August, 2010 Issue

In This Issue

7 online articles from this issue. Next

Real Life On Campus - College Freshmen Challenges



As an upper classman I have seen freshmen who have struggled upon entering college. Do you have advice for them to make this transition smoother?

Numerous first year-students discover that they are not adequately prepared for the challenges of independent life on campus. In fact 26 percent of first-year students who enter college either drop out or do not return to the same institution their second year. Often referred to as "The Red Zone," the first six weeks of freshman year is the most crucial to determining the overall success of a college student. It is important to remember why you are attending college in the first place. College is a stepping stone for your future success and you don't want to throw away this opportunity. You and your family have worked hard for this. Always prioritize your academics as first and foremost!

The greatest challenge for a college freshman is time management. You will find that you will not have the same structure as you did in high school. Some days you may have only one class and others can be quite busy. It is easy to become distracted with socializing, the internet, video games or Facebook. Structure your day so you are accomplishing your academic work first and play later, balance is important. Find a quiet place that is most conducive for studying. Often that is not your dorm room. Organization is the key. Utilize a calendar to keep yourself on track for your deadlines and refer to your syllabus. Don't leave papers and other long-term projects for the last minute. It adds a lot of stress and you will not perform as well.

It is crucial to nurture yourself. Many freshmen are intoxicated with their new-found freedom and they just go crazy. This is not to be a free-for-all, again, remember your goals for success. Get plenty of sleep. When you are sleep-deprived you decrease your memory retention which negatively affects your grades. Also sleep is crucial to your emotional well-being; you need to recharge both mentally and physically with a good night's sleep. Eat a well-balanced diet and watch out for that freshman 15! Some college cafeterias have all-you-can-eat style food service. Watch your portions and don't eat until you feel full. Stop before you get to that point and you will not put on the extra pounds.

Exercise is also very important for your physical and mental well-being. You feel better and have more energy when you are in top physical shape. You do not need to look like Joe Atlas to achieve this! When you exercise the brain secretes more endorphins which will elevate your mood and you will have a more positive outlook on life. Take advantage of the exercise equipment that is available to you in the recreation centers or walk on a regular basis.

Watch the partying! I have met students who are now on the 5 or 6 year plan because they flunked classes their freshman year. Partying was their priority. A college education is expensive today. You don't want to add to that financial burden. I met a girl who was working at an auto rental counter. She shared that she had a full scholarship to a prestigious state university and partied hard her first semester. By the end of that semester her GPA was a whopping .8! She lost her scholarship and her parents were so angry they made her move home, pay for her own education and attend the local campus which she hates. At that point in time she should have been a junior. She was still a freshman because she was working full time to pay for her education. I asked her what she would say if she were to give advice to incoming freshmen, she replied, "Remember why you are here."

Alcohol is the high-risk behavior that interferes most with a successful college education today. Learn to have a good time without that social lubricant. We see many negative outcomes from lower GPA's, increased drop outs, unprotected sex, sexual assaults, accidental injuries and deaths, aggressive behavior and property damage.

It is natural to feel homesick. For some students it does not occur until several weeks into the semester. Remember that most students are in the same situation as you, being away from family and old friends. This is your chance to build a new family and long-lasting relationships. Join clubs and organizations that interest you. There you will find like-minded people and start to develop a sense of connection with the campus community. Remember there are many resources and people there to help you, take advantage of that. From my years of experience I have found that those who are employed on college campuses are most caring and dedicated; from professors, to Deans, counselors, staff in student activities, athletics, wellness, etc. They truly have your well-being at heart. Don't be afraid to develop a mentoring relationship. You may have challenges with your roommate. Be considerate of each other's needs and learn to openly communicate your feelings to keep the relationship healthy.

This is an exciting time in your life. You will have positive experiences and some challenges along the way. Don't let them get the best of you. Some of our greatest life-lessons and strengths come from adversity. How you handle adversity is what builds character. Remember college is a privilege not a right. Don't take this time for granted and have fun!

In partnering with Campus Activities Magazine® I will be regularly writing a column that answers reader's questions on issues challenging college students today. For the past 13 years I have had the privilege of presenting programs to thousands of college students on the life-altering impact of high-risk behaviors, particularly unprotected sex and alcohol. Having personally spoken with hundreds of students and administrators I continually learn about the issues of college life from you. Nothing gratifies me more than having the opportunity to help a student who reached out to me after I visited their campus. If you have any questions on college life, alcohol, sex, drugs, etc, please email me at