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Freshman blues - normal??

2girlsmom2girlsmom Registered User Posts: 29 New Member
edited December 2005 in Parents Forum
Hi all -

Need some experienced parent advice here.....dd is a freshman studying architecture - came home last night for a very short breather (has to go back right after lunch - too much work to do) and to get her car.

She had a meltdown last night - can't make friends, everyone else is already getting in their little "groups". Of course, school itself is beyond overwhelming - she's in the arch studio till all hours every night - I see serious sleep deprivation - she says "that's college life, mom".

She seems to enjoy architecture - and I asked if this is what she wants to do, she says she doesn't know, but she enjoys arch more than anything else she knows of.

She says she feels socially dysfunctional because in high school she spent all of her time on school work, and didn't take time to develop interests, hobbies, etc., and has nothing to talk to people about. I've tried to give her suggestions on how to talk to people, but it just doesn't come easily to her.

It's going to be so hard sending her back to school this afternoon knowing that she's having such a rough time.

Is this normal for this stage? We know she needs to get involved in a group or something where she can meet more people, but she says she doesn't have time to do that.

Post edited by 2girlsmom on

Replies to: Freshman blues - normal??

  • mattmommattmom Registered User Posts: 1,763 Senior Member
    I think she has to make time to meet people, but in ways that suit her; the obvious route is the people in the architecture program, who share her interests, so they will want to hear what she has to say and she will want to hear what they have to say. I can't speak from direct experience because both my children were very lucky to go to colleges that went all out during freshman orientation to help the students feel comfortable, getting to know people in their residence halls and in other settings. The time for that initial sort of orientation and settling in may have passed, but people make friends all through college; among my son's closest college friends are those he made sophomore and junior year, even the beginning of senior year (he graduated several years ago). Your daughter's college life has barely begun.

    It may be that your D is feeling very stressed by work beyond what is "normal" because she is so eager to meet or exceed standards she has set for hserself. Or it may be that because she feels socially uncomfortable she is using studio time as a way to avoid having to meet people in a social setting in which she does not feel equipped to interact. My feeling is that her work may not actually be (or perhaps should not be) quite so time comsuming; a well-prepared student should be able to carve out some down time, and time-management skills are a key part of succceeding in college.

    Possible suggestions? She might speak to her academic advisor to see if there is a way she can focus her efforts to get more done in less time; is she trying to do too much? Setting unrealistic goals or deadlines? She might also talk to her resident advisor about the social stuff; what strategies do people use to get to know each other? Does she have a roommate? People are comfortabel with different styles of social activity; she may not like parties or large gatherings; is there are a political, service, or arts-related group she might like to join? Is there a pre-professional architecture organization on campus that would combine social with academic/professional interests?

    Essentially, I don't think your D's reaction is by any means unusual but I do not think it is the norm, either, and I think it needs to be addressed. There is often a honeymoon period for freshman who intially love their new freedom, love the idea of being away from home and having new experiences. A more negative reaction may kick in around mid-term time . There may also be an element of sudden homesickness if this is her first time home since school started. That could be where your daughter is now on the first-semester timeline.
  • reeses414reeses414 Registered User Posts: 1,107 Senior Member
    Hi 2girlsmom,

    I guess that I can kind of see where you daughter is coming from here. I am a freshman at the University of Michigan right now, and I have to say that I love it here so far. However, I easily get overwhelmed due to me missing my family and the amount of work that I have to get done. (Sometimes i even feel like I'm not being social at all because I'm studying all the time.)

    However, even with my hectic schedule, I have been able to find new friends by joining two very special clubs to me (as well as another university program that introduces us to college life by putting us in small groups), staying in touch (and sometimes hanging out) with friends from my orientation session, and being with people from my hall. I also am consistently on Instant Messenger, which, to me, has been a life saver since I can be on it while I do my homework and can rant and rave about basically anything.

