Dear parents of college freshmen: How you doing? It's been about a month — give or take a week or two — since you dropped your child off at college. How are you feeling?
Thousands of college freshmen began their journey to adulthood recently, likely throwing themselves and their parents into a bit of a panic. The anxiety — for parents and students — can start the moment students are dropped off on campus and parents give hugs and kisses and drive away.
Officials at Transylvania University and the University of Kentucky offer resources for students and parents to help make the transition easier.
"Entering college can be an exciting time," said Transylvania University health educator Erinn McWilliams. "Yet it's also a time when students experience many changes and likely some challenges along the way."
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Needless to say, change can be tough. For many of these freshmen, this is the first time leaving home and diving into a completely foreign environment, away from the comfort of family and friends.
"A parent's role can be a delicate balance of providing support, listening ... and being present," said McWilliams. "Being mindful of this balance is important, particularly when your student calls home or comes home for a visit."
So what does McWilliams recommend? Here are a few tips for parents who may be worrying about their child's first year away from home.
■ Remember that this is an adjustment for the whole family and not just the child in college. Parents should take time to adapt to the transition, too. Setting aside some time to focus on self-care might help. Also, keeping the whole family in contact with your child can help ease the adjustment.
■ Allow your child to spread her wings. "The transition to college takes time. It's important to let (your children) have some independence as they grow intellectually, emotionally and socially," she said.
■ Be supportive. Comfort your child by letting him know that you are still there for him. Ask about social activities, class work and how classes are going. Do not take it personally if your now more independent child doesn't want to share every detail about college life.
■ Let you children learn to solve their own problems. McWilliams says that is achieved by discussing possible solutions and using campus resources that are available to them. Avoid the temptation of offering immediate solutions.
■ Do not be afraid to ask for help. If you are worried about your child's health or safety, you should call campus resources and inform them of your child's situation.
McWilliams suggested that assistance can be found in several places including with the dean of students office, the campus counseling center, residence advisers or on-campus safety officials.
For college students, the separation can be just as tough.
"We see a variety of psychological difficulties at the counseling center," said Kathryn Gould, a University of Kentucky clinician. "Some of the most frequent presenting concerns include anxiety and depression. This is not just with incoming freshmen but across the board."
Located in Frazee Hall, the UK Counseling Center offers a variety of free services for students registered for six or more credit hours a semester. They include individual and couples counseling, and addiction treatment.
Transylvania's Health, Wellness and Counseling Center also offers free counseling services to its students.
"Some students come for one session, while others schedule for multiple sessions," said McWilliams, adding that referrals can be made to off-campus counseling services or health care resources if needed.
Here are tips for students who might be struggling during freshman year or at any time during their college career:
■ Take advantage of services offered on campus. "Stay in contact with your support system from home, but try to build a strong support network on campus as well," Gould said. That network should include the counseling center, student health services and residence life staff.
■ Learn to cope with day-to-day stressors in healthy ways. Counselors encourage students to choose healthy meal options, to get adequate hours of sleep and to set aside time for meditation or exercise.
■ Sign up for a university introduction course or program. At UK, students may sign up for UK 101, which teaches students about university policies and campus resources to address any personal and social issues, such as alcohol, diversity and financial literacy, that first-year students often face.
"They told us things in UK 101 that I didn't know existed," said Megan Parker, a junior majoring in behavioral health. "Like the VIP center ... where you can go and take self-defense classes."
At Transylvania, first-year students are required to take a course called First-Year Seminar/Research Seminar — depending on which term they attend. The program is designed to teach students what they can expect throughout their education at Transy.
■ Participate in healthy and fun activities. UK offers daily indoor and outdoor activities, fitness classes and weekend adventure trips organized by the Johnson Center.
The Clive M. Beck Athletic and Recreation Center at Transylvania also offers fitness activities, classes and programs.
■ Join a club. Students are encouraged to make the most of their college experience by getting involved on campus with organizations and activities.
Gould suggests staying on campus during the weekends to get connected and to take advantage of the many campus activities geared toward new and returning students.
At UK, there are many leadership programs, clubs, and organizations that students can get involved in. Visit Getinvolved.uky.edu/ to find out more.
At Transy, more than 70 student organizations are available, said McWilliams. There are also eight Greek organizations that students might consider joining: Visit Transy.edu/about/st_org.htm to learn more.
■ Download the university app (available for UK and Transy campuses). This app can be useful, not just for freshmen, but also for anyone trying to navigate campus. Students are able to access a campus map with lists of dining venues, study areas, parking garages and upcoming events. They can even plan and register for courses through the app.
"I use my app almost every single day," Parker said.