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Fit vs Resilience vs Freshman Blues

CorinthianCorinthian 1777 replies61 discussionsRegistered User Posts: 1,838 Senior Member
We've reached that time of year when we see lots of posts from freshmen who are convinced they have made the wrong choice of college. They are struggling socially and/or academically, and they are convinced that they chose the wrong school and need to transfer asap. I suppose some of these kids ended up where they did due to parental pressure and/or cost constraints. But some seem to have chosen their college and then, when they started to struggle, had a sudden revelation that they need to be someplace bigger or smaller or different politically or religiously.

When we give advice to high school students about picking colleges, we make a big deal about "fit" here on CC. I'm not saying that's wrong, but I do think some students seem to think "fit" means that you hit the ground running and your academic and social life is immediately perfect. That's not what fit means. And not everyone has the luxury of being able to attend the school that would be the best fit anyway. That's where resilience comes in.

When things go wrong, the immediate solution shouldn't be to change the environment (especially when doing so is costly and difficult). My youngest kid suffers from depression and anxiety. In 7th grade she begged us to let her change from the public school to a smaller charter school. Then in 8th grade she begged to leave the charter and go to the public high school. Now midway through the first semester of high school, she is begging to change schools again. She always thinks her problems will be fixed by changing something externally. I've come to realize that her issues are ones that primarily need to be dressed internally, through a combination of medication and cognitive behavioral therapy. And her doctor and therapist have basically told me to back off and stop trying to fix things for her. By doing so I was reinforcing the idea that the solution was external. She needs to learn to address these issues herself and work through solutions that involve changing her behavior patterns and negative thinking patterns. I can't help but think that for a lot of these college freshmen, the same is true.
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Replies to: Fit vs Resilience vs Freshman Blues

  • ohiovalley16ohiovalley16 396 replies60 discussionsRegistered User Posts: 456 Member
    Hear, hear. I just saw a post on Facebook not 30 minutes ago, that a ship doesn't because of all the water around it, it sinks because too much water got IN it. The message being don't let your surrounding circumstances mess with you too much internally and sink you. I thought that was a great point.
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  • palm715palm715 801 replies24 discussionsRegistered User Posts: 825 Member
    @Corinthian I really appreciate you bringing up this topic and also sharing your own difficulty following the advice. :)

    At our house, we are very wrapped up in the "good better best" scenarios, and if she gets accepted to "the best," a red carpet of happiness will seamlessly lead her to a brilliant future. I may not be able to adjust her perception, but this is good for me to hear. Thank you.
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  • singermom4singermom4 650 replies29 discussionsRegistered User Posts: 679 Member
    I think some people take the definition of 'fit' to the extreme. Obviously there is no such thing as perfect fit as an individual is constantly changing in some way. A reasonable definition of fit is making a good estimate of the level of academic challenge, size of university, environment (urban vs. rural vs. small town), availability of extracurriculars etc. in which the student feels they will feel comfortable functioning and maximizing their talents within their financial means. There should be many colleges that 'fit' these criteria and then of course the rest is up to the student.
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  • intparentintparent 36271 replies644 discussionsRegistered User Posts: 36,915 Senior Member
    edited October 2015
    We also see plenty of students who didn't really think that hard about fit, and figure out when they get there that it really was important. I have one kid who could have found fit at a lot of colleges. And one who was much harder to match. While there "should" be many colleges that fit a student, that isn't always the reality.
    edited October 2015
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  • NorthernMom61NorthernMom61 4075 replies29 discussionsRegistered User Posts: 4,104 Senior Member
    @ohiovalley16, Ha ha! Instead of Cheetos at midnight, for my daughter it's a cheap Thai restaurant within a couple blocks of campus!

    Excellent thread @Corinthian, for high school and college aged kids, and parents.
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  • GMTplus7GMTplus7 14270 replies297 discussionsRegistered User Posts: 14,567 Senior Member
    Fit is over-rated. Of course, students have their preferences (who doesn't?), but the truth is that students can be happy and successful at more than just one "perfect" school.

    Few students get to pick their HS, but most of them do just fine there.
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  • ohiovalley16ohiovalley16 396 replies60 discussionsRegistered User Posts: 456 Member
    edited October 2015
    True @GMTplus7 .

