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Dr. Victor Schwartz

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New College Students: What To Expect When You're Attending

Posted: 08/09/2012 4:46 pm

As millions of recent high school graduates prepare for the exciting and often challenging experience of attending college and living on campus, many issues and potential worries have no doubt already started to set in. To effectively address these concerns, it is best to put together a practical checklist before the big move and work with parents to help make this life transition as smooth as possible.

For many young adults, the move to a college campus represents their first time living away from home and the security of mom and dad. As a result, students should review with parents any previous times in which they have been left on their own. Consider whether or not there have been any problems as a result of these brushes with independence, pinpoint what they might have been, and talk about the difficulties together in order to avoid negative recurrences.

Although some may take this for granted, parents should really have a conversation about how personal finances will now be handled, such as potential credit card debt and checking account balances. Cell phone bills should obviously be included in this round-up, as well. In addition, all these new college students have lived through varying levels of personal responsibilities and need to make sure they know how to perform such basic tasks as doing their own laundry and food shopping without a parent lending a helping hand.

Parents also must force themselves to set ground rules for communication between themselves and the student. In these days of the helicopter parent, it is often true that they are in touch more regularly through the assistance of cell phones, texting, e-mails, and social media. To better foster this new era of independence for a son or daughter, learn to let go a little and work out a schedule that spells out how much contact is actually too much.

Many schools also suggest that roommates get in touch with one another in advance of campus arrival and orientation. This is certainly worth asking about and could make settling in far less stressful by providing an initial introduction to one of the people you will inevitably be spending a good portion of time with during your first year away. Also, find out about student services available on campus and get a sense of what kinds of clubs or group activities best fit your own interests and personality. Strong and positive social connections are always a key part of maintaining emotional and mental health.

If the new student has had a history of emotional health issues, they really need to work with parents and their clinicians to determine how they will continue treatment, how they might receive their medications (if needed) and how often will they be in contact with their therapist or doctor either at home or one on or near campus. Also, be sure to work out any issues with insurance coverage in order to effectively eliminate another potential source of stress and aggravation. If any chronic illnesses are involved, parents and students should be proactive with informing the school about these health conditions. This will also help the school to better understand and provide appropriate support and accommodations should the condition begin to affect the student's performance during the semester.

For additional tips and advice, TransitionYear.org is an excellent online resource that helps students and their families focus on their emotional health needs before, during, and after the move to college. If you need help locating more information about your campus counseling center before your arrival, feel free to consult ULifeline.org, which allows more than 1,300 participating schools to share and present information about their own specific campus resources and counseling centers to students who access the site.

Keep in mind that no matter how well you prepare in advance, something will always inevitably come up that you didn't expect. Rest assured that learning to be flexible and dealing with these challenges as they present themselves may not be easy but is all part of the growing process. It is important not to let your sense of confidence and optimism suffer and to remain positive during these initial weeks and months on your own. And if you really feel you are struggling and not sure how to handle it, don't hesitate to reach out for support from the campus offices there to provide it. Try to enjoy this once in a lifetime adventure and always remember that there are millions of others that will be going through this rite of passage with you.

 
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