Homesick and having trouble adjusting to college life

Dear Alice,

I'm having a tough time adjusting to college. I miss family, friends, and home. On top of that, I feel like I am failing socially. Any ideas to get me out of this funk?

Home Sick

Dear Home Sick, 

While some of your fellow classmates might not admit it, homesickness is actually quite common. In fact, it’s likely your peers may also feel like they're having trouble finding a social niche. But fear not! Once the newness of college wears off and the environment and people around you become more familiar, homesickness typically fades away for many people. However, while your struggles might be common, it doesn't mean that it's not a draining process. Your question shows that you're taking your concerns seriously and you're poised and ready to address them. Read on for some tips and tricks to help with homesickness and finding friendship on campus! 

It may be helpful to start by reflecting on what aspects of home you miss. When you think about home, do you miss the familiar faces of friends or family? Do you miss your pets? Could it be that you've shared a room with a sibling your whole life and now you’re on your own. Or maybe the opposite; you've always had your own space and now you're sharing your room for the first time. Sometimes the hardest part of adjusting to a new place is the loss of the little moments and familiar situations that made home feel like home. Especially if you're starting college for the first time, there can be an element of culture shock, where everything is new. 

Once you’ve identified what you’re missing, you can try to bring more of “home” into your college experience. Some ways you might do this include: 

  • Setting a schedule for talking, texting, video chatting, and emailing with your family and friends back home. This can give you a chance to connect, share your new experiences as well as your doubts, and hear the news from home. 
  • Take some pictures of your favorite spots, pets, family, and friends next time you're back home. If you can't make it all the way there, ask your family or hometown friends to send you some. Hang them around your room and share them with your new college friends. This could start some conversations about life before college and help you get to know each other better. 
  • Invite a friend or family member from home to visit you at school. This may motivate you to focus on the things about college that you're excited about and eager to share. 
  • If you’re missing certain parts of your home, such as local foods, mementos, or objects from your home, maybe have someone send you a care package filled with your favorites! 
  • Join a club or group that interests you. You'll likely make some new friends that have similar interests. Together you can occupy yourself with new activities that could, with time, become the parts of college you'll miss when you're visiting home. If you don't know where to start, consider checking out your school website or activity fair during the beginning of the semester to see what's going on around campus. 
  • Chat with the folks in class, join a study group, or visit your neighbors and get to know them. You may end up finding people around you with whom you really connect. 

Moreover, there may be other factors contributing to your homesickness as well. For example, you may be juggling new academic challenges, such as a heavier course load, more reading, and more work to do outside of class. You may also have new personal responsibilities, such as handling your own finances, preparing your own meals, and learning how to balance all of your commitments and activities. Figuring out where your priorities lie and how to best schedule them into your daily routine may help relieve your homesickness. 

If you are a first-generation or low-income college student, the transition to a college setting is likely completely new for you and your family members. It may be that you find it hard to relate to the experience of other folks who aren't navigating this environment for the first time. This may be contributing to feelings of isolation and homesickness. Many first-generation students experience higher rates of depression and anxiety-related symptoms during their time at college. Finding folks that have the same shared experience or seeking out other students who are also in the same boat could provide you comfort and community and could mitigate your yearning for home. 

If you find that you’re feeling really overwhelmed or your homesickness isn’t going away after trying some of these ideas, it may be time to consider speaking with someone. An advisor, health promotion specialist, or mental health professional may be able to offer you some guidance. You may also find it helpful to think about whether or not this school is the best choice for you. Other than your feelings of homesickness, do you like your school? Does it feel like a good fit for you? Many people find that the school they chose wasn’t actually the best fit for them, and many decide to transfer to a new university or college as a result. Thinking about your current experience, do you think you’d feel more comfortable at a different school? This may help you differentiate between whether these feelings of homesickness can be overcome with time and support or if another school may better meet your needs. 

While being at college may stir up some feelings of homesickness, college can also be an exciting adventure, full of opportunities to meet new people and discover new passions. It may be hard at first, but given some time and getting yourself out there, you may find yourself homesick for college when you return home. Best of luck! 

Last updated Sep 08, 2023
Originally published Oct 19, 2000