Most First-Year Students Do Not Feel Emotionally Prepared for College

Posted By Eliana Osborn on November 12, 2015 at 10:01 am
Most First-Year Students Do Not Feel Emotionally Prepared for College

A recently-released survey of more than 1,500 individuals finds that most first-year college students do not feel emotionally prepared for the post-secondary education experience.  Two-thirds of respondents feel that other students are more prepared than they are.  The result?  Struggles in the classroom, and on campus in general.

The First Year College Experience survey reports that students who feel emotionally unprepared for college are more likely to:

  • Rate their college experience as poor or terrible
  • Have a lower GPA
  • Regularly use drugs or alcohol

Fully half of student respondents feel stressed most or all of the time.  36% find that stress to be out of their control and something they can’t manage on a day-to-day basis.  Those high numbers may explain the high proportion of college students abusing substances – according to the NIH’s National Institute on Drug Abuse, daily marijuana use among college students is at its highest in three decades, college students have a higher prevalence of binge drinking than non-students, and amphetamine use (including drugs like Adderall and Ritalin) nearly doubled between 2008 and 2013.

Survey respondents were in their first semester of college, certainly a difficult time of transition.  In the face of that stress, more than 50% said it is difficult to get emotional support at college, and 11% are keeping it to themselves.  Even more respondents do not feel able to share their worries college with others.  And being in a new environment, facing new experiences and meeting new people while on your own for the first time is even more challenging when you don’t feel able to talk about it.

It isn’t just the academic rigor of college causing stress to students.  Paying for college is a significant burden, worrying 40% of respondents.  Many feel it is also challenging to make new friends and keep in touch with family back home, a double emotional strain.

The First Year College Experience survey was produced by three organizations working to help students build social and emotional competence.  The JED Foundation, Partnership for Drug-Free Kids, and The Jordan Porco Foundation conducted the research as part of Set to Go, a new initiative to assist students.

The number of college students struggling with mental illness is a growing concern for families and colleges across America.  Some worry that helicopter parenting has created students who haven’t had experience doing difficult things on their own.  But whatever the cause, colleges are struggling to provide adequate services for students in need on their campuses.

According to the survey organizers, “Set to Go is a new online resource to help prepare for the transition to college and beyond—from developing basic life skills and building social-emotional competence, to learning the fundamentals of mental health and substance abuse and navigating the transition itself. Set to Go helps teens and young adults flourish and lead emotionally healthy lives into adulthood.”

Eliana Osborn
Eliana Osborn is an associate English professor at Arizona Western College, with degrees from Brigham Young University and Northern Arizona University. She’s published widely in forums such as The New York Times, the Washington Post, the Christian Science Monitor, and the Chronicle of Higher Education.

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