Reentry- Preparing for Returning to Campus by Jenny Hoffman-Mentle, LCSW

It is likely cold on the day you arrive back to campus. You may be carrying that laundry bag you schlepped home for winter break, and some new clothes you bought over the break. So much ahead of you. And so much behind.

You’ve crossed the finish line! Well, one of at least eight. And you’ve celebrated the new year, and new decade. Here are some tips for your re-entry as you unpack those bags.

The Practical

Take a good hard look at your schedule for second semester. You’ve had a whole month off. Are you signed up for courses you want to and need to take? Do you need to make any changes to your schedule? I mean, really think about it. You may have changed majors, or minors, or have heard something horrible about Professor X. This is your chance! Do it!

Here's a handy checklist.

  1. Map out your schedule (Yep, even my senior year of college I couldn’t find some of the buildings)

  2. Order your books

  3. Get your needed supplies

  4. Once you receive your syllabi, mark down important dates in whatever type of calendar/planner you prefer to use. It is helpful to see it all marked down and know what weeks will be heavy with midterms and such.

  5. Plan out your Spring Break and book a ticket if that is possible/needed.

  6. Figure out when you can eat, workout, work, and sleep with your new weekly schedule and let your friends in on your plans for support

Still need help? Engage in a campus group or call the counseling center for some additional assistance for the semester. Therapy is for EVERYONE.

The stuff people don't want to talk about

The practical may seem obvious. You've been through at least a semester of college, and you know what to do now, right? Here's what people may not be discussing.

  1. You may get homesick after Winter Break. You had that whole month at home, with your family and friends, and it may have been nice to have someone cook for you and to hang out with those high school friends without the stress of school. It is not unusual for people to feel this way.

  2. You may have had a horrible winter break at home and be relieved to be back at school. Expectations of those at home may have been high. The family and holiday time may have been draining. Time with those friends may not have gone as expected. And, dare I say, four weeks off from school may have been boring.

  3. You may be excited for the new start. There’s a reason you committed to getting this degree. And hopefully some of what lies ahead for these four years brings you joy. Embrace it. Spend time with people who make you feel like your authentic self. And live it up!

  4. You may be nervous. Perhaps Rush begins soon with so many unknowns. Or those classes, what will they be like? Will they be hard? The semester will surely bring challenges. Think of what has gotten you as far as you’ve come. What strengths do you possess? What coping skills do you use in times of stress? How will those skills be useful these first few days back from break? Reach out for help from family and friends as you need it.

  5. You may feel ambivalent. That is that feeling of not really knowing how you feel about being back at school. You may have mixed feelings about your roommate or that club you committed to back in September.

It is a NEW semester- a time to reflect, a time to plan, a time for a new start. As you re-enter the college life, set some intentions for what you hope to accomplish in your personal and educational life. Reflect on your emotions and let them soak in. And, enjoy the winter days. Spring will be here before you know it!

Jenny Hoffman is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker in Private Practice in Creve Coeur and works as a Professor at The Brown School of Social Work at Washington University and Maryville University. Jenny specializes in working with teens and adults with mood and anxiety disorders as well as people working through life’s transitions. Jenny believes in finding the strengths in her individual clients to meet their personal goals. In her personal time, Jenny enjoys reading and traveling and is an avid hockey fan.