Fear Associated with Freshman Year

August 24, 2016

College 2Jennifer Freeman, PhD, director of research and training at the Pediatric Anxiety Research Center at Bradley Hospital, offers tips for teens on making the adjustment to college life and living away from home for the first time.

Why is college so scary for many teens?  

Heading off to college presents a very different type of separation than many families have ever experienced before. For many teens, this is the first time they have ever lived away from their parents. The independence can be both exciting and terrifying at the same time. There is so much pressure and build up around getting accepted into college that often no one thinks about what happens when you actually have to go!

How can teens entering college help reduce their anxiety?  

Before you arrive on campus, learn about your environment as much as possible. Figure out where to eat, where to do laundry (HOW to do laundry for some!), where your classes are. It seems silly, but preparation and making sure you know how to take care of your basic needs will bring you comfort. Find out about your roommate(s) in advance and try to meet if possible. He or she will be going through the same transition and can be a good outlet to talk about it.

Once you’re on campus, get involved. Use social media to connect with other students and classmates. Meet new friends. Join clubs and sports teams and join social activities.

Jennifer Freeman, PhD

What are some of the worst side effects of this anxiety?  

A common reaction to anxiety is pulling away from what makes you nervous – either by hiding in your dorm room or going home every weekend. Avoid that, and get out there on campus!

Anything parents can do?  

Going away to college isn’t easy, and it is normal for your kids to be anxious and have to adjust. It may be tempting to constantly call and text your teen to make sure he or she is ok, but you need to let them learn independence. Set up a standing Skype or FaceTime date once or twice a week. If you find yourself struggling with your own anxieties or simply missing your child, find other people for support. Many parents are going through the same thing and would love to talk.