School to college transition and informed decision making

EducationWorld January 2022 | Teacher-2-teacher
– Aadya Sharma, Kunal Jaluka and Suresh C Joshi, Jindal School of Psychology and Counselling, OP Jindal Global University, Sonipat, Haryana. 

Graduating from high school is the first step into adult life for a student, and choosing a career path is never easy for teenagers confronted with multitudes of possibilities and opportunities. This essay focuses on students who go to college after graduating high school and are confronted with multifaceted problems.

Making the choice of college is always hard at any age, even more so during teenage because young adults are experiencing many hormonal and emotional changes that might affect their impulsivity and decisions. Nevertheless, it is a choice that determines the path they pave for themselves and is of utmost importance because the trajectory of their lives depends on it.

Problems faced by freshmen at college. While graduating from school is exciting and the prospect of college and a new lifestyle is attractive, the practical aspects of collegiate life could be new and surprising, and at times, overwhelming. It is smart to be informed of the challenges and problems you might face in the first few semesters in college and be prepared for them! Problems faced by students as they go through this transition aren’t just related to academics, as a matter of fact, various other factors could stress out students and these problems are multifaceted. They could be broadly categorised as academic, social, emotional, financial, and legal challenges. 

Academic challenges. When students are in school, teachers remind them of their grades, academic performance, co-curricular activity, and academic well-being is usually looked after by an adult that they know — a favourite teacher, counselor, coach, or other authoritative figure at school. But in undergrad education, there’s no hand-holding. In college/university students are responsible and accountable for their own progress and failure. No one keeping track of their falling grades and especially their extra-curricular activities. This could be a major stressor for many freshmen in college with the mental burden of always maintaining track of their academics making notes and meeting deadlines having devolved on them. One solution is to maintain uniformity and consistency in keeping up and falling behind.

Moreover, the pace of teaching is usually faster at university levels so it is advisable to be in touch with peers and professors not to fall behind. Allow oneself to be helped, don’t hesitate to ask your professors for help when you require it. Go to the counselor if you feel lost, they will help you with things like time management and help you get organised. Another problem is that the academic schedule is usually less structured in college than it is in school. One should always note down the class syllabus and the books that they might require at the starting of a semester. Students should join and organise study groups that can help one to socialise as well as get academic help. And even after working on everything perfectly, some students won’t score well, leading to grade shock. The solution is to cut yourself some slack, setbacks are important for growth!

Social dilemma. Students face a lot of problems while entering a completely alien social setting, these problems could affect one’s mental and physical health. Making friends and the fear of fitting-in in college is a major problem faced by freshmen. While students move on campus, they find themselves stressed about having to mingle with new roommates and classmates. Online college, in wake of Covid-19, has made socialisation more stressful as it creates a wall of communication.

While these problems are more socially oriented, students also might face issues in communicating with peers due to academic pressure and with professors, due to academic obligations at times. Attending every event and trying to talk to people at events helps freshmen break out of their shell. One should try to talk to people in their class, talking about notes and syllabus could be a good icebreaker, they should try to find common ground with people to talk about and initiate conversations. In group settings, you should propose icebreaker activities you could also break the ice by asking for help! And try not to have reservations about your new roommates and classmates one must expect to accommodate new behaviours from different people. Finding your crowd sounds like a big deal but everyone eventually finds people they like hanging out with and it helps them cope. And finally, you should talk about boundaries, shared items, guests, and other important things with your roommate. This helps lay some ground rules and avoid any future conflict.

Emotional trauma. The transition of moving out of home and moving to a completely new place is a drastic one, it could easily take a toll on the emotional wellbeing of young adults. The fear of going far away from one’s family and friends could be emotionally taxing and can induce severe separation anxiety. On top of that, having to look after oneself and accepting responsibility can also be very distressing. Not only that but, academic failure and problems with fitting in the newer crowd can be a major stressor and induce panic, in severe cases, it could also put a student in a depressive state. Some tips for students include keeping in touch with old friends while trying to mingle with new peers. Taking care of your mental and physical health, eating well, and expressing yourself well for clarity of thought also helps you to keep in check with your emotions.

Financial problems. While education is the path to success, it does not come cheap. Maintaining a respectable lifestyle at college can be stressful. After moving out, managing finances on your own can be very challenging if you don’t have prior experience with money. Housing and hostel fees need budgeting, to add to that, books and course materials. To tackle financial problems, one must always keep track of government loan policies and student offers that could be helpful for meeting financial needs at the university level. It’s also advisable to talk to seniors, counselors, and anyone that possesses knowledge about the financial system of the university.

Legal issues. One would wonder, what legal problems could a university student face? The answer is that students who are just entering college are usually between the ages of 18-19. Those ages are the stepping-stones into adulthood. Creating IDs, keeping their documents compiled in one place, knowing when to utilise which document, etc, are some issues confronting freshmen. To avoid worry about legal problems, maintain a file with all your legal documents and always keep 1-2 photocopies of your important documents handy. You should read up your rights and responsibilities, know where one can ask for your ID and when they shouldn’t. Lastly, whenever you feel incompetent, consult an older person without hesitating!

Throughout the course of the research, it was found that students usually fail to identify their own problems firsthand, they don’t commonly realise their mental stressors in college and hence come to naught in resolving their problems. The first step into solving a problem is recognising it. Once a student knows about their issues, the next step is just to get help, by either self-arranged resources or moving out of their comfort zone to find help.

As students transition from high school to college life they will experience academic, social, emotional, financial, and legal problems. These problems are complementary which means, they could have a cascading effect. To ensure that the undergrad experience is enjoyable and a healthy balance between the different spheres, young adults should always read more about the problems faced by their age group and allow themselves to be helped.

Also read: India’s top-ranked private universities 2021-22

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