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Dean of the College

Vassar College

The student just went through a romantic relationship breakup. Their friendship group was closer with their ex than with them, so now they do not have regular access to friends either. The student is feeling lonely and isolated and is beginning to eat meals in their room, and avoiding their usual activities.


Initiate conversation

Describe observations, express feelings

  • Observations can be of the moment (“I hear you describing feelings of loneliness,” “You seem to be really down about this breakup,”)
  • Observations can be from recent experiences (“I noticed during your shifts this week you’ve been withdrawn,” “I haven’t seen you eating with your friends in the Retreat this week,”)
  • Feelings as a result of observations (“I’m worried about how withdrawn you have been recently,” “I feel concerned that you have been only eating in your room,”)

Ask open questions

  • How are you feeling?
  • How are you providing care and support for yourself?
  • How have you managed feelings like this in the past?
  • What are ways that you feel connected to others?
  • What orgs are you involved in? What are your interests?


Provide empathy and validation

  • “I can understand why this is a difficult time for you.”
  • “It’s okay to feel your feelings, even if they’re challenging or contradictory”

Normalize and reduce stigma

Ask what kind of support they would like (problem-solving, listening, referrals)

  • “Would you like me to provide suggestions to help you?”
  • “Are you looking to vent your feelings to me, or would you like some problem-solving support? I am here for both”
  • “I am here to listen as you navigate this challenging time. What other kind of support are you comfortable with me providing?”


  • Specific, concrete steps
  • Anticipate barriers or resistance (What if that first plan doesn’t work out? What is another approach you might use?)
  • Acknowledge autonomy around choices for student
  • Assist in developing a plan
  • What orgs is the student involved in? What are their interests? Can you make some introductions with them?


  • Identify support systems (friends at school, friends at home, family, clinical support, trusted administrators and faculty, supervisors, other meaningful connections)
  • SSN report if appropriate (heightened concern around safety or access to campus resources, or if more comprehensive support plans need to be developed with campus partners)
  • House Advisor referral
  • If first-year, explore peer support of Student Fellow
  • For academic support, Class Advisor through Dean of Studies
  • Depending on identities held, explore support through the various offices at SGE
  • Follow up for support in a few days/weeks with student
  • Seek consultation with campus partners as needed