Jeff Leiken has been an irreplaceable asset to my transition from high school to college. He aided me in transitioning from a high school frame of mind and life style to the high intensity lifestyle that came with moving into this new chapter of life, especially with the transition for me of having a very comfortable group of friends to knowing no one in an entirely new environment.
When I first got to college, I was very nervous, shy, and scared to meet new people and make new friends. Jeff's life coaching skills taught me techniques and general knowledge on how to meet new people, and foster real friendships from the tiny acquaintances that I had made. With Jeff's helpful input, I was able to create a wonderful group of friends who are now some of my best friends today.
The knowledge that he has passed on to me not only helped with my transition, but will continue to help me for as long as I have a need to make friends.
Jeff was, and still is to this day, my go to person when it comes to relationships and dating issues, questions, and general help. His perspective has allowed me to navigate a very challenging and frustrating dating scene that was once very foreign to me. Moving from high school dating in a Suburb to a big city was very shocking, and a major difference was how the dating scene differed from that of a gay high school student to that of a college student within a city. Relationships are hard and confusing, and the style in which people were dating at a college level in a big city were even more confusing and had the potential to create major life issues.
His input has truly affected the relationships that I have made and helped me even further when the relationships became increasingly challenging and difficult.
One of the most useful aspects of Jeff was his ability to be an instantaneous help. Even though I live thousands of miles away, Jeff is incredibly accommodating and amazing about reaching out, and responding when help is needed. If I feel the need to talk to him, within a few texts, I can have a time for us to call or facetime within a day. This immediate response is incredibly helpful because college life is fast and problems need an equally fast response in order for the new student to be able to stay afloat. Most university lead programs can be helpfully but generally have increasingly long wait lists. These university lead programs generally can't help the problem at hand because by the time a student is sitting in an office, the issue could be weeks old and have passed and the student would have gone without proper input or help. Jeff's instantaneous input is such a strong asset to my ability to deal with life's trials and tribulations.
Dillon, Depaul University
Lindsey, USC Cass of 2017
My first semester at USC was a huge shock. The transition from being a big fish in a small (very laid back) pond to being a tiny fish in a massive (extremely fast paced) ocean was stressful to say the least. Having Jeff always just a phone call away may have been the difference between me waiting it out until I eventually grew to love USC and me dropping out or transferring.
The stress and sadness of moving away from home and starting an entire new world at college is SO under talked about. Jeff is a unique mentor because he has worked with so many other teens in the same position, so when I was struggling, he was able to reassure me that the issues I faced were completely normal. Knowing that other students were also having a hard time with the transition, and hearing from Jeff the different ways that they found their niches at school, helped me immensely in finding my path at USC.
From breakups, to bad dates, to deaths in the family, to career advice - Jeff has been there to help guide me. Now, as a senior in college about to start my life in the real world, I am truly grateful to know that I have Jeff as a resource going forward.
Lindsey, USC Cass of 2017
Did she choose the wrong school?
Lucas, Yale University Class of 2020
Anybody who tells you they are in love with college and have never been happier after the first semester is lying. Seriously. Maybe some of them are feeling more situated than others but for the most part everybody’s a little lost and scared going into college.
With all the good times that college brings (and trust me there are a ton of good times ahead) there are also some times that really challenge us. Whether it’s dealing with loneliness, homesickness, fitting in, deadlines, stress or existential crises, freshman year has a lot to toss our way.
Moving away was really hard for me. I had truly loved my home and suddenly found myself in a totally different part of the country in a totally different culture. First semester I found myself spending more time romanticizing home to my new friends or thinking about how great it would be if I could go to school with all my high school friends. There were times when I found myself feeling incredibly alone and nostalgic and I would call Jeff 5 times a week asking “how could my life have changed so drastically so fast?”
I would call my parents too a lot too and it was always good to hear their voices and their support but when I called Jeff he offered something different then just continued affirmation of my "greatness." He offered a perspective that allowed me to work through my own issues just by talking to him about them. Jeff would never tell me what to do, only help me analyze the situation through an added lens allowing me to make my own decisions.
As my first semester went on I seemed to be doing great on paper. I was doing well in my classes, made lots of new friends, and joined 2 fun but time-consuming clubs. Under the surface, however, there was a part of me that was anchored to home and the life I used to have in high school.
