New York Times' Maureen Tillman Blogs: Beware The Freshman Pitfalls

Maureen Tillman

Guest blogger Maureen Tillman's got some tips to keep you from being taken to task.

Our post today comes from Maureen Tillman, L.C.S.W. She is the organizer and curator of The New York Times' Local College Corner, and is also the creator of College with Confidence, a comprehensive psychotherapy service that supports parents and young adults through the college experience. She has offices in Maplewood Village and Morristown, New Jersey and also provides educational seminars, training, phone and skype consultations.

For high school seniors making the transition to college, this is the time to get real. It is crucial for these new graduates to be aware of the common stumbling blocks that many college freshmen encounter, and learn what they can do to help themselves have a successful transition from high school to college.

For many, this is the first time they will be leaving the nest, and it is now time to deal with the issues that will arrive when they are living on their own.

In my work I have talked with many college students on this first-year transition. Common pitfalls emerged from our discussions, some of which can have serious consequences. For example:

* Many students with learning and medical disabilities, ADD or ADHD have had support while growing up (including the monitoring of medication) from parents, tutors, schools and counselors — all significant factors in their academic success. But many students who decide to try college without this support find that this decision leads to a ticket home.

* Drinking and partying when homesick or down can spiral into deeper depression and academic failure.

* Freshmen tend to frequently text, call and use Facebook to keep in touch with friends and family back home. Too much of this can take away from meeting new people and feeling connected.

It is helpful if students look ahead and learn all they can about the college terrain before they leave.

Here are three suggestions to help students in their transition:

1. Talk to a variety of college students who have recently finished their freshman year. Ask them about their challenges and how they navigated them. What myths were shattered? And what do they wish they had known previously which would have allowed for them to have been more prepared?

2. Be realistic. You can do this by taking responsibility for yourself before you leave and take on tasks that your parents may have assisted in, like becoming literate in finances, making your own daily decisions and managing stress. Use the summer months to practice self-advocacy and assertiveness in challenging situations that may come your way.

3. Read the student handbook, “The Naked Roommate: And 107 Other Issues You Might Run Into in College,” by Harlan Cohen.

Freshman year at college offers a window of opportunity for students to reach out, join activities and make new friends. Yet many high school students cling to myths that could affect their ability to fully enjoy this time of their lives. When you hold those conversations with rising college sophomores you may know, don’t be afraid to raise some of your assumptions about college life; you might be surprised by their response.

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