Starting college can be daunting, but there are a number of things new students can do to ease into this experience, a psychologist suggests.
“As freshman — and their parents — begin the first semester of college, it’s important to realize that not all learning takes place in the classroom,” said Luis Manzo, executive director of student wellness and assessment at St. John’s University in New York City.
“The first semester is particularly important because it sets the tone for college. It’s a time for students to adjust, explore, meet new people and manage the temptations of new freedoms. For parents, it’s a time to step back as their child transitions into adulthood,” Manzo said in a university news release.
It’s important that students strive to make personal connections. Meet as many people as possible, try new things and participate as much as possible, Manzo added.
It’s normal for students to experience many different emotions in their freshman year, including happiness, sadness, loneliness, stress and anxiety. Young people who feel homesick or feel out of place can try a number of things, such as meeting people in the cafeteria, going to a movie, asking a roommate to go work out, going for a walk, reading a book for fun and, most importantly, making time for themselves, Manzo advised.
However, suicide is the second leading cause of death among college students, so it’s important to take depression and loneliness seriously. Students should look out for one another, especially if they see that a friend, roommate or classmate is struggling or isolated. Visiting campus services or joining a support group are options for students who are lonely or depressed.
First-year students should be reminded that managing their time will help control stress. A daily planner is a great way for students to organize their schedule, Manzo suggested. Along with classes and study time, their schedule should include extracurricular activities, socializing and exercise.
In addition, young people need to make sure they’re getting enough sleep. Lack of sleep can contribute to anxiety, depression and impair learning ability.
And while many new college students are tempted to experiment with drugs, alcohol and sex, Manzo stressed that they should take measures to ensure their health and safety.
“Every decision has consequences,” according to the news release. “Parents who are realistic and upfront can help students make good decisions for themselves.”
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention offers health and safety tips for college students.