    I know that her work load is horrendus, but my biggest piece of advice is see if she could find time to check out maybe one or two clubs that she's interested in over the next few weeks as well as talk with people that live in her hall (maybe over a weekend?). I'm sure she'll be able to find people that she can relate to and start creating friendships with if she does this. However, she should remember that this will take time.

    I hope this helps!
  • louielouie Registered User Posts: 7 New Member
    My freshman daughter wants to transfer out of her terrific, highly-rated LAC after 7 weeks. She is finding the workload tolerable, she's getting good grades so far, and she likes her classes and profs. But her social experience is MISERABLE. She was sick with mono-like illness for the first couple of weeks and has been completely ignored by the other freshman since. They are no longer interested in talking to new people (after only 7 weeks!) and they don't bother returning her smiles and hellos. It seems that everyone grouped into cliques right away and now are too lazy, insecure, or just plain unfriendly to include anyone new. One boy came looking for her roommate in their dorm room the other day and when D said hello to him, he actually responded "I don't even KNOW you!" She said she feels as though she is caught in the college version of the movie "Mean Girls" and needs to get out and make a fresh start somewhere else.

    She is a smart attractive, fun-loving, pleasant person who had good friends in h.s. She travelled extensively on her own in Europe on several occasions including studying abroad the summer between junior and senior years, so you will understand that this has been a painful and shocking experience for us all. I have had my heart in my throat and a hole in my stomach for weeks now, and the situation's not getting any better. When I did a stealth visit to campus to assess the scene for myself, I watched as her hallmates and even her RA ignored her openly. When she went to the counseling center they told her she should start taking anti-depressants. (She said, "I'm not friendless because I am depressed, I am miserable because after all this time I don't have any friends, still don't have anyone to so much as eat a meal with.")

    She said she doesn't want to have to play the Mean Girl game in order to make "friends," and she can't imagine spending four years with those people. I am making inquiries to the other colleges that accepted her to see if they will take her as a spring transfer. We come from the stiff-upper-lip parenting school, but I am getting nervous as I see her becoming more and more withdrawn and desperate. I feel like the parent who wants to tie a bone around her kid's neck to see if the dog will play with her!

    I've been in touch with the counseling center, student dean, etc. and it hasn't done much. I don't have any solutions for you right now, but I thought perhaps misery would like some company!
  • SBmomSBmom Registered User Posts: 5,725 Senior Member
    wow, OP, & louie, what a hard situation to be in.

    I suggest:

    finding small groups on campus likely to attract NICE kids: service groups, like habitat for humanity, tutoring, amnesty international, boys& girls clubs... Kids doing this sort of thing out of the goodness of their hearts (let's face it, they're IN college now ;)) are going to be the sweet types not "mean girls."

    religious groups, these will be welcoming

    audition for something, join the technical theatre crowd, etc.

    It is hard to believe there are no nice open hearted kids on any college campus, even one with poor overall "fit." Check BuckeyeMom's old posts; her D had a rocky beginning and overcame it...

