Roadblocks, setbacks, problems—whatever you want to call them, you’re going to have some challenges your first year on campus.
The good news is that some are avoidable if you prepare in advance, and the rest can be addressed to minimize the impact. We asked some school officials to share a few of the most common struggles they see among freshmen, along with their advice on how to cope.
Problem #1: Loneliness, homesickness
Going to college is a period of transitions in many ways. Not only are students moving away from home, but also a number of changes may be occurring at home. “Home friends are going away to other colleges, a parent may choose to change his or her career, or some parents may even divorce,” says Karen PosaAmrhein, director of first year experiences and mentoring at California University of Pennsylvania. “A student who is feeling lonely should know they are not alone in how they feel.”
Regina Moro, assistant professor in the Department of Counseling at Barry University (FL), says that many of the issues college students face can be addressed by seeking counseling services on university campuses. “Whether it’s trouble managing the workload of college, difficulties with a roommate, or being away from family and friends for the first time, [there is help],” Moro says.
“Professional counselors are trained to work with students to help them focus on what solutions would be best for them individually. Many students are not aware that they are eligible for free counseling services on their university campuses.”
Southwestern University (TX) Vice President for Student Life Jaime Woody says that her school works with students on early involvement and engagement. “During the first weeks on campus, students have the opportunity to engage with small and large groups, meet current students, and potentially find an on-campus job,” Woody says.
Problem #2: Poor time management and organizational skills
“Time management may be the hardest thing for new students to master,” says Ella Curry, assistant director of recruitment at Marshall University (WV). “In college, students will only spend about 15 hours a week in class. What they often don’t realize is that they need to spend at least that much time outside the classroom studying and completing homework.”
“One of the best ways to manage time is to be aware of how time is spent by identifying everything done in a typical week,” says Amrhein. “When students write down everything they do and how much time it takes, they will get a more realistic view of how they can manage their time. Then they can begin to prioritize.”
Karen Violanti, associate dean for first year students and the First Stop Office at McDaniel College (MD), adds that most colleges have multiple in-person and online resources in place to assist students in managing their time.
Once you figure out how to organize your academic work and plan your time well, you’ll be able to enjoy time with your friends and get involved in other activities without feeling guilty. After all, part of the college experience is about having a social life. You just need to find the right balance to make it work.
Problem #3: Financial issues
Erin Giles, program assistant in the First Stop Office at McDaniel College, points