What should you do when the 'dream school' disappoints? helping your co-ed deal with college disillusionment
Congratulations! You got your college freshman off to school without any major mishaps. Time to sit back and relax right?
By now, your teen has had time to get her feet wet and is living it up. Ah, the life of a college student; all that freedom and independence. Even if your teen didn't end up at his first choice school, you most likely found a school that is a good match, or so you thought.
Perhaps your teen is the slow to warm type, and while she has yet to rave about her life at school, at least she is not complaining.
Each year however, there are a number of teens for whom the college experience couldn't feel further from perfect. If you are a parent of such a teen, the pride, relief, and even joy you may have experienced when you first dropped her off at school may have quickly turned to confusion and concern.
Maybe in the beginning you blew off her less than rave reviews. As the days have turned into weeks however, you know you would be remiss not realize that her initial comments and complaints have evolved into disappointment, disillusionment, and disheartenment.
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As a parent it can feel dis-empowering and confusing. You may even feel unsettled and uncomfortable when you hear your friends and acquaintances gush about how well their kids are doing at college.
You yourself offer vague, somewhat noncommittal answers. You wonder why it seems that everyone else got it right. In truth there are probably more people you know managing the same struggle. This situation is just not one most people tend to talk about. Take solace in knowing it is far from uncommon.
Even if your teen attends school close to home, such a situation can have you feeling as if he is out of reach, thousands of miles away. This is quite a dilemma.
What should you do; what can you do? There is rarely a simple solution. There are of course a host of options. Each comes with its own set of concerns and even consequences.
While you want to make the best choice for your child, your teen's new found independence can complicate the situation, especially if you don't see eye to eye on this one.
Here are some hints on how to handle the situation:
1. Try to keep emotion out of the decision. This can be especially difficult if you have a strong emotional bond with your teen. A part of you may want to just cry because you truly feel his pain. Take a step back. Decisions made entirely driven by emotion are often void of logic.
2. Resist the urge to react rashly. While your first inclination may be to run to the school and rescue him, hold that thought. You do not want to do anything that you may regret later.
3. Encourage your teen to make a list of pros and cons for each of the options. While you can certainly do this as well, it is important that she do the work.
4. Do not make the decision for her. There are of course situations in which there are mitigating circumstances which require you to do this. Barring such a situation remember, the decision is one your teen will have to live with.
So what are the options? Here's a quick list of the most common choices:
1. Stick it out and reassess things at the end of the year.
2. Complete the semester but apply to other schools in order to make a mid-year transfer.
3. Complete the year but plan on transferring next year.
4. Go back home and take the rest of the semester off with plan to take a gap year to regroup or transfer mid-year to another school.
5. Go back home and finish out the year at a local or a community college.
It is hard to really know who suffers the most when your teen's college dreams seem more like a disappointing nightmare. In reality the answer matters little.
Once the stress of the situation has settled somewhat, plans can be created. It is certainly hard to watch your teen struggle, but once she gets through the anxiety, fear and sorrow, she will indeed move forward and on as will you.
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