September

They're here...you're there.

You might find yourself waiting by the phone, hoping for a call with news about an “awesome” class, a new friend on the hall, or a successful tryout. You’re likely trying to show some restraint by not first contacting them yourself. You may be adjusting to an empty space in your home and in your day-to-day life. 

For many families, it is often difficult to manage this change in a relationship. This is the point in life at which students begin to learn how to navigate unfamiliar terrain on their own (with helpful hints and lots of support along the way). Rather than suggesting solutions, or personally intervening in challenging situations, talk your student through the issues, encourage them to seek out the appropriate resources, and feel free to suggest they contact their adviser (faculty member or someone in the residential college office) for guidance and information. The advisers welcome all such requests, no matter how awkward or seemingly trivial.

If you do have concerns about your student’s immediate well-being or safety, please call Public Safety right away.

What your student may experience:

  • The first six weeks in any new environment can be a difficult adjustment. New students are learning how to navigate campus, surrounded by new peers, taking extremely challenging classes, and likely faced with new freedoms and choices, but also beginning to make connections with the people who will help them succeed during the next four years.
  • First-year students may be homesick at some point, especially if they come from tight-knit communities and families, or from any place far from New Jersey.
  • Entering students begin with a blank slate, even if they know other Princetonians. On the one hand, this is a marvelous opportunity to redefine one’s identity, but it can also be a little daunting. No matter what their former accomplishments, few other people here know anything about their former status in high school. This may be a huge relief for some students, and a concern for others.
  • In constructing a new “Princeton” identity, students will push boundaries and experiment with new things. This may include questioning personal or familial paradigms and values and challenging various social norms.
  • Many student groups hold tryouts, and for those who do not make the cut, it can be upsetting, especially if this is their first taste of failure.
  • The level of academic work at Princeton is much higher than at most high schools. It is also very difficult to earn straight A’s here. Students may feel overwhelmed, and many will receive their first “low” grade during their first year. 
  • Some students worry they are an “admissions mistake,” and feel unsure of their ability to perform both academically and socially.
  • Living in a residential community can be challenging, especially at the beginning, and many students are not accustomed to sharing space. It's not unusual for students to experience occasional roommate conflicts. Most conflicts can be resolved through communication and compromise.

What you can do to help:

  • Familiarize yourself with the University resources listed here, so that you can direct your student to the appropriate options for assistance.
  • Listen and provide reassurance when communicating with your student. Remind them that adjustment is often difficult, that feelings of inadequacy and/or homesickness are normal, but that they absolutely do belong here.
  • Help to set realistic expectations for your student regarding academics, financial responsibility, social involvement, drinking, and drugs, while keeping in mind that they should be enjoying a healthy balance of work and fun. Try to do this in a non-judgmental manner, and be open to listening to them as well.
  • Encourage your child to join student groups, and attend college or campus-wide events. Tell them to not be afraid to go to informational meetings alone—it’s the best way to get involved with the community and to make new friends. And suggest they sit down and talk to complete strangers at meals; it is considered very normal in the first year.
  • Help to keep any disappointments in perspective.
  • If a student seems to be struggling academically—which is not unusual during the first year—direct them to members of their College Office, to their faculty adviser or the relevant instructors, and/or to the McGraw Center. 
  • If there is a roommate conflict, tell your student to speak with their Residential College Adviser (RCA). RCA’s are specifically trained to deal with these situations.
  • For those far from home, do NOT purchase airplane tickets for final exam week UNTIL your student knows their final exam schedule (it is published in October). Exams CANNOT be rescheduled for travel conflicts.
  • Make sure you are taking care of yourself. While your student is certainly going through an enormous life change, you are too. Letting go is one of the hardest challenges for families.