Counseling and Psychiatric Service
The College Years
The College Years: Challenges for Students and Parents
By Wayne Hurr, PhD, Staff Psychologist, The Counseling and Psychiatric Service
The college years are a time of transition for students and parents. This transition period provides both exciting opportunities and stressful challenges.
Its is natural for students to experience some anxiety when moving away from parents, siblings, friends, neighborhood, and everything that they have come to experience as familiar and safe. They may then be moving into an environment of almost unlimited freedom where they are confronted with the challenging task of making decisions for themselves about a broad range of issues. These issues may include alcohol use, sexuality, choosing a college major, whether to spend time studying abroad, and senior year, whether to pursue graduate school, immediate employment, and for some students, whether to commit to a long term relationship. Sometimes students choose to come to the Counseling and Psychiatric Service (CAPS) to consider their feelings about these challenging issues.
What can parents do to help their son or daughter during these challenging years? For freshmen, homesickness is sometimes an issue. What the student often needs is a reassuring adult voice who understands and tolerates the temporary need to return to familiar territory as he or she adjusts to the new college environment. Parents can affirm and encourage their son or daughter in their attempts to handle new challenges, and at the same time, be available for support when needed.
For sophomores, choosing a major is a primary concern. Choosing a major not only means choosing a particular course of study but also means assuming an identity on campus and possibly a future career identity. It is difficult for students to know what they want to do or what their real skills and interests are. And yet there is pressure form many sources to ?decide now.?
Parents can help by providing a listening ear and encouraging their son or daughter to talk to professors and senior students what have already decided on their major. Parents can also encourage students to take advantage of the services offered by the
For juniors, whether or not to study abroad is often an issue. Studying abroad can be both exciting and anxiety producing. It often provides the opportunity to enlarge the students vision of the world and themselves. However, it means being separated from family and friends for an extended period of time. Students naturally have concerns about being able to reconnect with their friends and former activities when they return their senior year. During the year abroad, parents and friends can help by offering tangible connections to the life the student left behind such as letters, e-mail, care packages and phone calls.
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