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Sometimes, college freshmen end up missing the thing they couldn't wait to escape: home
Sometimes, college freshmen end up missing the thing they couldn't wait to escape: home

Date published: 9/19/2004


Laura Bland moved into her dorm room at the University of Virginia on a Saturday. By Monday, she was begging her parents to visit--or bring her home.

"I was just distraught," Bland said. "I couldn't fathom staying even a week."

Bland lost her appetite. She cried. She decided U.Va. wasn't for her and thought of transferring to Virginia Commonwealth University in her hometown of Richmond.

"I was shocked by how homesick she was," said her twin sister, Abby, then a freshman at Mary Washington College.

Not wanting to dump her woes on people she'd just met, Laura Bland didn't say much to people at U.Va. about her homesickness.

Now a U.Va. senior, Bland gritted her way through it by doing what counselors and others often advise: She got busy.

She joined an acting group and auditioned for a school play. She went out with other freshmen. And she rarely allowed herself to wallow alone in her room.

After two or three weeks, her homesickness faded when she got a role in the play.

"Almost instantly, just having the structured rehearsals and meeting friends who are my best friends to this day, everything just totally changed," Bland said. "When I had structure and something I loved, then it was OK."

'A whole new level' of stress

The transitions from high school to college are numerous: no home-cooked meals, no teachers demanding attendance and no real schedule except a class or two a day.

The freedom is just what many high-schoolers crave. But with it comes responsibilities that can overwhelm teens drilled to need permission for everything.

The sudden independence, the abundance of options and the knowledge that no parents are around to bail them out is more than some students can handle.

About 10 percent of college students visited campus counseling centers in 2002, according to the National Survey of Counseling Center Directors.

The survey doesn't distinguish between students treated for serious disorders and those who needed one-time advice or reassurance.

The number of students with serious psychological problems is on the rise, center directors report. Medication is helping students with mental health problems succeed more than ever at getting into college.

"But then going to college presents a whole new level of stressful situations and responsibilities that they may not be ready to handle," said Cory Clark, a staff psychologist at the College of William & Mary.

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