Over winter break I strongly thought about taking the next semester off and Moving to LA to help my friend start a magazine. Sounds like the dream right?
I thought so too but I didn’t end up doing it.
With the awareness that I was going to go back to college, which was still foreign and unfamiliar, I knew that something needed to change because I didn’t want to just be tolerating college I wanted to be enjoying it. I needed a way to let myself be happy and that’s what Jeff helped me find; the tools I needed to immerse myself fully into the school and find a comfortable place where I could enjoy myself. I still have the letter he wrote to me explaining how to be fully present and stay focused on what’s in front of me instead of constantly thinking of home.
College is a hard transition I’m not going to lie. But without Jeff I wouldn’t be able to say that I have finally found a place at school were I have real friends and a real life here that is fun and fulfilling. Having Jeff there along the way was instrumental to my success. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve called Jeff with girl issues, tough decisions, or just general puzzlement about my existence as a human being. I still do call Jeff. Sometimes people just need to be reminded that they are okay and the world isn’t exploding just because you’re going to college. It’s an incredibly exciting time that you should be so stoked for but nobody should have to navigate it on their own. We all get by with a little help from our friend Jeff.
Lucas, Yale University Class of 2020
Feeling a Long, Long Way From Home
Andrei, Sarah Lawrence College Class of 2019
What I was always told before going off to college was how fast it was going to be. That I had to enjoy every moment because soon enough it'd all be gone.
The time demands being a collegiate athlete Freshman year were a lot to manage on top of classes, having a girlfriend and being involved in theatre. What I did not anticipate was that this acceleration wouldn't allow me to process some very monumental and pivotal moments in my life, good and bad.
Now, as I near the halfway mark of my time in college, my relationship with Jeff has been so important for my health. Jeff listens to me, and because he understands me so well, he always finds the best way to approach a situation. It helps I only have to send him a text and he will make time to speak. There have been a few times that I needed to have a difficult conversation with someone or make a decision with a pending deadline, and having him immediately able to talk and to give me some suggestions about how to handle it made an enormous difference. I always leave our talks motivated and cleansed.
Andrei, Sarah Lawrence College Class of 2019
Student Athlete Actor & Time
Sophie, University of Arizona Class of 2014
When I left for college in 2009 I was excited, but scared. I wasn’t ready to leave my brother behind, I didn’t feel ready to be on my own, I wasn’t sure that once I was outside of the Marin bubble that had been my life for 17 years that I could continue to reduce the noise around me to stay in control. My mother passed away my freshman year and I was okay for a while, then I started to spiral. I needed help to navigate my new life, so I turned to Jeff. We resumed our regular calls and I don’t think I’ve ever articulated (even to him) how much it helped me get back on track.
I met Jeff in 2006 during my sophomore year of high school. I was angry, defiant, bullish and full of angst for reasons I couldn’t quite articulate to my friends at the time. My home life was tense, my father worked a lot and my mother was a high-functioning addict. Being a teenager in a well-to-do Marin suburb meant that things were always fine, but my life was a little different and I hadn’t found anyone who was ready to listen to me and understand what I was going through. Jeff’s office became a safe space where I could vent and scream and cry while he responded in his always-even tone, giving me strategies to take control of my own life despite what might be going on around me.
Jeff was (and is) someone who I respect. Lying to him - like I had been to my father - wasn’t an option because he would know, so I needed to keep myself accountable for the promises I was making. I went to class, I stopped drinking so much, I learned to put myself first and I found my voice again. I started writing, I cultivated a community of people who rallied around me when things got hard, I found my path - and I have Jeff to thank for making sure I stayed on course.
When I graduated and landed my first PR gig in San Francisco a few weeks later, he was the second person I texted (after my dad) to say, “I f*cking DID IT, I made it!” And a two years later when I was weighing the decision to make a huge professional change I called him again. His response? “You’ve got this.” And I did, but it wouldn’t have been possible without him.
Sophie, University of Arizona Class of 2014
From underachiever and family tragedy, to career success and thriving adult
Nathan, Northwestern University, Class of 2019
The beginning of my college experience was, to say the least, a slough of extreme experiences and emotions, all of which exceeded my expectations in ways both good and bad. Like most incoming freshman, I was desperately looking forward to attaining the independence that I had sought after for most of high school, and while college was certainly more liberating than life at home, I found that I wasn’t quite as confident in my ability to walk in my own shoes as I originally thought.
