How well you are able to manage your emotions is directly related to the quality of the relationships in your life, which has a direct impact on your ability to maintain personal wellness. We all do better with a strong support system in place. The relationships you maintain and develop in college will have positive effects on your success. While you are making new friends, you continue to have relationships with your parents, spouse, children, or other family members. Sometimes the expectations of family members change, and negotiating such changes is not always easy. If you are fresh out of high school, you might feel that your parents still want to control your life. If you have a spouse or partner, going to college will give you a new identity that might seem strange or threatening to your partner. If you have children, they might not understand what’s going on as you try to balance your need for study time with their need for your undivided attention.

If your friends or others close to you also go to college, you will have a great deal to share and compare. But if your friends are not college students, they, too, might feel threatened as you take on a new identity. Romantic relationships can support you or can create major conflict and heartbreak, depending on whether your partner shares your feelings and whether the relationship is healthy.

Friendships in and beyond College

One of the best things about going to college is meeting new people from different backgrounds and interests. You learn as much or more from other students you meet as you learn from instructors. Although not everyone you hang out with will become a close friend, you will likely find a few special relationships that might even last a lifetime. One thing that researchers on higher education’s effects know for sure is that the greatest impact on students during college is the impact of other students. This suggests two things: (1) These relationships are hugely important; and (2) you need to choose these relationships intentionally and carefully as you are more likely to become similar to the people with whom you associate.



Make a list of any stories you heard or ideas you developed about college students and instructors before coming to college. Share these ideas in a small group. See how many stories or rumors were common among students in the group. Talk about whether these stories are proving to be accurate or inaccurate in your college experience.

Digital Communication and Relationships


So much of our communication with others occurs through e-mail, text and photo messaging, mobile apps, and posting on social networking sites. Online communication enables us to connect with others, whether we’re forming new friendships or romantic relationships or maintaining established ones. Online communication also gives us a broad sense of community.

Social networking sites and apps such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Vine, Viber, Telegram, WhatsApp, and Snapchat are popular with college students; it’s likely that you use sites and apps such as these throughout the day to keep up with your friends. While social media outlets have both positives and negatives, one thing is certain: As students enter college, most do not carefully examine what they share through social media. Online statements, posts, and messages can have a strong impact, so you should be careful about everything you put into public view. Students often ignore the fact that what goes online or is shared through a mobile app lives on forever, although some sites claim differently. Today it is common for many employers to check job applicants’ online image before they offer them jobs. Given how often we use technology to communicate with others, it becomes critically important to use it properly. When you do, you are strengthening, and not weakening, your relationships. Table 11.2 provides some helpful suggestions for improving online communication.

Key Points to Remember Best Practices
1. Match the seriousness of your message to your communication medium. Online is best for transmitting quick reminders or messages that require little time and thought to craft. Offline is better for sharing personal information such as engagement announcements or news of health issues.
2. Online communication is not necessarily more efficient. If your message needs a quick decision or answer, a phone call or a face-to-face conversation may be better. Use online communication if you want the person to have time to respond.
3. Presume that your posts are public. If you wouldn’t want a message to be seen by the general public, don’t post it or send it online.
4. Remember that your posts are permanent. Even after you delete something, it still exists on servers and may be accessible.
5. Practice the art of creating drafts. Don’t feel pressured to answer an e-mail immediately. Taking time to respond will result in a more competently crafted message.
6. Protect your online identity. Choose passwords carefully and limit the personal information you put online.
7. Protect yourself when online correspondence turns into face-to-face communication. Exercise caution and common sense when meeting any online acquaintances in person.
Table 11.2: TABLE 11.2 > Best Practices for Online Communication

Source: Adapted from Steven McCornack, Reflect & Relate: An Introduction to Interpersonal Communication, 3rd ed. (Boston: Bedford/St. Martin’s, 2013), 24–27.

Serious Relationships


College presents an opportunity not only to make lots of new friends but also to start, maintain, or end a romantic relationship. You might already be in a long-term committed relationship, or you might look for one in college. For some older students, it is even possible that ending a long-term relationship, like a marriage, may be a trigger for returning to college. Given that college allows you to meet people from different backgrounds who share common interests, you might find it easier to meet romantic partners in college than you ever have before. Whether you choose to commit to one serious relationship or keep yourself open for meeting others, you’ll grow and learn a great deal about yourself and those with whom you become involved.

Protecting Yourself and Others against Sexual Assault and Violence

Sexual assault that happens on college campuses is a problem that has existed for many years. Everyone is at risk of becoming a victim of sexual assault, but the majority of victims are women. The results of a recent study conclude that during their first year in college, one in seven women will have experienced incapacitated assault or rape and nearly one in ten will have experienced forcible assault or rape.7 According to statistics, more than 80 percent of these survivors will be assaulted or raped by someone they know8and most will not report the crime. Alcohol is a factor in nearly 75 percent of the incidents.9

Interventions to reduce sexual violence on campus are urgently needed. In 2013, the federal government instituted an initiative called the Campus Save Act. The act mandates that all colleges and universities must provide sexual assault, violence, and harassment education to students. The Campus Save Act provides an amendment to the Clery Act of 1990, which the federal government implemented after a female college student was raped and killed. The Clery Act requires postsecondary institutions to report sexual and other crimes and related statistics. Colleges can report cases of sexual misconduct, but as always, the student’s information must remain confidential. You can find out more about the Campus Save Act by visiting campussaveact.org, contacting your campus security or public safety office, or contacting your student judicial office. It is always up to the survivor to decide how he or she would like to proceed after a sexual assault has occurred.

