Transitions are times of change that usually involve both loss and opportunity.
Entering college is one of life’s most demanding transitions; arguably the most significant transition since the start of kindergarten.
College students face many challenging transitions including graduating and entering the work force.
The changes inherent in a transition can produce stress and challenge a student’s coping resources.
Students can experience a decline in functioning (academic, social, emotional) during transitions.
Transition stress can be compounded by counterproductive coping mechanisms such as avoidance of stress-producing situations and people, excessive partying, denial of academic workload and alcohol abuse.
Transitions can pose greater problems to students who have existing psychological problems or difficult life circumstances.
Students going through a transition can benefit from counseling to enhance their coping efforts and prevent the onset of serious problems.
Signs that a student is having transition problems include:
Anxiety symptoms such as nervousness, irritability, tearfulness, and sleep problems.
Difficulty managing responsibilities or relationships.
Homesickness that goes on for a significant period of time.
What You Can Do
Convey to the student that transition stress is normal and often brings a temporary decline in performance (“Making the transition to college can be difficult and so what you are experiencing can simply be a normal reaction, but let’s watch it to make sure it doesn’t last too long”).
Encourage that student to use positive coping strategies to manage transition stress including: regular exercise, use of social support, a reasonable eating and sleeping regimen, and scheduling pleasurable activities (“Tell me what you have done in the past that worked when things have been tough”).
Refer the students to CMHS (860-486-4705) if performance problems persist beyond a reasonable amount of time, or if the symptoms are acute, or if the student feels he/she could benefit by talking with someone about it.
Assuming that the student understands the impact of transitions and is aware of the source of stress.
Minimizing or trivializing the student’s feelings and reactions (“This is perfectly okay and will pass. I wouldn’t worry about it”).
Discounting or overlooking factors that put the student at risk of more serious problems (“Everyone goes through this and I am sure it is nothing to worry about”).