Freshman Year the challenges were endless: friendships came and went in a matter of days, my roommate refused to keep our dorm clean, and classes were grueling. Everything, from my personal space to even, at times, my sense of self, felt challenged to the utmost. The worst part was that, as I and most other first-time college students will attest, everybody else seemed to be having more fun than me, and their lives seemed more in control.
I recall speaking to Jeff on the phone after orientation week in order to get my head clear. To my surprise, he started off the conversation by mentioning that it seemed like it had been a very long time since we had spoken, even though it had only been a matter of days. I had felt precisely the same way, like I had crossed the threshold into some other universe and had come out a different person. Right off the bat, it was extremely comforting to be on the same page as him, and to have somebody who understood what I was going through. As the year went on, I used Jeff as a resource constantly, messaging him whenever I needed advice about classes, clubs, girls, summer plans, etc. He always responded in a matter of minutes with a thought-provoking question or perfect response. Remember, he would always say, that what you are experiencing is what every other college student goes through. It’s a rite of passage, so to speak, that challenges you in ways you never thought possible.
The rest of the year progressed, and while it had its ups and downs, I’m glad to say I was able to make it into the summer without too many bruises. The beginning of sophomore year, however, proved to be among the biggest challenges of my undergraduate life. My then roommate, who I had been close friends with for the majority of freshman year, was experiencing some pretty significant symptoms of depression, and, after he confided in me that he had had thoughts of ending his own life, I called the student center and initiated the process of finding him some help. The following weeks were long and arduous, and symptoms of my previous struggle with anxiety began to come back. I would wake up every morning and immediately turn over to look at roommate in order to make sure he was breathing. As he wasn’t attending class at that point, every hour I would text him to make sure he was alright.
Needless to say, this all took quite a toll on me and my mental health. I honestly can’t say what I would have done without Jeff’s constant support during this process. He helped me immensely through this time in my life, coaching me in the best way to communicate with my roommate and always providing an open ear when I needed to get everything off of my chest. It is because of him that I was able to navigate this situation as maturely and effectively as possible.
Nathan, Northwestern University, Class of 2019
A roommate with severe mental health issues
Hayley, University of Miami, Class of 2015
I went to the University of Miami which wasn't too far from home for me but the culture there was definitely different from home.
The first few weeks of school I thought I was on vacation. I went to class of course but I was partying more frequently than usual. I was making tons of new friends.
Then three weeks into my first year of college my grandfather passed away. He was sick and I knew that this could happen while I was away at school but it totally brought me back down to earth. Jeff really helped me through this hard time. I found myself crying and sad at school at random times and Jeff would help me get through that difficult first semester.
Over the next few years, he helped me navigate through lots of ups and downs with friends and discuss what I was thinking I wanted from Greek life as well. Senior year when a student I knew died of a drug overdose, Jeff was one of the first people to reach out to me. He has been so helpful with keeping things in perspective and being available whenever I want his help. I know that having him in my life through my high school and college years made things so much easier for me.
Hayley, University of Miami, Class of 2015
Focusing at school while coping with grief
Stephen, University of Colorado Class of 2017
I first met Jeff when I was 20. 1 had just recently moved back into my parent's house after a couple of slow years at a community college. I was going through some issues in my life and my parents suggested talking to a guy. I chose to do it and it turned out to being one of the best decisions I've made for myself. I wasn't too hot on the "therapist" type person to talk to, being that I had some experience in the past and they weren't anything special. I wouldn't call Jeff a therapist though; he's much more than that
I got through that period of my life with his help and was able to go pointed in the right direction again, which seemed very hopeless at the time. Since then its been almost five years, we talk with each other less than when I originally met him, but that's because there are less problems to talk about. Talking to Jeff is awesome and all, but technically the less you talk to him the better your life must be going, so it's a good and bad thing.
