfingMomGolfingMom Registered User Posts: 252 Junior Member
    Deb, I feel for you. You may want to suggest he look for some event on the weekend to participate in. Check the campus calander. Does the school have a room mate classifieds- D's school does and I'm surprised at the number of students looking for roommates. You may want to send him a care package of goodies that he can share with his friends or new friends.
  • deb922deb922 Registered User Posts: 4,675 Senior Member
    Thanks everyone, it makes me feel better just to have empathy from CC people. It's hard because I know what he should do, he knows it also, he has to motivate himself to take those breaks or to reach out to his RA, dean or counseling services. I just keep telling him that it's going to be rough but to take it day by day and he'll get through it.

    This is what he is taking this semester, Chem II,Chem Lab, Physics, Calc II, some robotics engineering class with tons of group projects and a required freshman humanities class with tons of labs and group projects. It's enough to make my head spin. The problem is that the only class that he feels he can drop is Chem and he's doing really well and enjoys that class. The only class that isn't going as well as he would like is Calc II and I think he's getting a high B. It's just the workload is overwhelming, he and a friend calculated that they are spending 52 hours a week on class and homework.

    I told him that it wasn't the worst thing to not have a roomate, the college will give you one and don't worry.

    Last week I ordered treats and warm socks. I even spent the money to have the order sent express so he would have it sooner. They miss typed the zip code and it was sent to the wrong city! I sent goodies the other day, I hope he has them this week and I have another package to send if I can ever get out of my driveway!

    Thanks again, it helps.
  • mkm56mkm56 Registered User Posts: 3,062 Senior Member
    Deb, I have gone through this with son also. He is now 2nd semester soph. and is considering transferring again--actually sent the apps. this time. It is so hard and you feel so very helpless. Mine did go to counseling last year which helped--as others said --just knowing that he is not the only one that has/had these feelings helped.

    My husband also did very little talking with son (just not comfortable with that), but I spent many late nights on phone with him. He too would counter with "I don't have time" to any suggestions I would have about clubs, groups, etc. Said it was all he could do to keep head above water academically without adding other commitments. Of course, I wanted to point out that if he dwelled less on his unhappiness, he might have more time--but I bit my tongue on that one!

    I have no answers for you, except that I do rec. the counseling route if you can convince him. Also, dropping a class will help to decrease some of the stress.

    One thing I discovered was that my son reserved all these feelings just for me. Don't get me wrong, I'm glad he is comfortable enough to be able to unload--but when he talked with his brother or when I was concerned enough to talk with his roommate, they didn't see the depths of depression that I was feeling. It made me feel somewhat better that he was able to "keep it together" in other situations and maybe the unloading with me served as his stress release (of course it greatly added to my stress).

    Be there for him, let him talk, and remind him that he is not "stuck" in any one school. Good luck. I wish the best for both of you.
  • mezzomommezzomom Registered User Posts: 811 Member
    Deb, my experience with my very focused, very driven daughter is that sometimes she needs "permission" to take a break. On the occasions when I've received a "woe is me" phone call, I've encouraged her to set aside the books for a time and do something just for fun. She knows this in her head, but sometimes it helps when the encouragement comes from someone else. Yes, I do get the immediate response, "But I can't; I'll fall too far behind", but I just remind her that sometimes recharging one's batteries is what it takes to keep going for the long haul.

    Would your son consider hosting a pizza night (or something similar)? When my daughter was wanting to reach out beyond the usual group of friends, I sent her a check to cover the cost of several pizzas and encouraged her to invite some of the folks she wanted to get to know better. She ended up with a roomful (and then some) of people, and her circle of friends seems to have expanded since then.
  • BomberBomber Registered User Posts: 62 Junior Member
    deb922: My sympathies to you and your son. I agree with all the posters and the prevailing wisdom: the novelty has worn off, and there is a lot of stress regarding roomates for next year. My son also is in a predicament in that regard. Can't find a fourth person. We also suggested all the things we could only to be met with the comment "I've already thought of all that."
    Sheesh, what a grouch.

    My son took Calc II last semester. He was inundated with the work involved, I think your son's take on the situation is right-on. Somebody should warn these kids. My son was only carrying 15 credits, and he earned a B+ (he was disappointed) I shudder to imagine him trying that while carrying 18 credits.
  • backhandgripbackhandgrip Registered User Posts: 1,498 Senior Member
    I would tell my son to tough it out and work hard in the classwork, go to the library, read a good book in a lounge somewhere, or find a on or close to campus job.I would look for signs of despondency. If he really seems depressed I would urge him to seek counseling. Other than that ell him if he is really unhappy to start looking for another school or alternate plan like gap year.He could busy himself with looking for another college or summer job shopping. My first college wasn't the right one for me and I was miserable.
  • deb922deb922 Registered User Posts: 4,675 Senior Member
    I was thinking of bumping this up, thanks for the comments. I talked to my S on Monday and things seem worse instead of better. He said that he is feeling anxious all the time, he's avoiding his friends because he feels that he is going to "lose it and doesn't want to do that when they don't like him very much anyways" and is tired all the time.

