While your freshman year of college can be an exciting time of new freedoms and experiences, it can also include pressure and personal turmoil. A 2010 study by the Higher Education Research Institute revealed that only about 52 percent of college students believe they are emotionally healthy. While academics, financial worries and the desire to fit in can all create challenges, getting help from parents and resources and caring for yourself can help you overcome the pressures of starting college.
Adjusting to Academic Standards
Unlike high school, where teachers provide daily access, help and guidance, college classes require you to rely on your own time management, study and organizational skills. Many freshmen struggle with these new requirements along with the increased level of academic difficulty. Staying on top of your syllabi, regularly attending class and establishing a daily study schedule can keep you focused on requirements and assignments, advises Bryn Mawr College's student health center. If you are confused or falling behind, meet with your professors immediately outside of class to identify problems and get back on track.
Forming Your Own Identity
Without their high school friends and activities, freshmen can experience diminished confidence and social disorientation. This can lead them into unhealthy outlets such as alcohol, sexual activity and drug use. To combat these feelings, mental health specialist Margarita Tartakovsky suggests taking advantage of campus resources such as counseling and student health centers rather than being ashamed or embarrassed about getting help. Joining a club, talking to someone new in the cafeteria or getting to know a neighbor down the hall are also healthy ways to meet new people and break out of your shell.
Dollars and Stress
Frequently, college presents students with their first experience of handling their own finances. Being unaware of how to balance a checkbook, set a budget or properly use a credit card can lead to irresponsible spending. Be proactive by discussing your financial situation with your parents before leaving for college and establish a monthly budget that includes textbooks, dorm room snacks, school supplies, personal needs and outings with friends. On campus, make financial management a regular part of your daily routine, including checking your bank balance and keeping track of purchases.
Taking Care of Yourself
While college includes many external pressures, students often make the situation worse by neglecting their bodies. This can result in higher stress levels and a lower quality of physical health. The University of California at San Diego's student health service states that getting at least seven or eight hours of sleep can prevent depression and exhaustion. Taking time for favorite activities such as sports or working out can also help you relieve stress and stay physically active. Maintaining a balanced diet is also key to not only preventing the dreaded Freshman 15, but to staying well and healthy.
- Higher Education Research Institute: The American Freshman
- Bryn Mawr College Student Health Center: Adjusting to College
- Psych Central: Depression and Anxiety Among College Students
- Muskingum University: Parent Guide to the First Year College Student
- University of California San Diego Student Health Services: Adjusting to (and Enjoying) College Life
- University of Pittsburgh Student Affairs: College Parents Can Help Freshmen Overcome First Semester Challenges
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