Counseling Service

Adjusting to College

Description

Transitioning to college can be quite an adjustment for most students, even students who live close to or at home during college. This transition involves developing a new support network, learning a new environment and community, adjusting to a very different type of schedule (with more tasks but less structure), more difficult coursework, and increased independence and responsibility. This adjustment period is often coupled with feeling homesick while being away from loved ones and frequent comparisons (often utilizing social media) about how peers are transitioning to college. As such, students may experience heightened anxiety, sadness, or loneliness while transitioning to college, and this adjustment may sometimes be more than students can reasonably manage on their own.

Students may be more likely to struggle with the transition to college if they are away from home for the first time, have a history of difficult transitions to new situations, are the first in the family to attend college, have a significant other or very close group of friends at home, or are concerned about a family member at home. Some signs of homesickness or difficulty adjusting to college are:

  • Calling home or asking to come home for visits more often than expected. 
  • Expressing dissatisfaction with everything and everyone at the university.
  • Expressing significant worry about classes.
  • Having difficulty making decisions.
  • Disengaging from social activities. 
  • Talking about withdrawing from the university.
  • Frequently comparing their experiences to the experiences of other new students

Coping Strategies

  • Remember that you are not alone.
  • Be patient with yourself as you adjust to this significant life transition.
  • Text or email instead of calling parents, or try to think of the supportive or comforting messages they would give you.
  • Make an effort every day to talk to someone new, even if you are not destined to become best friends.
  • Reach out to a high school friend to continue getting social support while developing new friendships.
  • Try spending more time on campus rather than going home to family members on weekends.
  • Join a campus club, organization, or sport.
  • Remember that even students who look like they are making tons of friends are experiencing a transition as well and may be experiencing similar feelings of homesickness and anxiety.
  • Attend campus events such as the First Look Fair in September to learn about the various campus social groups to join
  • Talk with people in your support network on or off-campus about your struggles or seek additional help.

Services

  • The Counseling Center offers workshops, brief individual counseling, and group counseling to help students adjust to the transition of college. The services will be geared both toward the adjustment process as well as managing symptoms (e.g. anxiety, depression, loneliness, etc.) resulting from the transition. To begin services at the Counseling Center, please first schedule an intake appointment.
  • Consider talking with your Residence Life staff about how to develop a larger support network, get involved on campus, navigate roommate challenges, and learn new adult tasks.

Resources

The College Transition Video
One college student’s experience of transitioning to college and the challenges involved

How to Deal with Homesickness at College
A plan for overcoming homesickness with a short video

Homesickness Isn’t Really About “Home”
Considerations for students and parents 

Tips to Fight Homesickness in College Students
A short conversation about ways to manage homesickness

Get Involved
UMD Student Affairs list of various ways for students to get involved and socialize on campus

UMD Campus Life Resources
The UMD Student Success Office’s list of campus life resources for students

Party Survival Guide for Introverts
5-step method for getting through and enjoying large parties 

How to Break the Ice
Tips for getting more confident and getting more out of everyday conversations

Transition Year
Tips and information about transitioning to college