How to Deal With Homesickness in College: 6 Tips to Keep You Grounded

Many students find they miss the comforts of home when they go off to school. Get tips on how to deal with homesickness in college here.

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by Heather Mullinix

Published on August 12, 2021 · Updated on July 22, 2022

Reviewed by Rayelle Davis, M.Ed., LCPC, NCC, BC-TMH

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How to Deal With Homesickness in College: 6 Tips to Keep You Grounded
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Many college students leave home each fall to start the next chapter in their lives. Most public college students enroll in a school within 50 miles of their home. But whether moving across town or across the country, students often find themselves in new surroundings far different from the comforts of home.

As you settle into your new residence, here are some tips on how to deal with homesickness in college.

1. Reach Out to Others for Support

You may find leaving home and living independently overwhelming at first. The good news is that you're not alone. Other new students may be feeling those same fears and uncertainties.

Talk with your roommates or classmates about feeling homesick at college. Share how you're adjusting to new routines, new surroundings, and new people.

You also can turn to older students, such as your resident advisor or someone within your field of study. They can connect you to activities and organizations that can help you build friendships and support networks.

Another option is to seek out student support resources at your school, such as counseling services.

2. Keep Busy

Homesickness at college often gets better in a few weeks as you settle into your new surroundings. One way to speed up that process is to get out of your room and see what the college and community have to offer. Often, you have up to a week to settle in before classes start, so make the most of those first days on campus.

You can also see whether your campus fitness center offers any classes that interest you or join an intramural sports team. Colleges and universities normally organize activities that allow students to mix and mingle during the first few weeks of school.

And don't stop at the campus boundary: Seek out parks and recreational opportunities in the surrounding community. Other options are to look for organizations that welcome volunteers or churches and faith communities with activities geared toward college students.

Getting involved can help you fill your days and keep your mind off what you miss about home.

3. Give Yourself Time to Adjust

Staying active can help ease some of your feelings of homesickness in college. However, you may still have times when you miss the people and places you left behind. Understand that settling into new routines and feeling more comfortable in your new environment can and will take time.

Researchers have found that homesickness can last anywhere from three weeks to more than a year. In one study, 94% of students reported experiencing homesickness at some point during their first 10 weeks of college.

There's no quick fix to homesickness — it takes time and patience. Periods of transition, such as returning to school following a break or holiday, can cause those feelings to return. Give yourself time to miss the people and places you left behind.

4. Know That Your Feelings Are Normal

Many students struggle with feeling homesick at college.

A 2016 survey from the Higher Education Research Institute at UCLA found that more than 70% of first-year students occasionally or frequently experienced homesickness in college. These feelings of separation and distress made it difficult for some students to function in their new environment.

Homesickness can result from being in a new location, adapting to a new culture, or starting a new routine. It can include missing your family, friends, and even pets. You may miss a special breakfast your family enjoyed on weekends or activities you and your friends took part in before you left home.

These changes can make students feel anxious. Some students may have trouble sleeping or feel lonely or isolated. You might also experience feelings of grief or depression. Each student experiences homesickness differently. Make sure to get help if these feelings persist.

Also, keep in mind that any change can be difficult, even if it's a positive one. Human brains are wired to take comfort in what's familiar. A period of adjustment should be expected once you get to school.

Talking to someone at your college counseling center could help you acclimate, even if you don't have strong feelings of depression or grief.

5. Stay in Touch With Friends and Family

Keeping in touch with loved ones back home can help you deal with homesickness at college. Technology makes it easy to text, talk, or video chat with friends and family despite the distance. Some students call home 10 times or more a week.

The college calendar offers breaks you can use to return home, with some schools offering a fall break in October. Holidays typically mean a long weekend as well. If you're only a short drive from your family, you can use those breaks to go home and catch up.

But college life doesn't stop on Friday afternoon — you may need to study or work during the weekend. Weekends also offer opportunities to get involved in clubs and organizations on campus. If you attend a school more than a couple hours from home, returning more often might prove challenging.

Strike a balance between returning home and settling into your college environment. Take advantage of opportunities to share your new community with your family or friends by inviting them to visit campus. Playing tour guide can help you become more familiar and feel more at ease with your new living situation.

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6. Connect With Your Peers

Colleges offer many opportunities to get involved, meet people, and make friends. Forging friendships can help you adjust to your new environment and keep you from dwelling on missing home.

Making friends requires you to take some initiative and put yourself out there. Keep an open mind, be yourself, and ask genuine questions to get conversations started.

Your school's campus activities or student life office should plan events to help bring the community together. Your dorm or residential life office can also help connect you with your peers.

Additionally, you can seek out students with similar interests by joining a campus club, student group, or fraternity or sorority. There may even be a student organization geared specifically toward your major.

Campus fitness centers typically offer exercise equipment, fitness classes, and intramural sports leagues. Some schools organize camping trips. Take advantage of the chance to try new things. Exercise can also help distract you from feeling homesick at college.

Frequently Asked Questions About Dealing With Homesickness in College

What percentage of college students get homesick?

It's very common for new college students to feel homesick. According to a study by UCLA, about 70% of students reported feeling either occasionally or frequently homesick or lonely during their first year of college.

Researchers define homesickness as feeling separated from family, a familiar location, or one's culture, with distress related to that separation. Students may miss family back home, old friends, or a romantic relationship.

How long does homesickness last?

Feeling homesick at college can last a few weeks or several months. Homesickness can also return, even after you think you've gotten over those feelings. Adjusting to your new environment can take time. Strategies for dealing with college homesickness can help you overcome those feelings.

Examples of helpful strategies include making new friends, keeping busy, and joining a club or student group on campus. If your feelings of homesickness persist, it may be helpful to seek out counseling services at your school.

Does going home help homesickness?

Keeping in touch with the people important to you can help with your adjustment to college. If you live close enough to return home occasionally, you can go back for holiday weekends or important events.

However, make an effort to stay on campus so you can meet people and build relationships. Instead of going home, consider inviting your family and friends to visit you. That way, you can explore the locations and activities your college campus has to offer and develop a stronger connection with your new home.

How do you know if you're homesick?

Homesickness can show up in different ways. You may have trouble sleeping or lack an appetite. Homesickness can impact your productivity and cause you to withdraw from others. You may also feel anxious or depressed.

If these symptoms persist, look for resources and talk to your physician or a counselor. Many schools offer counseling services to help students with mental health concerns. You can also try strategies like making friends and joining a club.

What do you say to homesick students?

First, tell homesick students that their feelings are normal. It can be challenging to start a new chapter in our lives, but that discomfort is not permanent.

Next, encourage them to try new activities or join organizations. Staying busy can help distract them from feeling homesick at college. Taking part in activities can also help them make friends and discover new interests.

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