Six Ways to Avoid Freshman Fallout

Thursday, August 21, 2008

It's natural for first-year students to encounter challenges associated with the transition to college life. For many students the academic demands are great, dorm-life may be their first experience sharing a living space, and there is so much unstructured time to manage.

As director of Saint Joseph's University's Office for Student Success, Kim Allen-Stuck, Ph.D., has some advice to help students ease into the college experience.

1)Manage your expectations

How many times have you heard "College is the best four years of your life?" It can be, but it isn't true every minute of every day. Adjusting to college life can take time, and everything won't be perfect that first week. Be open to what college can be (there will be new opportunities everywhere); don't limit yourself to thinking about what it should be.

2) Friendships take time

Sometimes freshmen make friends quickly based on proximity (the people who were assigned randomly to live in your hallway become your immediate friends). Sometimes that works. Other times, you need to involve yourself on campus to find friends with similar values and interests.

3)Your roommate won't be just like you

The college roommate relationship comes with a lot of pressure. The truth is your roommate is just one of the many new people you will meet in college. Since you're sharing a small space, mutual respect and honesty will be key to making the relationship work. Roommates may not be best friends, but they do need to work together to create an academically supportive space.

4)Admit when you need help

Colleges have many resources available to help with academic difficulties, health issues, emotional distress, financial issues and much more. It's important to recognize when you're having trouble, and seek assistance on campus.

5)Explore the world outside of campus

You probably chose your college because of where it's located or the neighboring city or town. Get out there and learn about the area the geography, the people and the history. If you end your freshman year not knowing about your surrounding area, you have missed half of the experience.

6) Maintain support systems

For many students with a documented learning disability in high school, they may consider stopping their medication or regular counseling sessions with the transition to college life. While this may sound like a good idea, with all of the new challenges you're facing, it's important to keep that support in place.

Allen-Stuck, an expert in helping students transition to and succeed in college, can be reached at stuck@sju.edu, at 610-660-1339 or by calling University Communications at 610-660-1222.




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