Erica’s blog on young women in college went over so well, I thought we might discuss expereinces of young men in college. If you have a son at BU, or your student knows young men at BU (that’s everybody, right?), this info might be enlightening to you. Dr. Catherine Sutton, Dean of Academic Advising, has some advice based on her experience of having a son in college. Dr. Sutton…
I will never forget the afternoon that my husband and I, along with our son’s girlfriend, moved him into his room in a college residence hall. More than a thousand miles away, we had all carefully planned for this momentous move. On a personal note, our son had framed photographs of our family (I presented this to him with the clear expectation that he pack it to have in his room; his girl friend did the same thing in giving him a picture of the two of them.) As we were unpacking, his girl friend asked our son, “Where are the pictures of your friends?”
“What?” he said, obviously not understanding the question.
“You know pictures of Patrick, Jarred, Chris. . .”
With total bewilderment, our son asked, “Why would I want pictures of them?”
It was a golden moment for understanding a major difference between college men and women. Women put up their bulletin boards covered with pictures of friends, family, and pets. Guys never put up the bulletin board at all.
Girls color code their entries in their planners, marking out the different classes, assignments, and appointments. Guys, on the other hand, may put some key dates into their phones; planners seem like something they can’t bother with until they miss the intramural sign-up deadline, and then they may pay a bit more attention.
I would never suggest that guys are without emotions. Typically, they need more encouragement to express their feelings, to admit that they have messed up. To some extent, I think men have more difficulty in differentiating from their families. They know that it’s time to become more independent, but they don’t know how to pursue that path. So, sometimes they withdraw from their parents and cut off communication. Another common trap that many guys fall for involves the promoting themselves as the hard drinking, hard playing guy who can get good grades, attract many friends, hold their own in sports, etc. without really making much effort—that certain achievements just come to them naturally. It’s a complete myth that covers up a host of male insecurities.
How to deal with these behaviors remains a challenge. My best suggestion always involves getting guys to talk. They most often need learn to express themselves, to negotiate with professors and each other. Those guys who have trouble making friends need to seek out the intramural program or some other group focused on their interests. Sometimes it’s a struggle to remember that men have deep feelings, even though they’re often not showing them to us. Without turning them into something that they’re not, getting men to ask for help, will make a major difference for them because the experience will help them understand that no one expects them to be perfect, that they can still be independent and self-sufficient if they get a hand from others along them way.
Dr. Catherine Sutton