Emery Bergmann, a first-year Cornell University student, is taking the internet by storm with an intimate and relatable video that captures how it feels to be lonely in college.
In the video, Bergmann explains how she assumed college would mean "hav[ing] a million friends... [and] go[ing] to parties all the time." In reality, she spent much of her time alone in her dorm room feeling like everyone was having a great time at college—except her, she says.
Bergmann's video captures a problem that many students face in their first year: loneliness.
According to a recent survey by the American College Health Association, college students are especially susceptible to loneliness. Out of 28,000 college students surveyed, more than 60% reported feeling "very lonely" within the year prior to the study, and nearly 30% "felt very lonely" within the two weeks prior to the study.
Students who feel emotionally disconnected to peers and the institution are more likely to both leave college and engage in self-destructive behaviors.
Luckily for the lonely, institutions are adopting innovative approaches to help first-year students make friends. For example, many colleges are revamping orientation to foster emotional bonds between students and the institution, writes New York Times op-ed columnist, Frank Bruni. Others, like Goucher College, are redesigning residence halls to nudge first-year students to develop new relationships and avoid the feelings of loneliness that can lead them to leave, says President José Antonio Bowen.
How one university promoted student retention with community-centric residence halls
To help students understand that their feelings of isolation are common, Bruni recommends amplifying campus conversations about mental health. While we warn first-year students about the dangers of partying and weight gain, few are aware of the emotional challenges that can accompany the tricky transition to college, he notes.
For Bergmann, it was her mother who helped her realize that she wasn't alone, she says in an interview with USA Today. After her mother opened up about her own lonely first semester in college, Bergmann says she felt "much more comfortable with being uncomfortable," she explains (Bergmann, YouTube, 10/27; Tate, USA Today, 10/27).
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