Nearly every individual encounters challenging experiences at the beginning of college that they did not anticipate. The transition to college, a generally positive experience, can produce stress and place demands that can lead to varying emotions including sadness, loneliness, and worry. These feelings are typical and part of the normal developmental transition to college.
Changes to Expect in the First Year of College
- Increased responsibility
- Increased personal freedom
- Managing time
- Different relationships and environments at college
- Changing relationships with friends and family at home
Many students welcome the freedom to make their own decisions about what they want to do each day while in college and other students struggle with this level of freedom. Freshmen must decide when and how to study, socialize with new acquaintances, become involved in activities, exercise, manage their finances, and make time to eat and sleep.
Students are faced, often for the first time, with the need to take more initiative to address responsibilities, such as scheduling their classes, buying personal items, making appointments to take care of health needs, asking professors and staff for help, and doing laundry. Freshmen have to adjust to new surroundings and negotiate conflicts with new roommates.
Frequent calls home from freshmen are common, especially during the first few months away at college. It may be very hard to say goodbye at the end of holiday or semester breaks. It may also be difficult to re-adjust to rules at home, such as curfews, chores or responsibilities for younger siblings. It is important to point out that parents also need to adjust during this period.
Many students leave high school boyfriends or girlfriends when they go to college. There may be disagreement about whether it is okay to make new friends or see other people. One, or both, partners may struggle with feeling lonely, sad, or jealous, especially if the other partner seems to be happier and adjusting better.
Easing the Transition:
· Reach out to others in your dorm. You are likely to find that you are not the only one who is sad and upset. Your R.A. (Resident Adviser) is a good resource to talk to and to help you figure out how to cope. Upperclassmen may also be good people to turn to. They might want to share their experiences with you as well what they did to cope.
· Join campus organizations and clubs that appeal to you. These activities do not have to be a perfect match for you, but can still help you to meet and interact with others who share similar interests and/or may also be looking to meet friends outside the dorm environment. It helps to get more involved!
· Make an extra effort to take care of yourself, including making time to rest, eat balanced meals, exercise and avoid abusing alcohol or drugs. Try to develop a manageable schedule, including identifying your optimal place and time in the day to study.
· Adjust your expectations if things are not working out as you planned. For example, your roommate might not be your best friend. You may need to initiate conversations about conflict over personal space and living habits. Try to give yourself some time to adjust. Recognize that relationships take time to develop (e.g. most students’ friendships from home formed over a period of years), and that your surroundings will become more familiar over time.
· Seek out resources on campus that can help you address problems and get support, both academically and personally. These varied resources include your adviser, professors, your RA, and other university services such as the Counseling Center and the Student Services Center, Each of these resources will also assist in connecting you with other helpful resources on campus.