    Good luck!
  • mom60mom60 Registered User Posts: 7,295 Senior Member
    I just got off the phone with a friend whose son just graduated this past June from Georgetown. As I was updating her on my own D's adjustment she reminding me about her son's freshman year. He felt he had absolutely nothing in common with his roommate. He called her daily during that first semester unhappy and lonely. The first snow was a novelty but after a few months of bad weather he was all set to transfer back to Ca. where he had friends and the weather was mild. He did some transfer apps but by the time summer rolled around he couldn't wait to go back to DC. He didn't room with the roommate again but they became good friends and just traveled this summer together. He is now traveling with several fellow graduates and then headed back to DC to do an internship. So I am hopeful for all of us that we will have a similar tale to tell someone in 4 yrs.
  • SRMom3SRMom3 Registered User Posts: 350 Member
    I am an architect and a professor of architecture and the work load is horrendous. Some of it is that it is a different kind of work than students are used to and some is that there is no answer or end, you can always make it better. Part of the culture of architecture studios is that no one works harder than us. Typically architecture students have access to their studios 24/7 because that is what the work requires and because it's what you wnat to be doing. As a result many architects end up married to other architects...because they never met anyone else...they had nothing to talk about with anyone else? But it is true. Among our faculty somewhere around 2/3 are married to architects. Is there an architecture club? Not only would it give her pper group that shares her interests and thus give her something to talk about but they could also offer suggestions about getting work done.
  • galwaymomgalwaymom Registered User Posts: 405 Member
    Goodness, I am so upset for you, louie and SBMom. The social dynamics sound very painful for your kids right now. I think you did everything you could, louie- and what's with that RA? Can your d go speak with her? I certainly agree that getting into a club or 2 would be really helpful, and you didn't mention that- I assume because she'd been sick, however now would be the time to really explore those. Even if it wasn't something she'd been into in HS, a social action type club might be perfect.
    The same for your d, SBMom- gently nudge your d into exploring this avenue. She just needs to make the time, even if it sacrificed some academic success just a bit it would be worth it.
    Best of luck- please post further about how they are doing as time passes. A cyber hug to you both!
  • galwaymomgalwaymom Registered User Posts: 405 Member
    Oops- I meant to address the above to 2girlsmom, not SB- sorry!
  • carolyncarolyn Registered User Posts: 7,435 Senior Member
    Your daughter isn't alone. This thread might reassure her of that:
  • cheerscheers Registered User Posts: 5,163 Senior Member

    Is your D an extrovert? Extroverts have a much easier time in architecture.

    Sociability is a big factor in architecture. Famous architects often have a personal charisma that is electric. They are charming, magnetic people who can talk to anyone about anything.

    That said, the extraordinary pressure your D is feeling is not imagined, believe me.

    Architecture school is based on the star system. The student with the most talent gets the star. Of course, 'talent' is somewhat subjective. Who decides? The star professors: MEN.

    Men like to pick stars who represent a reflection of themselves. Boys! (Don't believe me? Check out published student work in the school magazines).

    Bottom line? Women have to be five times as good as men to be considered stars. Even then, they may get shut out and have to award themselves a star--or a Rome Prize. (I've done that). However, she shouldn't beat herself up in freshman year. It is possible to develop one's talent over the first couple of years. Freshman year is not the end game. Far from it. Archtiecture is a game you can play well into your eighties.

    But it is also a very aggressive, very competitive environment-- even more so in the actual profession (I have had my own frim since 1986). Eventually, your D's class will develop some comraderie--as they dig in together year after year. But the jostling for position is always there--like a building full of alpha dogs. (Besides my regular commisions, I am currently in a paid competition. I plan to thrash my competition. With glee :)).

    IMHO, vast amounts of time gets wasted in studios. Phillip Johnson had a mandate in his office: "If you can't do it in eight hours, you probably can't do it." I'm with Phil.

    My advice to your D is to USE the organizational skills she built up in HS. Get the work done promptly and efficiently and then find some friends in the dorm--or on the sailing team--or somewhere outside of the studio. Even a sorority. Get some sleep and have some fun. (The boys have to stay up all night because they've left everything to the last minute and they are disorganized, LOL).
  • louielouie Registered User Posts: 7 New Member
    Thanks for all the concern and suggestions, everyone!

    We are struggling between being sympathetic to her real unhappiness and trying to convince her that she has the ability to weather it and eventually thrive. The transfer decision has merits on both sides; a fresh start might be a good idea and assuming she's not just basing it on animal flight instinct, she could be happily ensconced in a new LAC by January and the ordeal would be over. One the other hand, I think this is a situation that occurs with some regularity in life (sorry to be so harsh to members of my own gender, but women can be very hard on each other -- the spectre of junior high never really goes away). If she perseveres and makes it work, she will have the triumph "in the bank" for years to come. On the third hand, we have to ask ourselves why we are paying $40k to keep her in a place where she is miserable, especially when she was offered generous merit awards at other institutions that may still want her.

