Bad Grades? Take a Trip Home


| 11 Comments

I'm not sure how I managed to skate through freshman year without missing home too much, but I sure am glad that I did. As a sophomore, I am experiencing homesickness for the first time and, frankly, it sucks. I have a feeling that it's taking a toll on my academic performance--I went from a 4.0 and no homesickness to a not-so-perfect GPA and homesickness out the wazoo. Should I take a break from school and head back to good old Royersford, PA for the weekend? I decided to investigate.

A study conducted by Darlena Jones, Ph.D. and Sherry Woosley, Ph.D. through the MAP-Works Student Success and Retention Project supports my hunch that homesickness has an impact on academic performance. They found that, on average, students who reported extreme levels of homesickness had lower GPAs than those who reported moderate levels of homesickness or little-to-no homesickness.

It looks like I'm not alone. But can I go so far as to blame my grades on my homesickness? Let's take a look at the backend of the research. MAP-Works, an organization dedicated to "[improving] the overall quality of the college student experience," sent out their 2010 Fall Transition Survey to colleges across the country. Data was collected on more than 135,000 students from 85 different colleges and the overall response rate was 74.6%. About 60 of the 85 colleges reported the GPAs and drop-out rates of respondents. Individuals from those 60 colleges who indicated extreme homesickness had a mean fall GPA of 2.63, which is significantly lower than all other groups who gave GPA information. If I base my conclusion off of this study, there are a few reasons why I cannot hold my homesickness accountable for my grades.


First and foremost, because the study is observational, researchers cannot "prove" anything and I cannot assume that correlation means causation (and the possibility of chance, of course). While the survey method is cost-effective, it can introduce response bias--those who take the time to respond to a survey without any incentive tend to have strong feelings one way or the other. The colleges who chose to participate may need help with "improving...the college student experience" which could mean that they have more unhappy students than the colleges that chose not to participate. Something similar may have happened on the student level. It seems plausible that students who are struggling overall (homesickness, poor grades) would be more likely to respond to a survey about the experience of college students.


Another thing--what if my lower grades are making me homesick? This study cannot rule out the possibility of reverse causation. Confounding variables are not ruled out, either. The students' type of attachment
 could be a link between homesickness and grades. Perhaps those who made secure attachments to their parents as babies grew up to be more confident and independent, translating into better resiliency in the face of lifestyle changes.

                Even though I cannot definitively use my homesickness as an excuse for my grades, this study was well conducted and offers a lot of evidence in support of the idea. It reminds me of a question from our pop quiz about depression and light at night: "On the basis of this article, should a rational person "shut their blinds tight at bedtime?" The correct answer was "yes" because you might as well, it is a small effort that may yield results. I think I'm going to plan a trip home. Even if it ends up having no real effect on my grades, at least I'll get to visit with my awesome family (pictured below).

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11 Comments

I'm so glad you wrote about this. I was so elated to be away from home for a while but then something really weird happened. Last week I stumbled onto my mom's Instagram and saw a picture of her and my sister and my cat. I burst into tears. It was such a huge mood swing and it caught me really off-guard and since then I've been really homesick and on the verge of tears every time I think about it. It's weird how I didn't appreciate my family until I was far away.

I don't know that it's had an effect on my grades, but it's certainly hitting me pretty hard that college won't be as glamorous as I expected. Here's an article about why homesickness in college may happen and how you and your parents can work your way through it before you do something drastic like drop out.http://www.huffingtonpost.com/brian-harke/mom-i-want-to-come-home_b_935846.html

I'm so glad you wrote about this. I was so elated to be away from home for a while but then something really weird happened. Last week I stumbled onto my mom's Instagram and saw a picture of her and my sister and my cat. I burst into tears. It was such a huge mood swing and it caught me really off-guard and since then I've been really homesick and on the verge of tears every time I think about it. It's weird how I didn't appreciate my family until I was far away.

I don't know that it's had an effect on my grades, but it's certainly hitting me pretty hard that college won't be as glamorous as I expected. Here's an article about why homesickness in college may happen and how you and your parents can work your way through it before you do something drastic like drop out.http://www.huffingtonpost.com/brian-harke/mom-i-want-to-come-home_b_935846.html

It's funny and sad at the same time how I am literally looking for a bus on megabus' website. We have a pumpkin carving tradition at home and I really wanted to be home for that, but I have 2 exams the next week and the schedule is just not cooperating with me here. :( I would believe that homesickness has an effect on my grades or at least it has got to be related somehow.

here is a "how to deal with your homesickness"
http://www.socc.edu/esps/pgs/bm~doc/homesick.pdf

