While many students look forward to their freshman year of college, there are some who will also have trouble adjusting into the next phase of their life.
The first year of college is a very confusing time with stress levels of college students rising rapidly. In a 2009 poll, 85 percent of the 2,240 undergraduates interviewed experience stress on a daily basis, up from 80 percent in 2008, according to a College Stress and Mental Health Poll.
There has been an increase in mental health problems including depression and anxiety. One institution reported a 29 percent increase in the use of counseling and psychological services in the last four years; and another reported that 40 percent of first-year students visit their counseling center according to the Education Life Supplement.
“Having your parents’ make a majority of decisions while at home, it can be hard for some to grasp independence,” said Dr. Karl Koch, psychologist at Clarity Child Guidance Center. “There’s also the anxiety about fitting in socially with acquaintances, the academic load and asking for help when needed.”
If students are having problems adjusting to their new life, symptoms include: changes in sleep patterns, becoming withdrawn or isolated with a significant loss of appetite, world views becoming pessimistic and energy levels decrease.
yet there are coping mechanisms students can use to ease into the transition.
It is important to exercise regularly and pay attention to eating a balanced diet. Writing in a journal and volunteering can be a form of therapy.
Explore new interests, discover new places, and meet new people
Students should take their time getting to know other students by investigating different activities, and deciding what makes them feel most comfortable. Affiliations change a great deal over the course of the first year as students become more knowledgeable and confident.
It takes time to understand the rhythm of a new academic life and for students to develop a personal learning and studying style. Over the first semester, it becomes easier to understand the flow of work and realize how to accommodate different teachers’ standards and course requirements.
Evaluate the fit
Assessing how expectations meet reality during the first year is a necessary process. Some disappointments or surprises are not unusual and may require some fine tuning; adjusting one’s course load, changing majors and rethinking involvement in activities.
Sometimes a school turns out to be different from what was anticipated or students learn more about what truly will suit their needs. Students should get guidance and explore options and certainly consider changing schools if that seems best.
“With advice like this, students will have the opportunity to fight homesickness and be a lot more active in staying in school with a balance of time for academics and time for themselves,” concluded Dr. Koch
If the student needs further assistance, they are encouraged to call 1-800-273-TALK (8255) or 1-888-628-9454 for bilingual services and for those who are deaf. They are also encouraged to go to www.suicidepreventionhotline.org for more information.