Whether sexually assaulted by an acquaintance or by a stranger, a survivor can suffer long-term traumatic effects as well as depression, anxiety, and even suicide. Many survivors essentially blame themselves, but the only person at fault for a sexual assault is the perpetrator. If you are a survivor of sexual assault, regardless of whether you choose to report it to the police, it is useful to seek help by contacting a counselor, a local rape crisis center, campus public safety or police department, student health services, women’s student services, or a local hospital emergency room. Here are some steps you can take to help a sexual assault survivor:


If you observe a sexual assault or a potential sexual assault, make your presence known. Don’t be a bystander; intervene in any way you can. Create a distraction, and if you need help, ask for help.

Marriage, Committed Relationships, and/or Parenting during College

Can you sustain a committed relationship during college? Can you be a successful college student and a good parent at the same time? The answer to each question, of course, is “yes,” although meeting everyone’s needsyours, your spouse’s, your partner’s, your parents’, your children’sis not easy. If you are married or in a committed relationship, namely one in which you are living together, with or without children, you need to become an expert at time management. If you do have children, make sure you find out what resources your college offers to help you with daycare or after-school care, particularly if you are a single parent or have the entire responsibility for raising your child or children.

Sometimes going to college can create conflict with a spouse or partner as you take on a new identity and a new set of responsibilities. Sometimes jealousy may be a factor when the student talks about new friends and impressive instructors. Financial problems are likely to put extra pressure on your relationship, so both you and your partner have to work hard at paying attention to each other’s needs. Be sure to involve those in your household in your decisions and reassure them of their continuing significance to you. Bring them to campus at every opportunity, and let your partner read your papers and other assignmentsyour children also if they are old enough. Introduce your partner to some of the new acquaintances you are making at college, so he or she does not feel shut out or isolated. Finally, set aside time for your partner and children just as carefully as you schedule your work and your classes.

Relationships with Family Members

If you come from a cultural background that values family relationships and responsibilities above everything else, you will have to find a way to balance your home life and college. In some cultures, if your grandmother or aunt needs help, that might be considered just as importantor more important thangoing to class or taking an exam. Some instructors might help you if you have occasional problems with meeting a deadline because of family obligations, but you cannot expect that they will. It’s important that you explain your situation; your instructors cannot guess what you need. As the demands on your time increase, it is important that you talk with family members to help them understand your role and responsibilities as a student and ask for their help and support.


Not every family is ideal. If your parents or other members of your family are not supportive, find other people who can help you create the family you need. Seek help from the counseling center if you find yourself in the middle of a difficult family situation.



In a small group, talk about how your family members are adjusting to your college experience. Are they supportive, fearful, meddling, remote? How do their attitudes and reactions affect your motivation with regard to college? Share strategies with other students for handling issues that arise and staying motivated, even when family issues seem to get in the way.

Connecting through Involvement

Students who become involved with at least one campus organization are more likely to complete their first year and remain in college because they are more engaged and involved in the campus activities and events and get to connect with a lot of students, instructors, and other college employees. Consider your interests and the high school activities you enjoyed most, and choose some to explore at your college. You might want to join a sports team, perform community service, or run for a student government office, or you might prefer to join a club or an organization.

Almost every college has organizations you can join; usually, you can check them out through activity or club fairs, printed guides, open houses, Web pages, and social media outlets such as Twitter, Instagram, or the college’s Facebook page. Find out what the organization is like, what the expectations of time and money are, and whether you feel comfortable with the members.

You can also get involved in the surrounding community. Consider volunteering for a community service project such as caring for animals at a shelter, serving the homeless at a soup kitchen, or helping build or renovate homes for needy families. Your college might offer service opportunities as part of first-year courses.

Remember that one of the best things about going to college is meeting new people from different backgrounds and interests. You learn as much or more from other students you meet as you learn from instructors. Although not everyone you hang out with will become a close friend, you will likely find a few special relationships that might even last a lifetime.


Be careful not to overextend yourself when it comes to campus activities. While it is important to get involved, joining too many clubs or organizations will make it difficult to focus on any given activity and will interfere with your studies. Future employers will consider a balance in academics and campus involvement an important quality in applicants.


One of the best ways to develop relationships on your campus is to get an on-campus job. Generally, your on-campus supervisors may be much more flexible than off-campus employers in helping you balance your study demands and your work schedule. You might not make as much money working on campus as you would in an off-campus job, but the relationships you’ll develop with important people who care about your success in college and who will write those all-important reference letters make on-campus employment well worth it. Consider finding a job related to your major. For example, if you are a computer science major, you might be able to work in a computer lab. That work could help you gain knowledge and experience and make connections with experts in your field. If an on-campus job is not available, or you don’t find one that appeals to you, an off-campus job can allow you to meet new people in the community.