To summarize his personality, his knowledge, vision, and expertise is actually really tough. He's not like a therapist at all. I don't know what he calls himself, but I tend to call him a guru/life coach. Whether you're going through a breakup, having a tough time in school (with a 3.9 or a 2.5 GPA), fighting with parents, whatever you're issues are, I promise you he can help. Jeff is amazingly knowledgeable about people's tendencies, emotional response and reaction, understanding motives, and very importantly...communicating. He is different than other people I've talked to in similar fields, because he does it his own way. He is genuine, and you can feel it when you're talking to him face to face. He truly got me out of a dark place, and now I'm doing well and I'll be forever thankful to him for that. These days he helps me manage adult type things. but life is hectic and unpredictable and I always know I can go to Jeff with whatever may happen
People go through life thinking they can handle everything, or just "make it work" and move on or forget about it. The thing is you aren't realizing what options are out there because you have never seen them. Jeff really helped me to see situations or altercations or decisions from afar and consider every aspect and the choices/consequences/after effects. He is a guru about life and people. Just listen to him.
Stephen, University of Colorado
Max, University of Georgia Class of 2020
When I arrived at college, I was inundated with materials about how to navigate the academics of my first semester and why it was important to make responsible decisions in our social lives. No one though gave any information regarding the processes or experiences or even warning signs that would lead me to know whether the decisions I was making would be the best ones for me.
Inevitably, being at a large state school like the University of Georgia, Greek life dominates the social scene. Deciding whether to pledge––even whether to rush at all––was a difficult and trying experience for me.
Many of my role models like the older guys I’d looked up to while growing up at summer camp, had participated in Greek life and made it sound so great. But while some of my friends were going to rush, others were not. I’m very outgoing and social, but I am not really the hard-core partying type. I value my introverted side, and I also had a ton of interests I wanted to pursue.
My parents advised me against jumping into it for a variety of reasons. After many months––yes, months––of consideration, I decided that I needed to step out of my comfort zone during my first months at college and engage in the fraternity process and go for it..
So I went straight into the pledging process, unsure of what lay ahead, and frankly, uneasy about my decision. But it’s college, right? I felt that I had to “live a little”…
Despite my parents opposition, I decided to pledge the one fraternity with which I had a good relationship and where I really felt that I had a solid connection with the guys.
After a couple days in the pledge process, I knew that I had made a huge mistake. Fraternity life was not for me.
I was constantly drained from the pettiness and general time-suck of pledging. I also felt surprisingly unfulfilled.
The time and energy that I could have devoted to branching out, to meeting different groups of people and joining a wide range of activities that should have become the best part of my first semester, was instead put into a process that I felt had minimal value –– it was just not who I was in my heart.
I could have immersed myself in the diversity of my surroundings and my studies, but I chose to fence myself into an enclosure of homogeny and futility. I felt this sensation, but I was not conscious enough to take action and rid myself of the toxicity.
I felt compelled though to “tough it out” as they say. I felt I needed, to prove myself (really to myself, that I was capable of enduring such foolishness… I can do anything for eight weeks, right?) to those around me who were supposed to be my "brothers" for my remaining time in college. So I continued with the pledge process, determined to make it through.
About a week into pledging, I suffered a complete breakdown. I was unsure of my identity, of my priorities, and most importantly, my ability to make difficult, but necessary choices in trying times. That’s when I made my first call––it was to call Jeff.
A funny thing happened while the phone was ringing. Because of our previous interactions, I understood what I needed to do in that moment and what the most likely outcome of our conversation was going to be. But just talking with Jeff––making the decision to seek help in a time of tremendous uncertainty and fragility in my life––not only comforted me, but it also got me to take action. His words provided me with a moment of intense clarity that empowered me to move forward on a far better path.
The biggest challenge for me was dealing with the complicated social implications that would come from dropping out, as well as just my own pride. While my parents and friends had been incredibly loving and supportive to me, no one had helped me resolve those obstacles that really had felt overwhelming to me.
Jeff did. In fact there was one thing he said in that conversation – one sentence actually - that provided me with a moment of intense clarity that empowered me to move forward on the best path.
I knew that he understood me, how I perceived different situations and how I approached life.
Jeff has helped me to bring my inner guiding voice out from beneath the frenzy of life and to trust myself and helped me bring clarity to a situation that felt overwhelming.
That moment I made one of the toughest life decisions I had ever made. I know that I will look to that moment in my life as a turning point in which I took control of my future. I can confidently say today that my college experience would not have turned out nearly as well as it has, had I not made that phone call.
