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Keys to a Successful Transition to College

Keys to a Successful Transition to College

You have finally graduated high school and you’re thrilled to move off to college and officially start this next chapter of your life – this can be an extremely exciting time, but it can also be a time that brings about a level of anxiety and stress that you may have never experienced before. The same can go for parents, especially when it’s your only or oldest child finally leaving the nest. It is completely normal for feelings such as these to arise and to be confused about how to navigate this time accordingly. Acknowledging these feelings and doing what you can to prepare for the upcoming changes is an important step in the process, and we are here to hopefully help make this transition easier by providing some insight and tips on how to approach this new season.


Anxiety as an Incoming Freshman

If you are freshly out of high school and have plans to start college this fall, this is likely a time that is comprised of excitement, nervousness, anticipation, and possibly some stress thrown into the mix. This is probably your first time living on your own, and you might even be moving to another state or across the country, which is a huge step to take. Maybe you are staying local and attending classes at the nearby college instead, but this is still a major change of pace than you are probably used to. College can be an intimidating time, from deciding what you want to study, figuring out how to navigate around campus, and making new friends that come from all walks of life all await you as an incoming freshman. You want to keep your mental health in check during this transitional time and ensure you are taking some steps to set yourself up for a stress-free and enjoyable start to your freshman year at college.

Network and Join Extracurriculars

One of the best things about college is the wide array of extracurricular opportunities that will now be available at your disposal. If you joined any during grade school then you are already aware of how great it is to be surrounded by those with similar interests, but you’ll find that college extracurriculars are nothing compared to anything you were a part of before. There are so many different and niche activities and clubs at a large majority of college campuses, which makes creating new friendships so much easier in this time that you might be worried about not knowing anyone. This is one of – if not the best – way to naturally find a group you thoroughly enjoy sharing commonalities with.

Utilize Available Resources

Something that a lot of students do not realize for a while into their college career is the abundance of various resources that are included with tuition and available whenever. Things like counseling and tutoring are typically offered at universities, and these can be extremely helpful to take advantage of when you are just starting college. Speaking to a counselor is a wonderful idea if you’re having any trouble adjusting or if you are having issues keeping up with your classes. Utilizing any tutoring resources provided is wise if you are struggling with the workload that some college courses supply, and you will definitely be thankful in the long run that you spent the extra time working to stay ahead where it was needed.

Maintain a Balance

Moving away and starting this new chapter is going to feel like a new sense of freedom that you are not used to, and this can potentially be viewed as either good or bad. It’s exciting to now be on your own, but it can be overwhelming and certainly confusing at times – especially when you just want to have fun, but you have to remain conscientious of your classes. Be mindful of maintaining a solid balance between having fun and taking care of your responsibilities, because you’ll surely enjoy your college experience a lot more when you’re not overly stressed and behind on your work.


Anxiety as a Parent of a New College Student

As a parent, it is fully understandable that you’re feeling a lot of different emotions with your child going off to college. You’re happy for them and their decision to get a higher education, but it’s bittersweet to see them off and have them start this new stage of their life. It’s only natural to worry about them as their parent, but it’s important to remember that you have done your best as their parent and have instilled them with everything they need to be successful in this chapter. They’ll always be just a phone call away, and you can even have a visit lined up when they leave that you can look forward to and that can help your send-off be a little easier.

Give Space but Offer Support

Whether or not your child is nervous about starting college, this is a time to allow them their space to flourish in their new environment. They will probably reach out more than you even expect to ask you all sorts of questions and to check in, which is the perfect time to show them your support and be there for them. They will miss you as much as you miss them, but allowing them space will surely be beneficial for both of you.

Take Advantage of Free Time

You will probably find yourself with a newfound degree of time that wasn’t there before, especially if it was your only child that went off to school. It might feel odd or unsettling at first, but try to embrace this change and take full advantage of this free time that you’ve been gifted with. Catch up with old friends, take a trip, or pick up a hobby you’ve been thinking about for a while – this is a transitional time for you, as well, so you should try and make the most out of it if you can!

No one is ever fully prepared for the changes that come with beginning college, but allowing time for these adjustments and to find your new grooves will help immensely. Be sure to feel all of the emotions that arise with this time, because they are fully natural and doing so will help everyone process these changes in the best manner possible.


Getting Help

If you or someone you love is struggling with a major life transition, please reach out to Dr. Messina & Associates. We have a team of psychiatrists, therapists and psychologists that specialize in Cognitive Behavioral Therapy and medication management. Our group of compassionate and skilled professionals is available for in person appointments for patients in the DFW area. We also offer online appointments for patients in the Austin, DFW, Houston and San Antonio areas.

Dr. Michael Messina

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