    The biggest problem now is her negativity; I think she has allowed the dynamics of her dorm to color her view of the entire student body. Of course there are nice kids on campus -- the adcoms didn't recruit only snotty kids! -- but she is seeing only the picture that has become fixed in her mind's eye. She is home this weekend for fall break, thrilled to her toes to be in the company of good friends also on break. We are going to try to convince her to stop licking her wounds and go hell-for-leather in joining things so that if she does decide to leave, at least she will know she summoned a little fight instinct as well.

    Transfer apps are due in a week -- aarrrgh!
  • wbowwbow Registered User Posts: 972 Member
    i am a believer that you have to make the best of any situation you are in. you have to push yourself to create a good situation for you. the meanness or unkindness of others cannot dictate your happiness. stealth visit? you can no longer control the actions of others--or the reaction of your child. i am sounding harsh here, and i am not an unkind person, but it is up to all of us to create on own happiness wherever we may be and however horrible the situation may be. we all have to find that something within us that makes us strong and resilient. a simple transfer may or may not fix the problem. i always tell my kids to look within themselves FIRST. create what is good for you--meet the people you want to meet. if others don't respond, keep looking--there are good people everywhere. sometimes it takes a little longer to find them--but then you value their friendship even more.
  • edadedad Registered User Posts: 2,584 Senior Member
    Louie, if your D went to student health services and was told she had a bacterial infection and needed antibiotics, you would not ignore the advice. Even if you had little faith in the competence of the health services, you would be sure to have an outside evaluation. There can be a serious impact when stress is coupled with physical illness. In some cases, anti-depressants can make a big difference.
  • louielouie Registered User Posts: 7 New Member

    You're absolutely right. It is a concern and something I am trying to keep an eye on. I have encouraged her to listen with an open mind and see the psychiatrist on staff as well as the psychologist. (So far this break she seems to be her normal happy/annoying self!)

    The reason she was annoyed by the suggestion is not that she is against medication, but that she felt they were being too dismissive of her actual reason for being unhappy at the school -- not having any buds to hang with. It was almost like, "Okay, if you start this prescription and you aren't depressed anymore, your problems will be over." I think she is really trying to ascertain whether the school's freshman class is as good a fit for her socially as academically. (One thing I know to be true from pre-school on up: different classes have different personalities as they are stirred. Could it be that because the college has seen a huge increase in applicants, attracted stellar students, and become much more selective, there is a different alchemy in this year's class?) Would a transfer that made for a happy camper in her new environment prove that she was not depressed in any clinical sense before? I don't know, just asking myself the question. Do we believe in situational depression anymore? Or will medication provide the blessed means for getting over the hump more quickly?

    She has a weekly appt. with the counseling center. This week will mark her third session. While I am hoping she will join in one of the group counseling sessions as well -- I can hear her now: "The last thing I need is to spend all my time with other maladapted students!" -- I clearly can't force her to do it.

    Funny thing is, my husband and I predicted that her biggest problem in first semester was more likely to be too much social, not enough keeping on top of workload!

    One other thing -- she has become self-conscious about always being seen by herself, believing that others will assume she is anti-social, when nothing could be further from the truth! It just piles deeper and deeper, don't it?
  • tsdadtsdad Registered User Posts: 4,035 Senior Member
    Based on my son's experience freshman blues are normal. He did ok, 2500 away from home until November then he crashed. He had no friends; he hated the school. We brought him home for the weekend listened to his complaints; he slept in his own bed; spent time with his dying dog; and, went back. We told him that he could transfer but: (1) he had to do all the paperwork necessary for the transfer; (2) he had to spend a full year at the school he was currently in.

    That was the last we heard of any problems. He's now in his third year. Doing well and involved in campus live.
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