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Nervous About College? How to Ease Freshman Year Jitters

They’ve made it through SAT’s, applications, and FAFSA’s … your teen is now getting ready to leave for college. While this is a very exciting time, it is also quite common for teens to feel nervous about college as they prepare to leave home for the first time. Below is a list of concerns that many teens (and parents!) may have and how to handle those college jitters.

“I’m Worried About College”

Social Life

  • How am I going to make new friends? What if no one likes me? Who will I hang out with on the weekends?
    Parents can reassure teens who are nervous about college that all freshmen are in the same situation: they do not know anyone and also need to make new friends. Remember, this is what freshman orientation is for! Knowing this helps ease anxiety. Parents can also help their son or daughter research organized opportunities to kick start social interaction (such as clubs, sports, dorm activities).
  • What if I don’t like my roommate?
    For many incoming freshmen nervous about college, roommates are a top concern. Many teens hope to find that instantaneous best friend connection with their new roommate. This does not always happen, and that is okay! Remind your teen that his/her roommate does not necessarily have to be their best friend; as long as they are able to be mutually respectful, they are on the right track. And if roommate conflict arises, RA’s are a helpful resource. RA’s are trained to resolve roommate conflicts, and in some cases, arrange a room change if needed.

Academics

  • How am I going to get all my work done? When am I going to find the time to study?
    It is important for teens to be aware of the academic demands and expectations at college. Chances are it will be more challenging than their high school coursework. If your teen struggles with time management, plan ahead by helping them schedule in homework and study time. Have a discussion about their particular study habits and where to find the best environment on campus for their studying style. Make sure they have all the tools and supplies they need to have a successful year. If your teen needs additional academic support, do online research together (i.e., campus writing center, tutors, resources for students with learning disorders, professor’s office hours).
  • How am I going to handle the stress? What if I get too stressed out?
    It is so important to take a “time out” to manage stress. Discuss with your teen what types of activities you use to reduce stress, brainstorm what type of daily or weekly activities they can be doing on campus to manage stress effectively (such as yoga, running, weight lifting, intramural sports, art, music). Another great way to prevent stress includes regular sleep and healthy eating habits. Remember to talk about what to do if stress becomes too overwhelming, when would they know that they needed some help? Research counseling services available, often located conveniently on campus and free for students.

Safety

  • Will I be safe on campus?
    Unfortunately, college campuses are not crime-free zones. It is important to talk to your teen about safety and college security. Remind your teen to be mindful of his/her surroundings and belongings. For example, it is always a good idea to use the “buddy system” when going out and coming home, and to lock up his/her valuables, even in the dorms. Another way to stay safe utilizing the campus security system; for example, know where security call posts are located on campus and program the direct number in your teen’s cell phone. Make sure that others know his/her daily routine, parent should ask for a copy of their son/daughter’s class schedule. And remind your son/daughter that it’s always a good idea to let someone know where you are going and when you will return.
  • What about safety at parties?
    As uncomfortable as this may be for some parents, it is important to address topics such as drinking and sex with your college-bound teenager. Have an open and honest discussion (not a lecture!) about the potential dangers and how to plan ahead. Many teens have been warned about not leaving their drink unattended or accepting a drink from someone they don’t know. It is also safer to travel in a group to and from parties. So this means, go home with the same friends that you came with, not someone you met for the first time (or even second time) at the party. If you are traveling to an off-campus party that requires driving, establish who will be the designated driver ahead of time, and don’t offer last minute rides to people that you don’t know. And if you are ever feeling uncomfortable or unsafe at a party, grab your friends and leave.

Meredith Bonacci, PhD

Meredith Bonacci is a licensed psychologist practicing in New York City who specializes in adolescents and young adults. Get in touch with Dr. Bonacci at rennickeassociates.com.