For some, entering college can be a life-changing and exciting experience, but for others, the transition is difficult, challenging and distressful – students often enter postsecondary education feeling lonely and isolated as their sense of self changes in a new atmosphere.
Katherine Jackson, Residence Hall Director at SCSU, mentions that change is tougher for some students, especially when they’re reshaping their identity.
“I think it’s really hard for any 17 or 18-year-old when they come to college because you have just left this friend group that you’ve had your whole life, like you grew up with them and now you’re in this residence hall with people of all different backgrounds with different types of expectations.”
In a world where society is more connected than ever with the likes of social media outlets such as Facebook, Snapchat, Twitter, Instagram, FaceTime etc. first-year students don’t seem to be living in the moment.
With instant access to their friends from elsewhere, first-years are staying in their dorms and tuning into their phones, laptops and other devices to be present online. In this society of interconnectedness, they seem to be feeling more disconnected than ever – and the affect of that loneliness is felt strongly by many first-year St. Cloud State students, living and dwelling in the residence halls.
In a recent survey of over 60 students, respondents gave us their insight to how they feel living in the dorms:
According to the survey, 72 percent of respondents said they felt loneliness or some form of isolation. Looking to the data, these 72 percent of students rarely leave their rooms while only about 30 percent do as shown below:
Jackson said she is aware of these issues and said part of it for first-years is adjusting to the college lifestyle.
“I think there are two parts to that, I think I am aware and others in higher-ed are aware that when students come into college that, they struggle to get involved, they struggle to feel connected, the biggest thing I see is the willingness of the student to get involved and participate. We want to encourage them to come to community council, it gives them a chance to meet people and make some new friends.”
In community council, Jackson says meetings are a mix between business and social contexts amongst students living in the residence halls. Some of the events that community council puts on include pool and ping-pong tournaments. Community Council also does something called ‘What’s Hot’ in which a group of students and RHA plan activities for Thursday nights, some of the events include rollerskating trips to Chuck-E-Cheese and Laser tag.
“It was a great way for us to fill the Thursday night void,” Jackson said.
While Jackson explained some students put up barriers for themselves to socialize, for others, it’s due to their demanding class and work schedule that can hinder the development of personal relationships and interactions.
“It seems to be a generational thing”, Jackson said. “We have to work in order to pay for school, if you work every night of the week and you live in the residence halls, of course, you’re going to feel lonely.”
She also mentions part of the problem is that some students aren’t getting involved on campus or in the community.
The survey shows nearly 42 percent of the students who answered the survey were not involved on campus at all, with 45 percent being mildly involved with only nearly 13 percent being very involved.
Jackson highly emphasized one of the best ways to become less lonely and isolated is to get involved in the community.
“Do things outside of college, do things outside of the SCSU campus that allows you to build roots in the community because you’re gonna want to do that when you’re older and when you start a family,” she said. “There are exciting things happening in St. Cloud and so I would recommend that.”
For the students who took the survey that said they felt so lonely they wanted to transfer schools, Jackson says college is what you make it.
“You can be lonely no matter where you go, it’s all about how willing you are to invest and trying to make friends, making friends is a really hard skill and it’s really hard if you don’t take advantage of it right in that first month to get involved with people, if SCSU has your major and you’re enjoying your classes, stick around and start getting involved.”