Bunking classes, dating popular people and openly smoking and drinking are some of the attractive features of entering college which often makes it as one of the most exciting phases of life. However, the charm of entering into college is not a long lasting one merely because of the veiled responsibilities and adjustment issues which arise due to emerging adulthood. This is a period marked with mood swings, irritability, and depression along with other consequences of life stressors. Since people are quite often unprepared to face these challenges, it is highly essential to draw light on the number of issues associated with college life.
Talking about United States of America, the amount of students graduating from high school is incessantly increasing where in 2005, approximately 68 percent of these graduates got admission at a college or a higher educational institute within few months of graduation (U.S. Department of Education, 2008). Although many individuals in their late adolescents easily adapt to the new college environment, there are several who face a number of difficulties. This is evident from the fact that a substantial percentage of students drop out from college at the beginning, during or after the end of the first year college (Tinto, 1987). Studies show that majority of the students leaving high school and entering into college are 18 years old or below (Astin, Oseguera, Sax & Korn, 2002). In other words, they are in an epoch where they have just left their home and their school. For this reason, the beginning of the college is associated with serious adjustment issues because individuals have to cope up with the new environment. The old school friends and the environment is drastically replaced by a completely new situation which although gives the edge of maturity, independence and individuality, at the same time it is challenging to separate from the family and adjust to the new life. Therefore, these students in their late adolescents come across the major challenging developmental tasks of dealing with the psychological parting with their families as well as accepting and adapting to the responsibilities of the newly emerging adulthood.
Since the commencement of college results in academic and social adjustments such as forming new groups, conforming to the norms, making new friends, moving away from family and dealing with the new methods of learning, students often face serious mental and psychiatric problems because of this new change. This is also due to underlying fact that those students who live away from their home are not under the surveillance of their parents. For this reason, they are solely responsible for their overall health. Therefore, the stress of educational opportunities, finding friends and establishing new relationships often increase their risk of mental health impairment thereby exposing them to the onset or the recurrence of psychiatric problems (Blanco et al., 2008). The resultant behavior of mood fluctuation, low energy, affected self esteem and changes in the sleep pattern which arise because of college adjustment issues, also point out to the onset of psychiatric disorders. Although, diagnosing someone with a psychiatric disorder requires severity in the mentioned symptoms, it is essential to highlight the fact that despite the privilege attached with college students, mental disorder is widely prevalent among them. This idea is also fostered by the work presented by Mowbray et al (2006) that reveals an amount of approximately 12 to 18% of the students suffering from a diagnosed mental disorder. Moreover, apart from the development of mental disorders, astonishing suicide rates are also prevalent among students attending college (Mowbray et al, 2006). Hence, this shows that coping with college related stress poses great difficulty and consequences (Dyrbye, Thomas, & Shanafelt, 2006). The existing literature coherently outlines the disorders of depression and anxiety found among college students to a great extent. Not only this, as mentioned earlier, entering college is a period marked with greater autonomy and the attractive risky behaviors such as alcohol and substance abuse and inappropriate sexual activities. Consequently, these behaviors make a student more vulnerable towards their physical as well as mental health because of which they develop stress, eating problems, self esteem issues and a number of disorders (Baldwin et al., 2009).
Apart from the social adjustment issues of parting from a family, making new friends and conforming/adapting to the norms at the beginning of college, students are also come across academic adjustment challenges. Due to the new environment and the related troubles, the rate of absenteeism greatly increases along with late submissions and decreased level of productivity. In other words, these are some of the consequences of adapting to the new life. These may arise due to problems in various aspects such as getting used to the routine and looking out for peers. In addition, such academic issues might also result because of the shortcoming in adjusting to the academic learning method of college. The case worsens for students having background troubles of parental conflict, divorce or financial concerns. Students are quite often unaware of the series of challenges associated with entering college. Due to this fact, they often end up with severe adjustment issues which does not only affect their academic performance, but adversely harm their physical and mental health. This is evident from the findings of the existing research which proposes that approximately 34 percent of the college students in USA report stress as compared to the 26 percent of the college students who face sleep difficulties (American College Health Association, 2008). In this regard, it is vital to educate students about the college related issues before they enter college in order to prepare them to cope and deal with all kinds of difficulty. In this way, the harm to the health would be minimized and academic performance would also increase. Furthermore, adjustment problems go hand in hand with the aspect of diversity. Students belonging to a different culture or a race that is dissimilar from the one where they are studying, often have to deal with the problem of social integration and assimilation. Studies report that Black students who enter into White colleges often end up with a low self esteem and experience feelings of social isolation, discrimination and under-representation (Chavous et al., 2002). Therefore, to cater to the adjustment challenges faced by the diverse group of students, colleges have support systems and counseling services to help them deal with their worries. Although the support system, the health professionals and the counseling staff face a number of challenges, they continue to play an important role in helping students cope with their issues. The difficulty to deal with counseling students and providing them courage and confidence to resolve their adjustment difficulties persist as a challenge for the support network. Despite this, the counseling and the support system provided by many colleges play an important role in improving the life of many students by not only increasing their retention rate but also positively impacting their life.
Thus, transitioning to college is a sign of emerging adulthood which comes with a number of responsibilities that are often difficult to handle. On surface, entering college appears to be attractive because of the charm associated with maturity and the related freedom to opt for risky behaviors. Despite the temporary fun attached with these behaviors, they result in serious consequences which adversely affect the overall health and the academic performance of students. Leaving schools and moving away from parents is not an easy task. The challenge of establishing new friendships, of gaining popularity and appreciation, fulfilling the need of support and academically excelling are some of the major adaptations required by students when they step into a college. The extensive competitive desire to achieve the highest grade and to become a part of the most popular group often creates a number of adjustment issues for the student. Failing in adapting to the new environment academically and socially in turn results in psychiatric and mental disorders which impairs the overall functioning of life. For this reason, it is highly important to educate and aware the students who are about to enter college. In this way, they would be prepared to deal with the upcoming challenges where the role of the college support system would also help students adapt to the new environment and hence successfully complete their degree.
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Tinto, V. (1987). Leaving college: Rethinking the causes and cures of student attrition. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics. (2008). Digest of Education Statistics, 2007 (NCES 2008-022).