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College is very different from the world of high school. Real life may not measure up to the vision of college that’s presented in movies, television, and a teenager’s freedom fantasies. Sipping coffee with hipster friends and discussing the future of the planet may happen, but it will be interspersed with the challenges and adjustments that the first year of college brings.

Less Hand Holding

In high school, teachers and administrators are responsible for the student’s physical well-being and, to some extent, their academic success. College is a different ball game. No one is going to come knock on the door of the student to drag them out of bed and into the classroom. Students who don’t attend classes or don’t turn in homework will fail the class. College professors don’t track down students to find out where missing homework is.

This is school that someone is paying for, so the stakes are high. If your parents aren’t paying, perhaps you are getting financial assistance. Some financial assistance is available only if you pass classes or achieve a certain grade point average.

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college preparationsStress can be a killer – figuratively and literally. The first year of college frequently has many huge transitions associated with it. Classes may be harder, and the teachers have more expectations for independence and critical thinking. Other issues include a fear of failure, financial stress, and social situations that are new, including alcohol and sexual expectations that may not have been there before. And at home, there was the safety net of a curfew and parents.

One thing first-year students can do to help themselves is eat healthy foods; your body will feel better, your stress level will be lower, and you’ll be able to think more clearly and do better on your homework. You don’t need to become vegan but eat foods in as close to their natural state as possible (think, less processed) and keep sugar to a minimum.

Time Management

Time management is both one of the challenges and one of the solutions. No one is around to manage students’ time anymore. They must hold themselves accountable and have the work ethic and self-discipline to make smart decisions that will move them in a positive direction.

Doing this takes organization skills. All smart phones have a calendar feature that can be very helpful, but students can still buy paper day planners. Enter each assignment received from a teacher on the day that it’s due and enter it into each day that you will work on it. Overestimate the amount of time you believe you need to complete the assignment, so you will get it done early instead of risking missing a deadline. Put your classes in the calendar. Even though you know your schedule, the less your brain is having to hold for you, the less stress you will have.

These few simple things can make a significant difference in the way you feel. They can help you get through the big transitions of your freshman year. If you’re really struggling, though, reach out to your advisor and ask for help.

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