It’s that time of the year again when students of all ages are headed back to class, but for college freshmen, this time of year can be full of excitement and loads of anxiety that can send them packing back home or spinning into a dangerous cycle of poor choices.
A few of the high school clients I worked with last year are feeling this same since of angst so I wanted to share some of what I have shared with them about creating an environment for success their freshmen year of college.
Live Like a Broke College Student
Sometimes when students go off to college they forget that they may not have the constant source of income they had while they were home, and yet there is more things that they want to do that cost more money.
College is expensive. Take advantages of free things, there are usually a lot of free things on campus from food to clothing.
Students have to learn how to live with less funds which means learning how to budget, given up some of their favorite meals or even activities. They will have to learn how to survive with less, which is a challenge, but it can be fun and creative. College student are notorious for coming up with inexpensive and free ways to have fun and that is something that should be embraced if you don’t want the lack of finances to be an added source of stress.
Don’t Be Afraid to Ask for Anything, Especially Help
A lot of times college is the first time young people are given total responsibility over themselves and many don’t know how to handle it. They think being an adult means you don’t have to ask for help, but that is where they get into trouble.
In college, you are treated like an adult. No one is going to remind you to read assignments, or to work on your paper, or to study. It’s up to you, so students need to learn to ask for help by being proactive in their relationships with their professors and not just thinking that the professor will let them know if they are not doing well in a particular course.
Building a support system is also crucial so that you have people you can turn to for advice, support and encouragement. A good support network should include upperclassmen, a professor they trust and look up to, as well as any administrators they feel they can turn to for advice or guidance.
Also, being part of a support group is extra helpful for students who need extra support or counseling, which is generally free on most college campuses. Asking for help is not about appearing weak, it’s about preparing for success.
When I speak to the college freshmen who are having the most difficult times adjusting, nearly all of them have done nothing to actually get involved or to get engaged on campus. It’s important to be open minded to both new experiences and people. Making real connections is one of the best ways to feel like you are apart of the college environment.
Many of the young people I work with who are college freshman come from the inner-city and sometimes feel out of place on college campuses where the majority of the student body doesn’t look like them. I always encourage them to join multicultural clubs and student support services in order to help them adjust and begin to engage with the entire student body.
At the same time, I let them know that it’s okay to take time to adjust and for them to not feel so overwhelmed if after a week or two they still don’t feel quite comfortable. The thing is, I want them to avoid feeling lonely which can lead to numerous issues including isolation, depression, poor grades and even dropping out of school.
It’s good for college students to have some routine and a schedule that they can follow, but not a schedule that is so rigid that it doesn’t leave room for fun and other activities. Having a schedule such as when to study, when to workout, etc., can bring some order to a time that may appear chaotic.
This includes making time to take classes that they can manage and also allowing themseves to take a couple of fun classes like yoga or basketball, after all, it may be the last time they can take fun classes before they get into the really heavy stuff.
The first year of college is filled with lots of sometimes contradicting emotions, but being prepared to face those challenges will make it that much more exciting and fulfilling as well as prepared to accomplish all of their personal, social and academic goals.