Clothes and belongings have been packed. Cars have been loaded up or suitcases have been checked. Bed Bath and Beyond items have been ordered for pickup in cities and towns across America. You know what this means: members of the high school class of 2019 have headed off to college. They’ve said goodbye to friends and family members and have moved into dorm rooms and started classes.
For some students, the transition to college will be relatively easy. They’ll make friends, join clubs, get along with their roommate, and find their classes challenging but not overwhelming. They might be homesick on occasion (especially when they get that inevitable first cold that spreads like wildfire on college campuses), but they’ll generally be ok. Yet, others will have a more difficult time. They’ll struggle to make friends and find activities to participate in, they’ll have problems with their roommate, and/or their classes will prove to be overly difficult.
We often hear about students who aren’t academically prepared for college and have to take remedial classes. But what about students who aren’t emotionally prepared? Dr. Anthony Rostain and Dr. B. Janet Hibbs are mental health professionals who work with college students. In a recent Wall Street Journal article, they wrote about the growing number of college students who are experiencing mental illness, particularly anxiety and depression. The transition to college can intensify these issues.
Drs. Rostain and Hibbs reported, “More than 85% of college students described feeling ‘overwhelmed,’ and 51% reported feeling at some point in the past year that ‘things were hopeless,’ according to the American College Health Association’s annual survey in 2018. Last year, fully a third of college students received treatment at campus counseling centers, according to the latest annual Health Minds Study, a web-based student survey of 155,000 students from nearly 200 campuses.”
They went on to suggest possible reasons for these trends. Chief among them is that in response to societal changes in the last few decades, parents are now playing a more significant role in their teenage children’s lives. While parents may see their interventions as helping their son or daughter, the unintended consequence is that children are not learning how to cope with problems on their own.
When students go off to college and can no longer rely on their parents to the extent they did in high school, this can add to students’ anxiety and their difficulty in adjusting to college life. As Drs. Rostain and Hibbs wrote, “research has shown that