How to Help Your Friend Transition to College
Communicate Care & Concern
For as exciting as it can be to start college, it can also be stressful and overwhelming. Sometimes our friends adjust seamlessly, take 16 credits, keep their part-time job, and play a sport. Other times our friends struggle, contemplating if 16 credits is too much, struggling to work 10 hours a week, and not joining any clubs, sports, or organizations on campus. They may be the friend who you often hear talking about their anxiety regarding almost everything, and they look unhappy on campus more times than not. Chances are if this is your friend, they just might be having a hard time adjusting to college life.
Ask, Assess, Affirm
People handle transitions differently. It's normal for people to have their own adjustment curve. Some may adjust in the first two weeks, others may find it easier after the first month, and others may not feel like they've adjusted until first semester is almost over. It might be helpful, especially if it's about a month into the term to talk with your friend about how they are transitioning to college life. You may want to ask:
- How are you handling your course load this semester?
- What programs have you been able to attend on campus?
- What clubs, sports, or organizations have you joined or are you I interested in joining on campus?
- What has been going well for you this semester?
- What hasn't been going well for you this semester?
Listen to your fiend's responses. If they are offering short one word answers it may mean things aren't going well and they don't want to talk about it. If their answers are negative, for example "The semester sucks," "I think I need to withdrawal," "My one professor has it in for me, I swear," "Who has time for programs? I'm always behind in some class," I need common hour to catch up," it's likely your friend is struggling to adjust to the demands of the semester.
Reach for Resources & Refer
If you think your friend is having a particularly hard time transitioning to the university or transitioning to the new semester, remind them they can visit Counseling Services on campus. It's a free and confidential service to all Penn State students and is located in the Student Affairs Office on the second floor of the Commons Building.
- The Skinny on Your First Year in College (Heffron, 2011)
- Making the Most of College: Students Speak Their Minds (Light, 2001)
- The College Blue Book: A Few Thoughts, Reflections & Reminders on How to Get the Most Out of College & Life (D'Angelo, 1995)
- The Secrets of a Successful Transition to College: http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/spectrum-solutions/201005/the-secrets-successful-transition-college
Engage, Explain, & Eliminate Danger
One of the most helpful things in navigating any type of transition is having the support of other people. Explain to your friend that you are there to support him/her and that if he/she wants more support, there are people on campus, whether it's Counseling Services, Student Affairs staff, the Writing Studio, STEM Lab, Brandywine Learning Center, other staff, or professors, that are here to help him/her have a great college experience. Engage your friend as they transition to college or acclimate to the new semester by:
- Offering to study with them
- Trying out for a club sport or creating an intramural team with them
- Inviting them to campus programs
- Joining a club with them
- Being gym buddies
- Walking your friend over for their first appointment (Counseling, STEM lab, Writing Center, etc.)
- Remind them to take breaks. Whether it's to go to the movies, a yoga class, the humor page on Pinterest, or eating lunch without simultaneously reading the chapter summary in their chemistry book, breaks are healthy and helpful.
If you or another Penn State Brandywine student would like to speak with a counselor, feel free to contact Penn State Brandywine's Counseling Services Department at 610-892-1270.