Teenagers and young adults spend much of their social life electronically — on social media or via text — as opposed to face-to-face interactions.
This has deprived them of developmental opportunities to practice an array of social skills, such as managing real-time, in-person conflict. This can make the transition to college — during which students are surrounded by and even living with, strangers — challenging.
But rather than feeling overwhelmed, college students can help themselves by recognizing that they can develop such interpersonal skills with benefits that extend across many areas of their life.
They can begin by formulating a plan for themselves and their interactions. This can include their preferences (and how they can most courteously and effectively share those preferences with their roommate), strategies for handling potential conflict, the explicit ways in which they are prepared to be accommodating to their roommate, and their commitment to compromise.
Equipped with this proactive thinking, they can more productively communicate with their roommate, which will increase the chances that both individuals can feel at home. The plan should be adaptable, used more as a way to help students become more self-aware, to be proactive rather than reactive to social and emotional changes that are paramount for health and well-being and even academic success.
Additionally, I highly encourage students to take advantage of whatever resources their campus provides for self-growth, including social and emotional skills, that can help them thrive in the face of the many changes that college brings.
At Saint Mary's College, for example, we have instituted several programs and resources to help students grow in self-knowledge and self-regulation. We launched an online portal that offers students opportunities to understand themselves better and to formulate goals, with accompanying plans, using that self-knowledge. Additionally, we have educational programming in the first-year students' common course, which seeks to promote the ability to self-regulate and respond in an adaptive way to stress.
College is about so much more than getting a degree; it is about developing core competencies one needs to become a successful and thriving adult.
Alissa Russell is an assistant professor in the Department of Psychological Sciences at Saint Mary's College in Notre Dame, Indiana. Her research revolves around stress and coping, with a particular emphasis on daily stress, and how resilience resources like self-regulation can buffer against normative stress during emerging adulthood. Contact her at email@example.com.