Challenge is a part of the normal transition to college. The difficult parts of life are the parts where we learn and grow. And, sometimes students struggle an extraordinary amount and require support. Here are five signs a college student may benefit from extra support:
1. Communication: What is communication with home like? Are students over-communicating such that it feels like they are dependent on a parent or other family member? Or, it could be the opposite. Are students not communicating at all?
2. Academic engagement: Low grades alone are not a major cause for concern, at least initially. Many students struggle the first year with higher standards and workloads at college. A key question is how the student is handling it– are they adapting and coping? Attendance — if you can ascertain this– is often a better indicator of engagement at school. If they are not in class consistently, where are they?
3. Social engagement: Again, this a domain which may require a keen eye. Are students making friends? If so, what are the values and habits of the new peer group? This one speaks for itself
Or rather, un-wellness. Two ways we often think about maladaptive behavior: outward and inward. Outward, or externalizing, behaviors of concern can be more obvious because of their visibility: aggression, hard partying, high-risk sexual activity, substance use and abuse. Inward, or internalizing, behaviors of concern typically call less attention but are still visible: social isolation, substance use, self-harm.
5. Physical wellness: How is the student sleeping? How is she sleeping? How is his physical fitness? Again, learning to regulate this domain is a completely developmentally normal challenge for teens. But, major shifts in weight and sleep can speak to larger issues at hand.
If you are worried these signs may be familiar to you or a loved one, seek extra support in college.