Thank you to the Baylor College of Medicine for submitting this article…..
Back-to-school takes on new meaning for students heading off to college, with the focus shifting from new school supplies and clothes to developing time management and study skills and living on their own for the first time. A Baylor College of Medicine expert in family psychology offers some helpful tips.
“There are a number of issues that teens heading off to college for the first time may face,” said Dr. James Bray, professor of family and community medicine at Baylor. “It’s their first time away from home and living independently, and they don’t have the usual support system. For some, it’s the first time they’ve had to buckle down and study hard. It’s important for students to be prepared to develop new habits and seek out help if needed.”
Develop new routines and habits
Creating new habits and routine is key, Bray said. He suggests setting up regular study times and sticking to them. Students who struggle with getting to class on time or studying effectively may be able to find campus assistance. Many colleges and universities offer courses or workshops on these topics. Students also can seek out advice and help from a dormitory resident assistant, or RA.
Eating healthy and finding time for exercise also should be part of the new routine, Bray said. It will help students deal with stress, and keep off the so-called ‘Freshman 15.’ Many colleges have gym facilities and group exercises classes included as part of their fees, so students should take advantage of those programs. On the other hand, watch out for the unlimited food available in school dining halls.
Bray acknowledges that some students will start to feel anxious and homesick, or even depressed.
“It’s important to recognize these feelings and not just suffer in silence,” he said.
If needed, college students should head home for a weekend visit. Again, they should take advantage of campus resources such as counseling centers and RAs. Without seeking help, grades may begin to fall, Bray said.
Be aware of alcohol abuse
Another issue for college students to be mindful of is binge drinking, Bray said. This is more common among college freshmen and sophomores. By junior year, there is a decline in alcohol abuse; however, if it persists after this point, students may have trouble finishing school and moving on with successful careers.
He points out that underclassmen are typically underage, and drinking can have legal consequences with lifelong implications on their careers.
There also are serious potential health effects of binge drinking. “Anytime you drink five or more drinks on one occasion, it has implications for your health, including putting you at risk for injury and increasing your risk of sexually transmitted diseases and, for women, being victims of sexual assault.” What’s more, alcohol abuse can affect brain development, which continues until about age 22 or 23.
“College students need to be aware of the situations they are in, such as at parties or other college events where there is alcohol,” he said. Stick with friends, have a cell phone charged, limit alcohol intake and trust instincts.
Finally, Bray said to remember that students living in dorms are in close quarters and illnesses can spread quickly. Students should stay up to date on vaccinations and seek out healthcare if they aren’t feeling well, before it leads to missed class time.