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Forcing reluctant daughter to go back to ‘perfect’ college not a perfect solution

Sad teen girl heaving depression. Isolated on whiteDear Harlan: My daughter is finishing her freshman year at what we thought was the perfect school for her. She has had a great year academically, but has not enjoyed her experience and wants to transfer. She has made efforts socially in various groups, but has not “clicked” with anyone and is very lonely. She really feels like she doesn’t belong (she is at a state university as an out-of-state student). We told her she must return for her sophomore year, because we think much of what she is experiencing is typical freshman adjustment issues (albeit perhaps tougher than normal). She is willing to do this, mainly because she doesn’t know where she would want to transfer and cannot nail down what it specifically is that she wants from a different school. Any advice on how to help her pinpoint what a transfer would do to help her?

First-Year Father

Dear First-Year Father: I get what you’re thinking, but there might be a better way. To force her to go back to a place where she’s tried to find connections and is lonely might not be the best choice. She tried to make it work, but it didn’t work. A year is a valiant effort. She might need a fresh start.  I know I needed a fresh start when I transferred from one “perfect” school to another. Transitions can be rough. At this point, you might want to give her the freedom to figure it out. Even if she goes back to the same school it will be her decision. She will own the experience. Then she will have to be the one to fix it. Wherever she ends up, encourage her to get a job that will give her a role, suggest she participate in a group experience (Greek life), and do some volunteer work (no one can reject her). Also, encourage her to talk to a therapist or counselor at school. She needs people in her corner on campus.  It’s time for her to figure out what she wants to do with her life – even if it’s not perfect and exactly what you want.

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