Winter Break Conversations: College Isn’t Going Anywhere

Guest Article By Joanna Lilley, MA, NCC, LPCC

Winter break can be one of the most exciting times for a college student and yet, it can also be very challenging.  For students who are wrapping up their first full semester at college, heading home for the holidays can often be a positive time to regroup and recharge.  That is, until grades are posted.  For a student who is struggling with anxiety, depression, or other mental health concerns – the next steps and decisions to prepare for another college semester will be critical towards completing a degree on time.

If a student has not performed well academically for reasons related to their mental health and not their academic ability, it is recommended that families not tell their student to “just do better next semester.”  Instead, it is recommended families ask their young adult more pointed questions that can get to the root of their academic performance and the challenges they may be experiencing. For example,

“Tell me about how college is really going for you?  On a scale of 1 to 10, how would you rate your first semester?  What was the most challenging thing about being a college student last semester?  How can I support you in being more successful, not just academically, in the spring?”

These types of questions can open the door to the conversation about a struggle your student might be having at college.  If a family’s only response is disapproval directed towards the academic performance, it can be more challenging for the young adult to advocate for themselves to get the mental health help they need.

International studies have shown that 1 in 3 college students has a diagnosable mental health condition.  Put another way, because we are now becoming more aware of mental health issues facing college students (and talking about it more openly), seeking mental health support is healthy and normalized.  Thinking ahead now, it’s imperative to strategize the best avenue for collegiate success.  There are hundreds of treatment programs out there, and it’s hard to know who to call first for help!  There are plenty of resources on campus, and there are just as many off campus too both within health center services and other support offices. Reaching out for help will be the first step.  And remember:  taking a break from college is also ok!  College isn’t going anywhere! 

Let your young adult reflect on fall semester during winter break and make a proactive and informed decision regarding their mental health this spring! 


Joanna Lilley, MA, NCC, LPCC

Therapeutic Consultant at Lilley Consulting

Additional Resources: TCA, IECA, and OBHC.