    I told him that this wasn't right and he needed to go to the counseling center. I told him that he shouldn't have these extreme feelings of anxiety and I couldn't solve his problems from so far away. He wouldn't tell me but I am getting the feeling that girl problems are what are driving this. I also think that the pressure of finding someone or someplace to move to next semester is stressful. He feels that people are picking on him and don't really want to invite him to do things with them.

    On the positive front he seems to be doing some of the things that I suggested. He is getting out and exercising some. He also is becoming involved in an honor society that he joined. I'm hoping that finding new people to talk to will be good and he won't depend on the people that he has been hanging around with.

    At what point and when would someone decide that transferring would be something to talk about? The school he going to is very good in his major but he could transfer someplace closer to home. The school that he could transfer to is a big state u, it would have a better male/female ratio and is not so isolated.

    Thanks to everyone who has commented. This is so very hard and I feel that I am posting very personal things but I don't know what to do and where to point him.
  • mkm56mkm56 Registered User Posts: 3,062 Senior Member
    I can't stress enough how important I think it is that he give the counseling center a try. He really has no one with whom he can talk face to face without fear of judgement--a counselor would be a safe person for him to open up with. Let him know that you are encouraging this not because you think he's "crazy" but because everyone needs someone to talk with and right now he doesn't have support systems in place.

    Getting my son to go the first time was a little difficult. After the first visit, he considered the counselor somewhat of a friend.

    One other thought, I don't know the size of your son's school and if this is an option. But at son's school the Dean of Freshmen was very approachable and was someone the students seemed to talk with easily about social concerns. The person in that position might even be someone you could touch base with confidentially.
  • MomofWildChildMomofWildChild Registered User Posts: 21,831 Senior Member
    I guess I will go public with this now. My son hates his school. I mean truly despises it. Yes, the dream school which he chose above all others as an athletic recruit. He thinks it is a complete waste of money, that the kids are only there for a red carpet ticket to a high -paying job and that no one cares about LEARNING. He was supposedly getting his transfer applications ready, but either went into a depression, or stalled, or something. He and a friend (boarding school roommate and top athletic recruit) actually left school and went AWOL. They planned to simply go camping for a few months in the Utah wilderness. Fortunately, they made a half-way stop in Lafayette, IN and stayed with some former friends of my son's who I considered (in the past) absolute low-lifes. Well, these kids beat the two spoiled brat Ivy kids over the head and told them what they were throwing away and how disrespectful it was to their parents, friends, teachers etc to take this path. The other boy's dad (who I had to phone at 2:30am Tuesday) and I informed them that they were certainly welcome to go camp in Utah, but they wouldn't be doing it with our car and credit card (or cell phone). The former-low lifes (my new heroes) took the car keys and camping stuff and locked it up. After some reflection, the scholars are on their way back to campus today. My son is going to take a brief personal leave, come home, catch up on his work, regroup and get his transfer apps ready, including some to cheap state schools. His grades are excellent. The other kid is probably going to withdraw. These are boys who should have easily been able to handle the adjustment to college and I have spent a lot of time reflecting on "what goes wrong".

    I think the freshman experience, paricularly at a large school (even an Ivy) can be very disappointing. Also, there is lots of free time, no adult mentor and a huge potential for substance abuse. My son expected intellectualism and what he got was grade-grubbing and pre-professionalism. He thought he wanted that, too, and discovered that he didn't. He wasn't able to participate in his sport (recruited) due to injury, which also affected the experience. The other boy, I think, fell victim to the intense demands of being a varsity athlete and didn't keep his grades up to his own standards. My son's teachers, with just a couple of exceptions, have been sub-par. He simply does not believe the EDUCATION at this school is worth the money. He said if you want to pay for the prestige and the degree, maybe it is worth it. I told him he needs to either really figure out where would be a better fit or else try out our state university and figure out to carve a path for himself there.

    Research shows there is a huge incidence of depression in Ivy League freshmen. There is also a lot of denial. My son "doesn't need any help" and "doesn't abuse alcohol". Right. OK. I'm disappointed, but just want him to keep his options open. Anyone with a kid who is really miserable, get the transfer apps in- many are due March 1, many March 15. It is a pain in the a$$ to do them, so get going.
  • saxsax Registered User Posts: 5,428 Senior Member
    Momofwildchild...Well,at least he continues to live up to his name.:) Never a dull moment.

    One of my kids walked away from college in the middle of the semester and never went back. This was about a year ago. Incredibly talented but felt school was a waste of her time and our money. One year later she is working full time (managing a store on her own), making reasonably good money and is very happy with her choice. She plans to go back ("I know I need to") however I think she will continue to work, find an even better job and let them pay to send her to school. Her choices...her life.Am now teaching her about investing. There are many journeys and once I accepted within myself that this was okay it has all beome so much easier.

    Hang in there. Not the best choices but his choices. And for whatever reason he had to go through this and he is. He sounds like a great kid and will find his way to adulthood and a meaningful life. Just tighten your seat belt (and your wallet :)) It's going to continue to be one hell of a ride!

    Thought I'd add a quick story about my brother. Barely made it through high school but a real charmer. Starting working an assembly line at age 18. Job sent him to school. He is now a very wealthy self made man and did it his own way. His own path.
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