    Conversely, around here we have a lot of high school choices, many students DO get to pick their HS (within the bounds of what their parents can afford), and guess what, some aren't happy with that choice either.
    edited October 2015
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  • amarylandmomamarylandmom 623 replies8 discussionsRegistered User Posts: 631 Member
    edited October 2015
    Well, I guess my experience is an example of the flip side. I attended public school through 9th grade and absolutely did NOT like it at all. Switched to private high school - - not even a super high achieving type private - - and absolutely felt like it was the best change ever. There were still social challenges, but I was 100x happier.

    If you were in a job that you despised, you'd try to make a change, right? It may not all be about fit, but the amalgamation of social and other factors can be such that the environment really isn't great for you as an individual.

    I did stick out a job where I was very unhappy. It was my first job so I really didn't know any better. Then, when I got my next job, I realized that work could actually be by and large a pleasant place to be. What a relief.

    Nothing is perfect, but there is a difference between having occasional bad days or bad periods and waking up each and every day feeling miserable. Life is short.

    My best friend's D transferred after one horrendous semester at a top 30 institution. She is absolutely delighted at the school to which she transferred (also excellent). Her grades were outstanding at institution #1, but she really didn't like it in any other regard.

    That all being said, sometimes switching just isn't an option . . .and you have to stick it out. But hopefully in those cases there's an end in sight that is less than four years away.
    edited October 2015
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  • CorinthianCorinthian 1777 replies61 discussionsRegistered User Posts: 1,838 Senior Member
    I certainly think that transferring is sometimes warranted. But a lot of what I'm reading right now on CC is really about difficulty making the social adjustment to college. Many of these posts boil down to "I don't have any friends" and/or "The people here aren't enough like me (politically or religiously)." They seem to imagine that if they just found the right school then they'd instantly find their friends. When maybe what they really need is to learn how to manage social anxiety, learn relationship and communication skills, manage their emotions, learn coping skills, etc. Sometimes trying to change schools is just a way of avoiding the necessity of doing those internal things. My other point is that we sometimes encourage unrealistic expectations about what your college experience will be like even if you find the right "fit." I know lots of people who for various reasons transfer and are happy they did. I'm just saying that when the question arises early in the first semester amidst a lot of emotional turmoil, you should be asking the question of whether the problem is really a wrong choice of school, or more of an internal problem with making the adjustment to college.
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  • GMTplus7GMTplus7 14270 replies297 discussionsRegistered User Posts: 14,567 Senior Member
    While most people can be happy at any number of schools, there are some people who are determined to be unhappy everywhere. I've read plenty of threads by people like that.
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  • mommyrocksmommyrocks 1204 replies14 discussionsRegistered User Posts: 1,218 Senior Member
    edited October 2015
    Resilience is "the ability to recover readily from illness, depression, adversity, or the like."

    I've always said, "Wherever you go, there you are." If you do not have resilience at one university, it is unlikely you will have it at another university. It's internal, as the OP noted. If you develop resilience, then that will go with you everywhere.

    I think not only are some college students lacking resilience, but they have lost sight of the goal that they need to be resilient in striving for -- their degree. They have overblown social expectations and think their social life is the main focus of being in college, and if that isn't going well, then the college needs to change. I think it should only change if it is so bad that their grades are suffering, or their mental health is deteriorating to an unhealthy level.

    It seems too many young people today lose sight of the fact that they are in college to get a degree, not to have a four-year party with their best buds ever. You hardly ever hear complaints about the educational aspect of a university. It's usually the social aspect, and that their expectations of being a popular social butterfly did not materialize.

    Learning to deal with a little bit of loneliness while getting settled in and establishing networks is a skill that they can use throughout their lives, as they move to other cities, states or countries to study and work and live. It opens up more possibilities for their future if they can manage this transition. Otherwise they are stuck retreating to what is familiar.

    And quite frankly, I think they belong to a generation that struggles with social skills in general, as many of them have highly developed social media skills in place of face-to-face interacting skills. It might just take them longer to make connections.

    If they persist and develop skills to make connections where they are, then four years later they will not only graduate with a degree, but also with resilience, and that is something worthwhile.
    edited October 2015
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  • zobrowardzobroward 3740 replies193 discussionsRegistered User Posts: 3,933 Senior Member
    "depression and anxiety" needs to be closely monitored and if the student is on meds...it is important to make sure they are taking them. I get freshman regret and second guessing. it is hard for almost everyone to adjust. (you have no standing, support network, etc... )but diagnosed depression and anxiety is something different.every person is unique as is the adjustment period to college. I would just be a little more tolerant of a person suffering from mental health issues (just my opinion)
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