I came to college unsure about a lot of things: my major, my dorm choice, and whether I would even like my school. But I do know the one constant upon which I could rely was my support system, of which Jeff is an integral part.
As my time in college has progressed, I know that I am that much better equipped to deal with the even greater challenges that inevitably lay ahead. I also know that Jeff, his insight, and his compassion will be alongside me, ready to confront and overcome obstacles in my life that I cannot even forseeforesee. Introducing Jeff into my life is one of the greatest gifts my parents have given me.
Max, University of Georgia Class of 2020
Going Greek: To Rush or Not To Rush
Henry, PACE University, Class of 2020
College is an exponentially transformative period that pushes the bounds of any individual. In college, people change. I know I did.
My name is Henry. I am a freshman BFA acting major at Pace University in New York City. Although I am very fond of my acting program, I dealt with my share of problems while at school. Things ranging from falling behind in classes, psychotic roommates, long distance relationship, and even the premature death of a fellow student. Even though it was hard to endure at times, I made it through. More importantly I grew as an individual. And despite all the problems, I most definitely enjoyed my Freshman year.
Let me stress that I didn’t go about this alone. I always had the support of my parents, my friends, and my mentor Jeff Leiken. When the resourcefulness of my family and friends where stretched thin, I could always count on Jeff as a reliable source of guidance. With his insight, I developed my own methods of dealing with the difficult situations I faced throughout the year.
The most helpful advice I can give to incoming freshman is to keep on top of your s#*t and not to fall behind. I know it is general and somewhat blunt statement, but it’s true. This not only applies to school work, but also to aspects of school and social life.
Being a fundamental procrastinator I learned this the hard way. I waited until the last minute for nearly everything; whether it be writing an essay, buying groceries, paying tuition, or even texting a friend back.
If I had to ascribe it to something, being a procrastinator is like being a functioning alcoholic. It may seem like a good idea, but in reality, there is no way to be either of these without paying a huge price for it!
I cannot describe the amount of stress that was a direct result of procrastination. The relief of finally getting on top of my life was immense. Learning how to commit to a schedule and be disciplined to avoid temptations, is critical to succeeding in college.
During my freshman year, I also maintained a long-distance relationship with my girlfriend whom I had dated throughout my senior year of high school. I was only about a two-hour bus ride from her, so I got to see her every two or so weeks and over holidays. Still, maintaining a long-distance relationship was straining and at times rather hard. There were a few moments in which I thought about calling it off. Ultimately, I decided It was something I wanted to keep.
With some outside help from friends and people like Jeff, I was able to maintain school and my relationship with my girlfriend. Having an outside resource to consult was unbelievably helpful, because there is only so much advice your roommate and or parents can give you. Now if any problems arise in my relationship, I feel equipped to deal with them.
In my first week at school, I was told by an upper classman said that “college is not about gaining more freedom, but rather living with little to no restrictions.” In college there are no curfews, detentions, or frankly any of the restrictions most teens are accustomed to. There is no one stopping you from going to a party every single night, and skipping class every other day. It is an immense amount of responsibility suddenly thrusted upon an individual who isn’t really regulated or ready.
Don’t get me wrong, there is a lot of fun in this person freedom, but for every inch of freedom gained, a mile of consequence can quickly follow... and sadly I watched as more than a few of my classmates really unraveled and even failed as they couldn't handle the freedom.
For me, it was unbelievably helpful to have someone like Jeff to consult. Even if it was just a quick five-minute conversation, it would help me exponentially just to talk it out.
Learning how to care for yourself is crucial to the college experience. Things tend to get gross fast in college, and waking up to find things like mold, bed bugs, or no clean underwear to wear is not a particularly fun experience. I cannot express what a relief it is to walk into a clean room with a made bed after six hours of classes!
The same principles of caring for one’s self apply to state of mind. At times, college can be an extremely intense experience that can take a toll on emotions and the mind. Things like anxiety, anger, stress, melancholy, and depression can arise at any time.
These are issues people address throughout their college experience, in various degrees and manors. Most schools offer some form of counseling or support, but I have found them to be subpar and ineffective in my experience. Having Jeff as a resource to consolidate is a game changer in regards to the college experience. With him, there are no weekly half hour group sessions that have to be schedule out a month in advance. Jeff is simply available and effective... and always just a quick text message away