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The Turkey Drop: What To Do If Your Child Is Unhappy At College

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It happens every year about this time:  the Turkey Drop.  This refers to one of two things:  when a college student returns home and decides that they want to break up with their high school sweetheart or when a college student returns home and decides that they want to transfer.

While parents may have little say or influence in the matters surrounding the heart type of a Turkey Drop, there are certain things to be aware of if you are dealing with a student who fears he or she has made the wrong college choice.  So what do you say if your student is not enjoying their college experience?  What type of guidance can you offer?  

1.  Just listen

Sometimes the student will just need to vent.  Whether they are having issues with their roommate or struggling with their academic load, sometimes they can gain some prospective by just talking about it.  They may have felt isolated at college and may just need some time to process all of the changes that have occurred in their life.

2.  Determine resources

 If after listening to your student, you determine that there is a serious problem, help them brainstorm the resources that are on their campus to help them resolve the issue.  If their is an issue with their roommate, encourage them to go talk to their resident assistance to learn more about any conflict resolution resources that may be available.  If they are having trouble academically, help them research tutoring resources at their university. They should also make an appointment with their academic advisor

3.  Connect with professors

 One of the best ways for students to feel connected to their college is to have strong relationships with their professors.  Encourage your student to speak with their professors outside of class.  Tell them it is OK to ask for extra help during office hours.  They should be asking professors about their previous work experience.  They should use their professors to explore potential major and career options.  Building relationships with professors will not only help yours student feel more connected, but it may also lead to future job or internship opportunities.

4.  Look outside of campus

 Sometimes students feel isolated and have not left their college campus since you dropped them off in September.  Look for activities your student can do off-campus.  Teach them to explore their surrounding community.  Maybe they can volunteer at an organization in close by or find a place to go for a hike.  Feeling connected to their new home may help them feel more hesitant to leave.

5.  Do Not fix it for them

 The most important thing to do is to empower you student to explore their options.  Do not make phone calls to the university in an attempt to “fix” it.  This is a learning experience and students need to be able to learn more about their options and make the decision that is best for them.  This is difficult for them to do if the parent is doing it for them.

Having questions and doubts about your college choice is perfectly normal.  Many students believe that their is a “perfect college fit”.  Reality is that no college is perfect.  There are going to be unforeseen aspects of the college experience that going to push students outside of their comfort zones.  Sometimes the lessons and challenges faced outside of the classroom are just as important as the lessons learned inside the classroom.
Katherine Price
Senior Associate


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