The transition from high school to university can be difficult. Aneesa Shariff, a psychologist with UBC Counselling Services, offers some advice for first-year students.
What are common problems that first-year students encounter when adjusting to university life?
Many first-year students adjust to university life with minimal difficulty. However, some of the most common challenges I hear about tend to cluster around a theme of feeling lost. Some students find it difficult to navigate a large campus having come from high school and this is even more challenging for students who are from smaller towns.
There is also the difficulty of adjusting to being one face among hundreds in large lectures. There is a lack of check-ins around homework and assignment completion, which is a significant shift from the structure of high school classes. This makes it difficult for some first-years to keep pace with coursework and can negatively impact their academic performance.
How do you recommend dealing with this?
I recommend making a good study schedule and staying up to date with readings. While it is tempting to put off work until mid-terms, this will just cause more stress later. By setting up study groups with classmates, you can keep each other accountable for staying on top of your work. It is also helpful to be aware of on-campus resources for academic support, such as the Chapman Learning Commons, which provides tips on study strategies, paper writing, and more.
It is important to remember that university is also about making social connections and that investing time into building a support system of friends and classmates will help you to succeed academically.
Why do some students find it hard to live away from home? Why is the separation difficult?
Some students feel anxious when they think about starting university, potentially moving away from home, making new friends and forming a new support system all at once. It helps to remind yourself that some anxiety is normal in the face of multiple changes, but that in all likelihood, with a little patience and perseverance, you will adapt in a bit of time.
It is important to be proactive in seeking professional help if things don’t seem to be improving, or if they are worsening over time. If you notice yourself having difficulty with basic tasks like getting out of bed, eating, making it to class, or if you find yourself feeling really distressed, contact UBC’s Counselling Services. Do not wait until things have gotten really out of control to seek support.