Every soon-to-be college student experiences some level of fear and hesitancy about this next step.
It’s natural to feel college anxiety and be concerned about doing well in a new environment.
During the summer before my daughter went to college, I began noticing some red flags. At first, I ignored them, knowing she was simply nervous. But as the weeks rolled on and more and more began popping up, I began to get concerned. Had she changed her mind about college? Was she willing to turn her back on what had been her dream? Was this simply nerves or something more serious that might require therapeutic intervention?
You know, as their parent, when a child’s feelings are natural anxiety or something deeper. Initiate a conversation without judgement or condemnation. Discuss what your student is feeling and try to isolate the problem. Together, you should be able to find a solutions that will help ease the transition to college.
Thankfully, my daughter and I were able to get to the root of her anxiety and we were able to ease her concerns.
So what are the red flags that signal your student isn’t looking forward to college?
1. A drastic change in mood or increased anxiety.
The first, and most obvious, red flag is a drastic change in mood. This may be exhibited in any number of ways: overeating, not eating, crying, becoming belligerent or angry, using alcohol or drugs, or avoiding contact with family or friends. If you notice a change in behavior, it may be signaling anxiety related to the future.
2. Avoiding the topic of college.
If your child refuses to discuss college, any aspect of college, or changes the subject when you try to discuss college, this may be another red flag signaling distress about the thought of going to college in the fall. By ignoring the topic and avoiding the subject, kids find a way to distance themselves from the anxieties they are feeling.
3. Second-guessing their college choice.
All students have a small amount of buyer’s remorse. It’s that overwhelming feeling that perhaps they choose the wrong college or made the wrong decision. It’s that feeling that perhaps they don’t want to leave home after all because of their friends, their boyfriend or girlfriend, or they are terrified to be on their own.
4. Dragging their feet about preparation.
If your college-bound teen is putting off preparation for the upcoming move to college this could be another red flag. Most prospective students are excited to dorm shop, connect with roommates and attend freshman orientation. If any of these activities are being pushed aside by your student, you can bet they are feeling the stress and the pressure of moving forward.
5. Discussing alternatives to college.
This is a huge red flag. If you begin to hear rumblings of a gap year, staying at home and working, traveling, or any other activity other than college it’s time to sit up and take notice. As with any of the red flags, you should listen and try to pinpoint what is going on in the teenage brain. After talking it over, decide what’s normal anxiety or if you need to get serious about alternatives to college.
6. Talking about transferring after the first semester.
All students are anxious about whether or not they will fit in or be able to handle the rigors of college academics; but if the conversation moves toward transferring, you should be concerned. This means they will be entering college expecting a negative outcome. This attitude will affect how they adjust emotionally, socially and academically. Entering with a positive attitude is half the battle to becoming a well-adjusted college student.