Mental health expert gets students prepared for the college transition

10TV
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COLUMBUS, Ohio (10TV) – As students get ready to head off to college, some are preparing to leave home for the first time.

A study by the American Psychological Association found that one in three teens going off to college face some type of mental health challenge their first year.

10TV talked with students and one local expert to learn more about what can be done to ease the process.

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“I knew everybody around me was going through the exact same thing,” said Joanne Munshower, who will start her second year as an undergraduate student at the Ohio State University this fall.

To say Munshower wasn’t alone her first year as an undergrad student would be an understatement with more than 46,000 undergrad students on OSU’s campus.

With one in three of those students likely facing some kind of mental health challenge, preparing for the changes college brings is vital to a student’s experience.

“Coming to campus, if you’re not a little bit nervous then you’re not outside your comfort zone,” Munshower said.

Munshower speaks from her own experience as she left home to attend OSU where she learned adjusting to college doesn’t always happen right away.

“It’s a year-long process,” she said. “You’re not going to be adjusted by your first month.”

Campus leaders tell 10TV that is normal.

“Even positive changes bring stress with them,” said Dr. Micky Sharma, director of OSU’s office of Student Life’s Counseling and Consolation Service.

While bumps in the road are likely for a big transition like leaving home for the first time, Dr. Sharma says there are things students can do ahead of time to prepare.

“You’re a college student for the first time so what are you adding to your life to take care of yourself this fall that you haven’t done before,” he said.

PLAN IN ADVANCE

“The transition isn’t just the two weeks that the semester begins but it’s a process across a semester, over a year, and through any change or transition in life there can be ups and downs and that is okay,” Dr. Sharma said.

LOOK TO PAST EXPERIENCE

“I would encourage (students) to think about any time they’ve had any transitions in their life," Dr. Sharma said. "What went well? And what was a little bit of a struggle? So you don’t have to reinvent the wheel, you can look at what was done before that was successful and use that moving forward.”

GET CONNECTED

“I just made sure to talk to people who had already gone to college and were a couple years older and just kind of learn from them and what their experiences might have been like,” said Emily Chen, a rising senior studying marketing at OSU.

“I think the biggest difference is that in high school, you know, you have your teachers to lean on a lot. They’re really supportive and they’ll come to you. My thing with college, the biggest thing, is that you have to reach out to different people,” said Ishan Patel, who will start his junior year studying physics at OSU. “Whether it’s going to professors’ office hours or meeting up with friends in your classes to study different things, that’s the biggest thing is taking a step outside of your comfort zone and going to other people for help.”

Several of the students 10TV talked with at OSU credit intramural sports and student organizations for getting connected to others on campus. For a full list of those organizations at OSU, click here.

Parents can also play a big role in easing the transition, according to Dr. Sharma.

“It’s a transition for parents in terms of how they relate to a high school student versus how they relate to a college student,” Dr. Sharma said.

GUIDE STUDENTS IN THE PROBLEM-SOLVING PROCESS

“During that first week that your student is on campus it’s likely that they’ll send you a text, not call you, and they’re going to say, ‘I have this problem,’ or ‘This happened,’ and I would say to parents, when that happens, your response to parents should be, ‘So what are you going to do about it?’ Sharma suggested.

Allowing students to generate the solution will help students develop the skills to succeed on campus and then succeed after graduation and into their careers, he said.

SET BOUNDARIES

One way to approach the difference in parenting a high school student versus a college student is through a simple conversation about boundaries, Dr. Sharma said.

“I’m not saying you have to be completely hands-off but I want parents to help their students develop their own independent life skills,” he said.

Some students agree.

“It’s okay [for a parent] to be someone who you can call if you’re having a hard time but it shouldn’t be that kind of crutch where you need to learn how to deal with your own problems a little bit,” Munshower said, drawing from her own experiences moving away for college.

“LISTEN MORE, TALK A LITTLE LESS”

“Whatever your student’s experience is or whatever they’re feeling right now, just validate that,” Dr. Sharma said. “Listen more, talk a little less.”

KNOW THE RESOURCES

Several OSU students 10TV talked with cited the university’s “First Year Success Series” as a resource they used to transition smoothly into their undergraduate years.
Ohio State also recently developed a Wellness Checklist to help first-year students develop a plan to maintain their well-being. It covers everything from exercise to stress management.
OSU will also offer nursing students a one-credit course called MINDSTRONG this fall. The program is described as an evidence-based, cognitive-behavioral, skills-building effort.

COUNSELING SERVICES AT OTHER OHIO COLLEGES

UNIVERSITY OF AKRON: https://www.uakron.edu/counseling/
CASE WESTERN RESERVE UNIVERSITY: https://case.edu/studentlife/healthcounseling/
UNIVERSITY OF CINCINNATI: https://www.uc.edu/campus-life/caps.html
COLUMBUS STATE COMMUNITY COLLEGE: https://www.cscc.edu/services/counseling/
UNIVERSITY OF DAYTON: https://udayton.edu/studev/health_wellness/counselingcenter/index.php
OHIO DOMINICAN UNIVERSITY: https://www.ohiodominican.edu/current-students/services/wellness-center/counseling-services
KENYON COLLEGE: https://www.kenyon.edu/student-life/health-counseling/counseling-services/
MIAMI UNIVERSITY: https://miamioh.edu/student-life/student-counseling-service/
OHIO NORTHERN UNIVERSITY: https://www.onu.edu/student_life/counseling_center
OBERLIN COLLEGE & CONSERVATORY: https://www.oberlin.edu/counseling
OHIO UNIVERSITY: https://www.ohio.edu/student-affairs/counseling
OTTERBEIN UNIVERSITY: https://www.otterbein.edu/counseling/
UNIVERSITY OF TOLEDO: https://www.utoledo.edu/healthservices/hsc/mental.html
OHIO WESLEYAN UNIVERSITY: https://www.owu.edu/about/offices-services-directory/counseling-services/
WITTENBERG UNIVERSITY: https://www.wittenberg.edu/administration/healthwellness/counseling-services
XAVIER UNIVERSITY: https://www.xavier.edu/health-wellness/counseling/