This week’s blog discusses the remaining five stages of transitional stress that the college bound student could encounter. At this time of the year, everyone in the family feels a lot of stress, especially the graduating senior. Families can stay connected and remember that there are ups and downs that accompany every new experience. The following stages will discuss learning to cope and finally putting all the pieces of the college puzzle together or at least putting you on the right path.
Stage 6 — The Grass is Always Greener: About midway through the first year of college many freshmen may begin to think that all their problems with their school could be easily solved by transferring to another school. This feeling can be particularly strong among students who were undecided until the last minute about which college to choose. Students who decide to transfer should understand that they might lose priority for course assignments, campus housing and financial aid. Many colleges will not even consider mid-year freshmen transfers. I always encourage new students to stick with their school for at least one full year; what may seem insurmountable problems at the start of the year are often drastically reduced or disappear completely by the end of the year.
Stage 7 — You Can’t Go Home Again: Students who go away to college and suffer with homesickness often long to return to the familiarity and security of home and they may find themselves counting the days until they can go back. The long awaited trip may, however, turn out to be traumatic or disappointing because things are likely to have changed. The most noticeable changes may be the encroachment of a younger sibling on the student’s position in the family or the conversion of the student’s space into an office, guest room, or other sibling’s room.
After only a few days at home many freshmen come to realize that it is they who have changed more than things at home. And with that realization often comes a desire to return to campus–the very place they couldn’t wait to leave!
Stage 8 – Learning to Cope: After six weeks or so on campus, freshmen can find their way to the library, have real conversations with their roommates, and are expanding their circle of friends. New students at first tend to find one or two people with whom they feel comfortable and tend to stick close to them without going out of their way to make additional contacts. But as their confidence builds so does the desire to meet more people. During this stage freshmen begin to enjoy their classes, engage in campus activities and are, in general, willing to participate in a greater number of campus activities. E-mail makes coping much easier for both the student and their family.
Stage 9 — Fear of Failure: Midterm papers and exams can cause considerable stress as freshmen begin to fully appreciate the amount of work that must be done. Students involved in the sciences and math may experience such stress earlier in the term as those subject areas commonly give frequent quizzes rather than a single midterm exam. The best way to cope with a fear of failure is to make sure course preparation is thorough.
Stage 10 — Putting It All Together: By the middle of the second term, most freshmen find that facets of their campus life will have meshed into a well-integrated lifestyle. Students begin to see college as a ‘whole cloth’ rather than a collection of experience ‘patches.’ Once this happens they are in a better position to make decisions about all areas of college life. They are now working from a position of confidence rather than the tentative posture of the inexperienced new student they once were.
Remember to allow for mistakes. Parents and the college bound student must realize that mistakes will be made along the way. These mistakes are called life experiences and they teach us a multitude of things. When we are able to learn from our mistakes, we are better for it.