The Internal World Of The College Student

The college years, from approximately 17-21, have some definite psychological characteristics. The overarching dynamic is a shift from internal to external.  Specifically, this is what I mean:

  1. Young people are transitioning from home (and all that goes with it) to a wider world with more diversity of choice and less adult supervision.
  2. Young people are distancing from parents (not abandoning, just loosening the ties) and gravitating to other love relationships.
  3. Many of the upheavals of adolescence have quieted down and they feel less scattered (consolidation of the self) so they increasingly move to use this self to engage with others.
  4.  Their identities feel more established than ever before so they are able to try out this more stable identity in work, play, career choice, friends and love.

I hope that this helps parents to understand what their college age kids are going through – and maybe some college blog readers can gain a bit of insight (does it ring true?).

If you are an early career therapist, you will find “What Do I Say?” an essential addition to your professional library.  you can order it at

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