Maneuvering the Big (College) Transition

The summer before college can be one of the most carefree, exhilarating times for incoming freshman. It’s a time where reality hits pause as friends try to soak up their last remaining months with one another before being catapulted into their next big journey in life. A time where the biggest decisions being made include where the location for the next bonfire get-together is and what color comforter one should choose for their college dorm.

Those three summer months before college can be over in a flash, and suddenly young adults are thrust into a new learning and living environment that puts their life skills to the test. Life skills that may have never been explored, discussed, or practiced. Skills such as: time management, adapting to new situations, making new friends, and household chores such as cooking and laundry. Young adults are likely to become overwhelmed with the onslaught of responsibilities thrown at them within their first few weeks of college if not properly prepared.

For some, college may be the first time they’ve truly been away from home. For others, college may be the escape they’ve been longing for to start to grow their roots as an independent. Either way, college is a new experience that requires a mature skill set that many do not prepare for. Some hold this elusive notion that college will be great no matter what, and ignore the fact that college is a change; a big change that requires adaptation.

Therapeutics services, such as ones offered by Balance Stress Management and Therapy, can assist in preparing incoming freshman for what lies ahead in their future transition while teaching them valuable life skills to help them succeed. Common topics that are covered for clients who fit this demographic include strengthening one’s self-esteem, developing and practicing healthy coping skills, navigating nutritional and fitness stressors, and handling potential homesickness.

Below are examples of how us therapists at Balance can help address the issues stated above.

Increasing one’s self-esteem- College can be both a confusing and exhilarating time as it allows individuals to start to solidify their unique identities. Incoming students are can be exposed to a wide, diverse group of people compared to the groups they were exposed toin high school. This exposure provides an opportunity for students to branch out of whatever group they were placed in in high school and explore different cultures, political parties, and ways of life. If one does not feel confident in their level of self-esteem, they may find college to be an intimidating dome where they feel uncomfortable testing the waters of their identity. Therapy can be useful in helping clients increase their self-esteem so they feel more confident immersing themselves into the college scene without giving up their identity to fit it. 

Developing and Practicing Healthy Coping Skills- College brings to a life a new set of responsibilities which can be anxiety provoking for some. People are allotted more independence in choosing their schedules, which can be difficult to navigate if people have not mastered time management. Learning what coping skills work best for each individual is important in continually keep one’s mental health at its baseline. Our Art and Music Therapists at Balance can help brainstorm healthy coping skills such as mindfulness and art and music therapy, focusing on the importance of a holistic approach to tackle anxiety.

Navigating Nutritional and Fitness Stressors- Making healthy decisions in college can be difficult once one walks into their college’s dining hall. Food stations line the room, allowing for unlimited trips to every station. Learning to make healthy choices in these situations can be easier when one has a better understanding of the benefits of nutrition. Our Nutritionist on staff can help incoming college clients learn about the food groups and what is needed to maintain energy for those long nights studying. Educated eating is better eating. Other therapists on staff can help clients create realistic fitness goals for themselves to help them keep an active lifestyle, while our Neurofeedback therapist can explain the benefits of living an active lifestyle and these benefits can be mapped and measured through brain mapping.
Handling Potential Homesickness- For those who struggle with being away from their families or loved ones for an extended amount of time, our team of Marriage and Family Therapists can facilitate effective family therapy sessions to help ease anxieties related to attachment to help all members involved feel validated and taken care of. Going to college can affect not only the client, but the family as well, which is why approaching this specific issue from a systems theory approach is a recommended option.

College has been described by many as one of the greatest times of their lives. We at Balance hope this is the case for future college students, and hope we can serve as a vessel to help achieve this level of schooling satisfaction by helping prepare students for what they can expect so they are ready to take charge and lead their lives with confidence!

If you know of anyone who may fall under the demographic targeted in this article, feel free to call Balance Stress Management and Therapy at (847)-450-0524 or check out our website at to further explore the services mentioned above in detail.

We look forward to hearing from you.

-Mary Schufreider

2 Replies to “Maneuvering the Big (College) Transition”

  1. Dear Balance:

    Thank you for contributing such a well-articulated analysis about the realities of transitioning into young adulthood and the college lifestyle. I agree that more often than not, incoming college freshman become temporarily “narrow-minded”, as it’s easier to think of all the exciting, adrenaline-pumping visions we create in our minds as the dopamine (feel good hormone) surges through our brains. The thought of graduating and beginning college and a “new life” is intoxicatingly exciting that it often becomes extremely difficult to think of the probable “negative” effects a new student might experience throughout this transition. However, this article describes those realities and offers a safe venue to process challenging topics in a therapeutic environment where young adults can learn necessary skills to help them navigate through some emotional and uncomfortable moments equipped with the tools required to perservere through those awkward and/or saddened periods of time when confusion and self-doubt set it.

    This article is outstanding in speaking to the expeience that the vast majority of this population of people go through (to some degree) when transitioning from living at home to living on their own away at school. It’s an encouraging message to this group of educated-minded individuals to heed caution, while still allowing the flame of excitement to burn brightly. It’s also a fantastic message to parents, providing areas of focus that children would benefit from if consciously engaged in & exposed to through open dialogue at home over a longer period of time.

    I mean, we all get it right? What 18 year old adolescent wants to hear “life lessons” from their parents when they definitely feel ‘they know it all already, right?” and that hearing those comments from their parents at the time their excitement is soaring feels like nothing more than a “buzz kill.” Looking back, can you recall those thoughts or feelings? I sure can! But if parents learn early on that these issues become topics of priorty in a fast and short period of time with a very rapid onset, then perhaps families can begin incorporating more “life skill learning” over a longer period of time (i.e throughout all of high school) so that when your child is faced with this awesome experiental realiy and milestone in life, they are naturally and instinctively a bit more prepared after being raised with daily life lessons that are taught and reinforced in smaller doses “as they move along.” Baby steps and small doses typically work better than large amounts of information, delivered quickly and frantically. In those cases, no one beneifts from the parental communicative attempt and much of the meaning and intent is missed altogether.

    I have an app on my phone that provides daily affirmations as well as the ability to record these affirmations in your own voice so that when listening to them, their message in enforced through the power of hearing them presented by Your! This is a true story: Every single day since I’ve downloaded this app, which is now going on about 2 years ago, the ONE message that appears as a notification on my locked phone screen each day has never changed. It reads, “Repetition is the key to becoming the person you want to be.”

    What I understand from this is that learning new skills, adjusting to life transitions, making difficult choices and changes in general…… take Time.

    I support the concept of Balance wholeheartedly and my own slogan states “Balance is the Key to Your Serene Existence”; which I firmly believe. When we are balanced then we are centered, grounded and strong, both emotionally and physically. That said, I use a semi-mathematcial formula to describe how many qualities, values and skills (i.e. change, trust, faith, strength, love, forgiveness, good habits, better choices, healthier coping skills) develop. This formula is: ….. Balance = Consistency / Time (where any of the provided words listed above, as well as many others, can be substituted for the word ‘balance.’

    Hence, repitition (which is consistency), enforced daily over time will typically yield the goal-seeking skill you’re often trying to achieve.

    Great article! Thank you to your practice for sharing it. With your permission, may I post it to my Facebook page? This concept reinforces my fundamental beliefs strongly and will help assist as another resource from which my own clients can draw from. Thank you for writing and posting it. It’s an excellent topic to address and one that is often overlooked!


    Katie Mahony, LCPC, CADC

    1. Katie,

      Thank you so much for your response! Of course you can share our article.

      We know that going from one stage of life to the next is a process. Your tips are great!! Thanks for the contribution.

      – The Balance Team

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