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Woman Standing on Dock
Woman Standing on Docks

Freshman Year: the best of times and the worst of times

The transition from high school to college both invigorates and excites teenagers. Yet even happy transitions may cause stress and raise mixed feelings because of their potential to overturn a young person's sense of identity and disrupt the fragile balance of familiarity.

Melissa, an enthusiastic young girl whom I've known for years, couldn't wait to go to college. An intelligent and independent student, she was delighted by the promise of choosing a course of study that interested her and of finally having the freedom to make her own choices.

Though she had dreamed about it for years, one month after starting university she realized that her new life was more demanding than she had anticipated. She was forced to question her preconceptions about college life. 

She felt homesick, lonely, and lost. The freedom that she had been longing for quickly became overwhelming. She was confronted with seemingly endless choices, and often, she didn't feel confident in her decision-making skills. 

Managing her time was problematic as, in the past, a parent, teacher, or other well-meaning adult had generally made sure she got from her to there on time and turned in work by due dates. College work was also more difficult, and she felt academically inadequate, worrying often about how she was perceived by her professors and classmates.

Melissa had nothing in common with her roommate, and she hadn't built a support network of friends yet. She missed the loving warmth of her family, and she feared that she was losing touch with her high school friends. In short, Melissa felt anxious and depressed.

The first year of college presents young people with an opportunity to stretch their legs and stride the path of adulthood; however, high school students are often overconfident in their ability to manage the changes they encounter during their first years of autonomy. The gamut of trials young adults must go up against is daunting, and because we tend to define ourselves by our surroundings, when those surroundings change, it can be disorienting. 

However, with support, these transitional years can be a time for tremendous growth. If you're a freshman struggling to adapt to college life, know that you don’t have to face these struggles by yourself. The guidance of a trusted adult such as a therapist or life coach can help you successfully navigate the stress and strain of transition while allowing you to maintain your independence.

Consider contacting my office in Uptown  New Orleans to learn more about how I can assist you through such a transition.

Dr. Eileen Wynne


Mattanah, Jonathan F., Ayers, Jeath.,  Brand, Bethany., Brooks, Leonie., (1980) A social support intervention to ease the college transition.  Exploring main effects and moderators. Journal of  College Student Development. Volume 51, Number 1. January/February 2010,  pp: 93-108.

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