Transitions to college—Tips for parents and students- Part 2

Helpful tips for new college students and their parents.

For many freshmen in college, the transition from the comfortable stability of living at home and high school to college life is not easy for both parents and students. According to Michigan State University Extension, the first month of college has probably passed for most students.  The Department of Education reports that only 59 percent of freshmen attending a 4-year university actually graduate.  It is essential for parents to understand the challenges of the transition from not only their students’ perspective, but also from their own, so that they can help provide the proper support.

A New York University Child Study Center’s article, Transition to College: Separation and Change for Parents and Students, highlights the impacts and challenges that students who are moving away to college has on parents and on the student.  Part 2 of this series will focus on the impacts and challenges of newly found freedom in college life.

Students should know that independence is not conferred in age or a specific place, like it is at college!  Independence is achieved through action; first learning to think for yourself and take responsibility for your actions.  Often times, college students take unnecessary risks because of the great amount of academic and social pressure that exists in a collegiate environment.  These pressures can cause issues with substance abuse, anxiety and even depression. Some common challenges that college freshmen encounter are fitting in, learning how to balance social life and work, and knowing when to ask for help. 

MSU Extension will explore some of these challenges a little deeper.  First, fitting in—leaving the security of family and friends can be downright terrifying for students.  Students must learn about a whole new group of peers and analyze new and unfamiliar social norms, learn new behaviors, and consider adopting a new identity or group affiliation.  Although these are challenges, these changes may be exhilarating for students to embrace their own sense of self and finding others who share common interests and beliefs. 

Students, this is likely overwhelming, but there are a few steps that you can take to make this transition easier and less stressful.

  1. Explore new interests that you may have, discover new places and meet new people!  However, don’t let your main purpose for being in college, which is learning, take a back seat to your social life.
  2. Take your time to get to know other students and try out several activities (such as clubs and student groups) to find the most comfortable fit.  Affiliations can change a lot over the course of your first year of school as you become more knowledgeable and confident.
  3. Be patient.  It takes time to get used to the pace of college life and to figure out what learning and studying style you have.
  4. Don’t ignore a problem.  When something doesn’t feel right academically or emotionally, it is easier to address when it is small. Most schools offer a wellness center or counseling to students that is confidential.  Sometimes talking out a problem with someone who is objective will help you manage a problem before it is overwhelming.

Overall, students should remember that every freshman on your campus is, in some way, experiencing the same feelings and challenges that you are.  Take the challenges and the successes in stride, connect with people who support you on campus, and learn from your experiences! 

The third and final article in this series will focus on how parents and students can work together in their new type of relationship to help make the transition, for everyone, more successful.

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