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What Should I Do if I'm Struggling to Adjust to College?

Many students have a hard time adjusting to college, so you're not alone. Here's some expert advice on struggling with the transition and what to do about it.

Silhouette of person sitting at desk with laptopJim Terhune
VP of Student Affairs
Swarthmore College 
In most cases, at the end of secondary school, you’ve made friendships and established social groups that have evolved over several years and give a sense of comfort and belonging. When you start college, you’re dropped into a new living and social setting and have to make your way with very little information. As a result, it’s common for new students to find themselves in friend groups and social settings that aren’t necessarily a great match for them personally early on. When you have a sense of what you want from college and actively reflect on your experiences, you can adjust as you go. The important thing is to be open to new things and understand the choices you make will ultimately shape your time at college. You should also remember there are lots of people at your college who are there to help you. Deans, counselors, advisors, coaches, and peer mentors of many varieties exist precisely to help you succeed. Use them. They can be enormously helpful in negotiating bumps in the road.

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Christine FaderChristine Fader
Career Counselor, Author, and Editor
First of all, know that you are not alone. Many students have periods of time when they feel out of sorts in their new environment, and it can be helpful to let others know what you’re experiencing. Whether it’s talking to your parents, friends, or residence advisor, letting someone know what you’re going through can normalize your experiences and alert you to resources you might not have known existed. Because adjusting is a very common issue for students, colleges have many student support services to help. They exist specifically for your benefit, so don’t hesitate to make use of them when you need them! For example, if you’re struggling with academic work, try connecting with professors, teaching assistants, and the learning support/strategies unit on your campus. If stress, anxiety, a general feeling of sadness, relationship troubles, or homesickness is affecting you, check in with your residence advisor, health care provider, or student counseling services. Academic advisors, career counselors, financial aid officers, disability advisors, cultural/student identity groups, tutors, and peer support advisors are just a few of the other people on college campuses who are there to help students in need. If you don’t know where to start, check the student services section of your college website. Any of those offices will help get you connected to helpful resources and people, and will keep your concerns and questions confidential.

Randall Langston

Randall Langston
Executive Director of Enrollment Management

University of Northern Colorado
First, don’t panic! You may not know it now, but many before you have gone through this same process with many of the same feelings you have now. What you are experiencing is completely normal. For the first time in your life you have a great deal of independence without your parents guiding you along. The reality is that with independence comes an exceptional amount of responsibility and accountability. Instead of having a prescribed schedule like in high school, you are now free to choose when to attend class. And there are so many more distractions in college! A major part of college life deals with developing coping mechanisms. For example, learning how to effectively study is very individualized. Some people study best at the library where others need a residence hall room. However, beyond the basics associated with studying, it's exceptionally beneficial to reach out to others and just talk and verbalize your concerns. Talk to friends, your roommate, your resident assistant, and yes, even a faculty member. Chances are they have experienced the same feelings. And don’t forget all of the resources available on campus, including counseling centers, university staff, and other professionals who are there to help as well.

Find full-length articles and advice on CollegeXpress to help you with any adjustment problems you may be having at school!  

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