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Sugar and Spice and Everything Nice? What Little Girls are Made of…

Parents,

     As the year rolls on, I will often recruit some of my colleagues to write “guest blogs” for this page, to give you a sense of what’s happening at Bellarmine from many different points of views and levels of expereince. My guest blogger this week is Erica Osborne, Developmental Advisor for the ARC. Erica is a 2004 alum of Bellarmine, and hold a Master of Arts in Higher Education. Erica has been happily back at BU for three years now, and I can’t tell you how happy many of the students have been to have her as a resource. Erica, take it away…

For over a year now, I’ve worked in the Academic Resource Center as a Developmental Advisor, which I tell parents and students alike is a fancy way of saying it’s my job to help freshmen successfully become sophomores. I have had conversations with freshmen about everything from poor midterm grades to getting involved on campus to being homesick, all things that are very normal and completely typical struggles that many first-year students encounter.  What I did not anticipate in my many conversations with freshmen was the vast differences between the way that female and male students tackle the exact same problem.

Let me be clear; I’m not a psychologist by any means. Though my office door is always open to any student that is looking for a listening ear when they tackle any college hurdles before them, I leave the really tough situations to the kind experts in the Counseling Center. However, as a self-proclaimed freshmen anthropologist, what has really struck me particularly in working with female students is how large a role the social piece plays into their college transition.

I’ve seen young ladies with straight A grades in really tough majors fret about not having yet made a “best friend.” I’ve seen young ladies who by their own account claim they were the social butterflies of their high schools confess that they have anxiety about who to eat lunch with in the University Dining Hall. I’ve witnessed even the most fiercely independent female students tearfully tell me about how much they miss their  parents. And their siblings. And their dogs.

And what has even been more remarkable to me, are all of the myths and beliefs that freshmen women cling to, even though figures of authority on first-year issues (like me) assure them that this is not the case. I’ve noted some of my most frequent observations below.

Girls and friendship:

  • Girls believe that their roommate will be their best friend. (This is hardly ever the case.)
  • Girls believe that they will easily make friends in college. (Truthfully, making friends is work. It takes effort and willingness to step outside one’s comfort zone.)
  • Girls believe that their college friendships will form instantly and at the same depth as their high school friendships. (Most girls have known high school friends since preschool and are shocked to find that they don’t have a “best friend” by the second week of school. Making meaningful friendships takes time.)

Girls and family:

  • Girls feel responsible for taking care of things when there is a problem. (Even if it means neglecting their schoolwork.)
  • Girls like to vent how they feel to their family. (Sometimes calling home to express their frustrations is all they need. Generally, troubles seem a lot less troubling after they have slept on it for a night.)

Girls and relationships:

  • Girls are often surprised that “high school drama” still exists in college. (Though they may feel that always approach every situation with absolute maturity, being legally an adult doesn’t always equal emotional maturity.)
  • Girls with significant others who are not in college may feel pressured to put college priorities on the backburner. (If her boyfriend can’t understand the academic demands of college, he may not understand why she can’t blow off class to hang out with him.) 
  • Girls with significant others who are in college may forget to get connected to their own college and to make their own friends. (Imagine the problems that arise once they break up; she feels like a stranger on her own campus.)

Girls and times of trouble

  • Girls fall back on whatever worked last. (Living with mom and dad, hanging out with high school friends, going back to a relationship, etc.)
  • Girls provide everyone with a “public reason” of what has gone wrong. (It’s rarely ever the truth. It is much easier to say “I don’t feel I’m being challenged academically,” than to say “I feel lonely,” “I’m having a hard time making friends,” or “It’s harder to be away from home than I thought.” )

The good news in all of this is that most freshmen women learn to work through their unease. They learn to deal with the hurdles that are thrown at them and become better people for it. They are often amazed at the end of their freshmen year how much they’ve grown and learned. Some have noted to me that they don’t even recognize who they were at the beginning of their freshmen year.

As parents, the best thing that you can do is to keep encouraging your daughter to hang in there when times get tough. By pushing your daughter to tackle her problems head on and to use the campus resources all around her, you are helping to form a young woman who is ready to face the world. Or, at the very least, sophomore year.

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About Cassie

I'm the Director of the Writing Center and Director of Parent Communications at Bellarmine University.

2 comments on “Sugar and Spice and Everything Nice? What Little Girls are Made of…

  1. Such great info! My freshman daughter has already faced and handled most of the above in her first 6 weeks. I didn’t know if either of us was going to survive the first month, and now she is completely enraptured with BU. The personal counsel and attention from her professors and staff totally turned her around in wondering if she could be successful at Bellarmine. As a parent, I really appreciate the info (like this) that helps me guide her towards success in college.

    • Thanks for the comment, LAS. It’s good to know that this has been helpful. Perhaps I should have Erica “guest blog” more often!

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