It’s winter. In many places in the country it’s cold, and it’s dark a lot. The holiday break is over. The novelty of being a new college student has worn off. May, and summer vacation, seem a long way off. And now it’s time to get started with a new semester.
Is it any wonder that your student may have a case of the Second Semester Blues?
If your student is heading back to school but not particularly excited about the prospect, know that she is not alone. There may be mild reluctance (who doesn’t hate the end of vacation?) or there may be serious resistance to returning. Help your student to understand that this feeling is common. There is no instant cure, but it may help your student to know that there are others who feel the same way — and that the feeling usually passes.
Why is your student feeling this way?
There are many reasons students may feel less than enthusiastic about their return to school for second semester, and some students may have multiple reasons.
- Winter Break was wonderful. There was free time, relaxation, opportunities to hang out with friends, home cooked meals, plenty of time to sleep in. The return to reality, routine, responsibilities and early classes is not inviting.
- It’s the middle of winter and there may be some post-holiday let-down. It’s sometimes difficult to be enthusiastic about much of anything at this time of year — especially if the optimism of new resolutions has already worn off.
- There is no fanfare for this return to school. Fall semester was filled with welcome activities and new student celebrations. Now the honeymoon is over. Her ”college knowledge” has taught your student how much work is ahead of her.
- Your student may not have had a successful first semester and she realizes how difficult it is going to be to dig out academically. This new semester looms large and feels intimidating.
- Your student may feel the pressure of the fresh start. While a fresh start can be encouraging, your student may feel the pressure of higher expectations.
- Your student may be experiencing some second thoughts about her major. If she is unsure of her direction, she may feel discouraged, and more classes in that area may feel like a potential waste of time.
- Some students leave college after their first semester. Your student may know that many of her friends will be gone when she returns. She is anticipating feeling lonely without them.
- Your student may be questioning her social circle. Perhaps your student found a group of friends during the first semester that she now recognizes are not going to be long-term friends or a good influence. Your student may be worried about how she will break from these friends, or not get sucked back into bad habits again.
- Winter Break is often a time for the break-up of high school romantic relationships. If this is the case, your student may be particularly sad and feeling at a loss.
- The grass seems greener everywhere else. Your student spent Winter Break catching up with friends and hearing all about their fall semester. Between these stories and all of the posts on social media, your student has seen the best of the best of other schools. It seems as though almost anywhere else would be more fun, more challenging, less challenging, more comfortable, more interesting.
What can you do to help?
Perhaps not much. As parents, we want to help, but this is something your student will need to deal with. As is often the case, the anticipation of the transition may be the worst part. Remember when your toddler cried about heading off to pre-school but had a wonderful time once she got there? Transitions are tough. Once your student arrives on campus and classes get started, things may feel different.
There are a few things that you can do to support your student through this time.
- Listen a lot. Your student may need to vent and explore her feelings. Listening doesn’t mean you need to have a solution.
- Remind your student that this is not uncommon, that many other students are probably dealing with similar feelings.
- Encourage your student to plan some new things this semester to shake things up.
- Encourage your student not to make any major decisions, such as a decision to transfer, right now. She may investigate options, but recommend that she wait a few weeks before doing anything definitive. Her feelings may change.
- If your student is seriously unhappy, encourage her to visit the college counseling center. College counselors are familiar with student issues and can help your student process her feelings.
This wave of homesickness or unhappiness may take your student by surprise. She anticipated it in the fall, but thought it was behind her. Don’t minimize your student’s feelings. Whether your student is a little blue or seriously unhappy about returning for second semester, encourage her to move forward, to take some action, to get help — from friends or professionals — and to know that this is a natural phase on the college development journey.