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Friday, July 25, 2014

When back-to-school bells ring even college freshmen will face challenges

Friday, July 25, 2003

SIKESTON -- From getting to class on time and making new friends to doing laundry and resisting gaining the "Freshman 15," there's no doubt college freshmen have a lot on their minds this summer.

"For many of them, it will be the first time they'll be away from adult supervision for extended periods of time and some will have a difficult time adjusting to having to do things on their own," pointed out Doug Johnson, counselor at Southeast Missouri State University's Center for Health and Counseling. "They have to understand that mom won't wake you up, and the teacher won't knock on your door if you're not in class."

No matter what their school of choice is, a majority of college freshman often face the same dilemmas and fall into similar patterns.

Many students experience homesickness from being away from home for the extended periods of time, Johnson said.

"Often what I find is that they don't want to admit they're homesick because they're supposed to be adults -- and adults don't get homesick. But adults do get homesick."

Typically, college freshmen do not get enough rest or eat properly, Johnson said. And the lack of nutrition and rest can bring a person down -- physically and mentally, he explained.

Dealing with stress is a big challenge for freshmen, Johnson noted. They're trying to make new friends, adjust to a new environment and the demands of college life.

According to The American Freshmen survey, almost 70 percent of respondents said they were "satisfied" or "very satisfied" with the overall sense of community among students at their school and more than half felt completely successful in developing close friendships with other students arriving on campus.

New Madrid County Central 2003 graduate Mandy Truelove is one of thousands of area students entering college this fall, and she admitted she's not too worried about it.

"I'm excited," Truelove said about starting college. "Not many of my friends are going to SEMO so it's gonna be different getting to know other people."

She has already toured the Southeast Missouri State University campus, where Truelove will attend this fall. She's gotten her schedule and I.D. And soon she'll be getting her books and parking permit.

Truelove said a few of her college friends have given her some pointers on college life.

"The main thing they've warned me about is parking. They said to make sure I get a parking permit," Truelove said. "And some advice on sororities."

Thanks to college credit courses in high school, Truelove, like many area students, has gotten a lot of her prerequisites out of the way -- about 25 hours worth -- so Truelove said she feels she has an idea of what college classes will be like.

But Johnson warns first-year college students to be prepared. One common situation -- which is often hard for college freshman to comprehend -- is their grades aren't as good as they were in high school, he said.

"I've actually had someone say to me, 'I'm not smart anymore,' Johnson recalled. "And I tell them: 'It's like the Olympics. You can be a top-notch athlete, but there are others who are good, too. You've got to do the best you can do.'"

Skipping class is a big contributor to an unsuccessful college career, Johnson said.

"A student may have a Monday, Wednesday and Friday class, and what happens is they'll miss Monday for whatever reason, Johnson said. Then Wednesday comes and for whatever reason they'll miss it. And on Friday, they think, 'Oh, everyone knows I wasn't here all week. I'll just wait until after the weekend and go back on Monday.'

He continued: "They do it one day at a time. It's not like the students say, 'I'm gonna miss class this week.' It's just that the realization adds up. They need to realize it's happening to prevent it."

As compared with when they entered college, first-year students: spend more time studying, partying and socializing with friends; spend less time exercising, reading for pleasure and attending household duties; drink beer, wine and/or other types of liquor more frequently; and attend religious services less frequently, The American Freshmen Survey reported.

Of course just because there are common trends among college freshmen doesn't mean every student will fall into a pattern, and it doesn't mean they can't do anything to prevent these things from happening.

"Statistics show the more involved in campus activities students are, the more successful they'll be and are more likely to continue with college because they've made an investment," Johnson explained.

Students should realize universities have help to cover the whole gamut, Johnson said. There are tutors. There's people to help psychologically. There's people to help in health, nutrition and recreation.

"Go to class and eat right -- and ask for help," Johnson said. "That's the best advice. Just don't be afraid to ask for help."