Stress, anxiety are normal for many students

Sara Williams

Going away to college presents questions that can plague a new student with stress:

What if I get lost?

What if I don’t make friends?

What if I can’t pull college off?

Lucky for incoming freshmen, Kent State anticipates these questions and has programs in place designed to answer them.

“Most 18-year-olds are looking at just surviving and making friends and having people like them,” said Gail Hull, director of the Placement Advising and Scheduling System.

“We know this program will relieve anxiety,” Hull said of PASS. Students will be less anxious and more sure of themselves.

Many of the programs that benefit freshmen are linked to each other – PASS and First-Year Experience, First-Year Experience and First-Year Colloquium.

These programs form a kind of net that can make freshman year more relaxed and enjoyable, Hull said.

Hull teaches a First-Year Colloquium class where study skills, time management and transitions are made easier. She wants her students to feel good about getting around campus and the community.

“I made them meet me at the bus stop and we rode it around the campus loop,” Hull said. Some of the students couldn’t believe she was making them ride the bus, but Hull said she’s seen too many junior-level students who are still terrified to get onto the bus because they never learned the system.

While the what-ifs are generally surmountable, it’s normal for new students to experience stress.

“Stress is a lot of pressure,” said Sheethal Reddy, assistant director of the Psychological Clinic. The stress can be social or environmental in origin and can put mental health and the immune system at risk.

A new university, the first-time away from parents, handling money and meeting people can be huge stressors, Reddy said.

Different personalities will find particular factors more stressful, she said. People who are prone to stress are naturally anxious, and those who don’t have outgoing personalities will likely feel the pressures of making connections more acutely than a gregarious person would.

One of the most important factors in dealing with stress is having a social support network, Reddy said. She recommends getting involved in campus organizations or activities as a way to meet new people.

Methods of counteracting stress are as unique as the individual, she said. The trick is finding one that works best to counteract stress.

Reddy said to relieve tension, playing sports or exercising should offer relief while meditation, yoga or talking to a friend helps most with mental stress.

Procrastination will only add to stress and make things seem worse. It’s best to address what the stressor is, Reddy said. If homework is piling up, for instance, making even a little progress should help calm the nerves.

Arriving at a new school can have several stressful factors, said Robert Zvolensky, senior electronic media production major.

“I think time management is the hardest,” Zvolensky said. “I’ve known a lot of people who flunked out.”

Zvolensky said he’s a quiet person, but during his freshman year he lived in a residence hall and developed a system for meeting people.

“The trick to meeting people is leaving your door open,” Zvolensky said.

Contact student life reporter Sara Williams at [email protected].