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Freshman Year Doesn’t Have to be Stressful

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I don’t know if there was a particular time when I started to think about going to college. It wasn’t during my freshman year in high school that college first crossed my mind.

The question for me was where I was going to college not if I was going to college. I kept hearing my parents talk about college so subconsciously I decided that would be my story, college that is.

Besides, there were older children in my neighborhood who had gone to college. In fact, a couple of guys had athletic scholarships. One of the guys, James Arthur Price, had gone to North Carolina Central College (NCC) in Durham on a football scholarship. The name of the college is now North Carolina Central University.

Sam Jones of Boston Celtics fame graduated from N.C. Central. Price played tackle for NCC and he was about 6’4”, 260 lbs. At that size, the younger children like me couldn’t imagine calling him by his first name.

Many Thanksgiving Fridays ago, he invited a buddy of mine and me to attend one of his football games. The opponent was North Carolina A&T College, a bitter rival located in Greensboro. It is now called North Carolina A&T State University. A few weeks prior to the game, Price sent both of us a prep cap with his school colors of burgundy and gray. We wore our caps with great pride.

Even though I was in elementary school at the time, I observed that these college kids were having a great time at the game. My immediate thought was that college must be fun.

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Weeks after the game, I was fortunate enough to visit some college classrooms. Of course, the atmosphere was much more serious. There were not people screaming about touchdowns and first downs. I still thought that college must be fun. My opinion about that has not changed much over the years.

I went to college knowing that it would be much more difficult than high school but that it would also be fun. I don’t think that I had any bouts with stress while I was in college. Of course, the word “stress” wasn’t hot during the 1960s.

My years in college were spent listening, taking directions and being assertive when necessary. Upon reflection during my first year, I spent more time listening and taking directions.

There are a lot of studies that have been done over time regarding the stress levels of first-time college students. Some suggest that women are more stressed than men and, of course, other studies say the opposite.

There are a number of factors that contribute to stress in first-year college students. Certainly, one of the main factors is finances.

When I served as a college vice president, I can recall having a number of conversations with students and parents about financial matters. I would opine that finances are at the very top of the list when it comes to attending college.

As you know, college isn’t inexpensive and even with scholarships it can cause a drain on you emotionally. That is why it is so very important to line up your financial resources before you come to campus. Coming onto a college campus, not sure of how you are going to pay for it, is a recipe for disaster.

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Another source of anxiety for new students is selecting a college major. Remember, you don’t have to select a major during your first hour on campus. I am being a bit funny here because students believe they need to declare a major during their first semester.

Students will change their major a time or two before settling in on a particular course of study. My advice to new students is to take your time because you have time.

Living on or off campus also brings on some stress and apprehension. If you had your own room as a high school student, then sharing a room with another student can be unnerving. My thinking on this would be to engage in compromise and patience. It is all a part of maturing and finding your way.

Don’t let nerves interfere with your ability to have fun in college. Go out and join a club or organization. That is a tried and proven way of meeting new people and making new friends.

You may not know it but you are in a great period of your life. Today, you are a freshman and tomorrow you will be a college graduate. That is how fleeting the experience will be and the world of work and responsibility will await you.

Set your goals, keep your dreams but have fun!

Dr. James B. Ewers Jr., served as a vice president and admissions director at several colleges and universities before retiring in 2012. A motivational speaker and workshop leader, he is the author of Perspectives From Where I Sit: Essays on Education, Parenting and Teen Issues. He dedicates this column to his granddaughter, who is a third-year college student.

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