Amanda,

It’s funny that you wrote about this topic because I was just talking to a few friends over the past couple of days about how I never go home unless we have to (Thanksgiving break, Christmas break, etc.) I honestly believe that if I actually did take a few trips home throughout the school year, then my grades would be even better! I always come back to school from breaks feeling re-energized, refreshed, and ready to go. Right now, I have to admit that I'm suffering from being homesick. It was most evident last weekend when I missed my 1-year-old little sister's birthday party back home in Philly. I wanted to be there so bad, but at the time I didn't have the funds to make a trip home. Bummer, yeah I know. Right now, I'm anxiously waiting for Thanksgiving break to come, but it's still so far away. It's not like my grades are bad, but I know that I would surely benefit from a few days back home. For those of us who are unable to go home for whatever reason, we need better ways to handle our homesickness better. Here's a few tips on how to lift your mood during college by Ohio State:

http://shs.osu.edu/articles/college-and-homesickness/

I really enjoyed reading about this topic! I always say I have the best of both worlds because I love being at home and I love being away at school. However, this doesn't mean that I get the occasional bout of homesickness and as a senior, I can definitely recollect the times that it got a little out of control. But what really is homesickness? An article from 2012 on CNN.com delved further into the subject and stated, "In a paper co-written by Chris Thurber and Edward Walton published in Pediatrics, the journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics, homesickness is defined as "distress and functional impairment caused by an actual or anticipated separation from home and attachment objects such as parents." So in all actuality, missing home is really missing the protective and safe environment entails. I know this applies to me because I always say life is so much easier when I can escape home for the weekend. If you are one to suffer from homesickness (don't we all at some point?), check out this post on 5 ways to deal with it effectively, http://www.usnews.com/education/blogs/the-college-experience/2011/09/28/5-ways-for-college-students-to-survive-being-homesick.

I thought this article was very interesting, especially because I get homesick a lot too. I never really thought that being homesick could affect your grades, but it totally makes sense! Whenever I get really stressed, all I want to do is relax at home, so my mind only focuses on that, which takes away from my studies. Although we'd all like to, we can't always escape home whenever we want to. I found some tips to help eliminate homesickness:
-give yourself time to get adjusted to being at school
-realize it's okay to miss home every once in a while
-post pictures of home in your room, or do something to make your room feel more homey
-talk about your homesickness with a friend, they may be able to relate
-get involved
-learn techniques that will help you relax, whether it's music, writing, etc.

http://www.everydayhealth.com/college-health/9-ways-to-help-homesickness.aspx

This is a good topic because as shown in previous comments I think we can all relate. I get homesick as well but understand what needs to be done here and the fact that I need to learn to live on my own. I am going home for the first time this weekend and I am ecstatic, I agree that this can have a positive effect on the mental state of mind upon returning. Many people I know talk about how they feel they need a break to clear their head. The same goes for me and I definitely feel refreshed after being able to be in the comfort of my home and friends who I miss a lot. When you take a break from something, I feel it gives added motivation to get back at it with a different mind set. The satisfaction that is fulfilled helps keep the subject off your mind for a while. In an effort to reduce feeling this way I try to stay in touch with my friends through text and FaceTime and that really helps and makes you feel like your with them. Being from New Jersey, the people here are a little different so its a little adjustment. Here is a CNN article that examines homesickness further.

http://www.cnn.com/2010/HEALTH/08/16/homesickness.not.about.home/

Hi Yoon Jae! I also have a gut feeling that, at least in some cases, homesickness can affect grades. Like I said above, it will probably never be "proven" that there is a correlation between the two, but there is evidence to support the notion. I am not sure how strong the evidence is due to the potential response bias built into the study, and I know that my personal anecdote may not carry much weight. However, I definitely agree that a connection seems plausible.

Hi Yoon Jae! I also have a gut feeling that, at least in some cases, homesickness can affect grades. Like I said above, it will probably never be "proven" that there is a correlation between the two, but there is evidence to support the notion. I am not sure how strong the evidence is due to the potential response bias built into the study, and I know that my personal anecdote may not carry much weight. However, I definitely agree that a connection seems plausible. I wonder what other aspects of life homesickness may affect. Here is an interesting paper that examines the question using a religious approach. http://scholar.lib.vt.edu/theses/available/etd-04082010-141921/unrestricted/Longo_GS_T_2010.pdf

Hi Kate! Thanks for the tips on alleviating homesickness. I've tried giving myself time to adjust and realizing it's okay to feel homesick sometimes, and I definitely think that they have helped. It's funny that you mention making my room feel more homey... My room at home was just redone before I came to school and I absolutely adore it. It's so me, and my dorm room was just not. I called my step mom a few weeks ago asking her to send up some of my picture frames, candles, and decorations. What an impact it had on me! My room became a place to relax as well as a comforting reminder of home. Just what I need. In regard to the suggestion about getting more involved, I think that it is the opposite for me. I'm simply too busy and it makes me miss being able to kick back and relax with my family. Maybe I'm getting burn out. Although this article addresses overscheduling in children, I still feel that it applies to my life. http://family.go.com/parenting/pkg-back-to-school/article-747597-overscheduled-kids-t/

Hi Kelsey! You bring up a good point--my blog would have probably been a bit stronger if I had explicitly defined homesickness. The source that I pulled the study from, MAP-Works (http://www.webebi.com/community/research/24/homesickness-impacts-retention-and-academic-performance), actually broke homesickness down into two types: separation and distress. Separation is "the developmental process associated with becoming an independent person" while distress refers to the regret felt for having left home and a strong desire to return home." Many more students feel the first type than the second, which is probably a good thing because the second is far more serious. There is a much higher drop-out rate for students who reported distress-related homesickness than those who reported separation-related homesickness or none at all. Luckily, mine is the less severe case. Thanks for the tips on how to deal with it!

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