||Your student’s transition in college is like a roller coaster … how to help them on the ride
of their life … part two Culture Shock Phase
Sarah Tetley, Assistant Director of Housing and Residential Life
During last month’s newsletter for parents, you were introduced to the concept of the W-Curve. The W-Curve is a model that tracks students’ transition to college. In September, we reviewed the first phase, the Honeymoon Phase, which happens around the beginning of the school year. The next phase they reach is called the Culture Shock Phase, which begins to surface 6-8 weeks into their transition.
Eventually the newness and the excitement of college life will wear thin and the students become emerged in a reality check. They no longer have the comforts of home, and have to make some big adjustments with new people (having a roommate, sharing a bathroom, having lots of neighbors, etc). This process can be fun, but also draining, on students who are trying to adjust socially, as well as academically.
“The unfamiliar territory of the college classroom also creates dissonance. … Lecture classes, unclear guidelines for note taking and studying, and unfamiliar … faculty work together to produce potential difficulties … Routine tasks that were taken for granted become problematic chores. Where to go shopping, get a haircut, or receive medical attention can create feelings of frustration,” Zeller and Mosier (1993).
Homesickness may begin to be an issue and some students will try to keep a tight grip on their homes (going home on weekends; texting friends from home constantly; hanging up lots of pictures of friends, family, and significant others). Students are also going through a process of becoming self-reliant, establishing a unique identity, and accepting the responsibilities for their own actions.
The college freshman has many personal issues to deal with in addition to adjusting to college academic expectations: reworking relationships with parents; creating new social circles; dealing with separation and its resultant anxiety; and dealing with conflicting values. Attempting to synthesize these personal challenges into some formal structure requires a great investment of energy. It is important to understand that this is a period of great potentially positive change, but it is also a period of more intense personal conflict and anxiety.
How you can help them with this part of their transition:
Zeller, W. J., and Mosier, R. (1993). Culture shock and the first-year experience. Journal of College and University Student Housing, Volume 23, No. 2, 1993.