Common College Problems & What to Do About Them
Transitioning to college can come with a lot of changes, so it’s only natural that not everything will go smoothly. Senior Admissions Advisor at Stony Brook University, Michelle Curtis-Bailey, and academic success coach and strategist at Advanced Academics, Veronica Schofield, offer their insights and expertise to help students who are struggling find solutions to common problems.
Signs It’s Time to Make a (Bigger) Change
Sometimes students face issues that are particularly challenging to fix. These problems can be logistically tricky, and careful planning and self-assessment are required to resolve them. The good news is, they generally can be resolved. Recognizing warning signs of bigger problems can help students resolve issues and salvage their college experience.
Sign: You Feel Unsafe in Your Dorm
While it’s always appropriate for students to first talk to their roommates and RAs about any housing conflicts before rushing to request a room change, sometimes diplomacy doesn’t work out and a bigger change needs to be made.
“It is mature and fair to speak to your roommate calmly and politely to see if you can resolve your issues before requesting to switch rooms,” says Schofield. “If your tense relationship with your roommate is seriously affecting you negatively, or you feel unsafe in your dorm with them, ask for help. There is no reason to stick it out if your mental health and wellbeing are at risk.”
Students should read the details of their school’s room change policy and make sure they understand the request process and how long it may take. Students may have to fill out a form and meet with an RA or housing director. Room change requests are not always granted, so students may want to document and provide evidence that their current living situation is causing serious problems.
If students need to move off campus, they should be aware that breaking their housing contract will likely result in additional fees, and they may have a very limited period of time in which to move. Taking the time to research and discuss the logistics of making a roommate or housing change with a housing official can help students get through the process a little easier.
Sign: You’re Being Bullied or Harassed at Your School
Harassment can take a number of forms, like name-calling, physical attacks and sexual advances and can be aimed at a person’s race, religion, sex, gender expression or identity, disability and more. The severity of the harassment and from whom it’s coming will dictate a student’s course of action for resolving the problem.
If the situation is dangerous or detrimental to a student’s mental health, it’s important that students talk to their advisors to determine the best approach or, if they are feeling extremely unsafe, contact the police.
If the harasser is a professor or other school employee, students should seek assistance. Advisors should be able to point students to a legally impartial and confidential official who can guide students through the steps students needed to take to protect themselves and stop the harasser.
No matter the situation, it’s important that students keep track of the harassment. “If you are experiencing harassment, you want to document it and bring it to the attention of campus administration with clear awareness of how this harassment is going to be resolved,” says Curtis-Bailey. “Take a look at your college’s campus policy or code of conduct for you own knowledge, and you can bring up any issue to your Dean of Students’ Office or Equity and Diversity Office, depending on its nature.”
Sign: It Isn’t Just “College Blues”
According to a Spring 2017 report from the American College Health Association, 67 percent of students report having felt very sad within the past 12 months, and nearly 40 percent felt so depressed that it was difficult to function. Over 60 percent felt overwhelming anxiety. If you feel depressed or that your depression or other mental health issues are worsening, you should reach out for assistance.
“The first step is to identify your feelings,” says Curtis-Bailey. “It’s normal to have some college stress as you navigate different times of the school year and/or academic responsibilities. If this is more than the college-student blues and you recognize that you lack motivation to move forward, you are beginning to withdraw from friends, family and classes, it’s a sign to get some help.”
Schofield notes that students may be reluctant to seek help because experiencing mental health issues can especially scary for students, who fear they may have to reduce their course load, withdraw from school or quit sports teams.
“This is not usually the case,” she stresses, “and doctors and school advisors can help make changes to accommodate your mental health. Sometimes this can be fixed by starting a new, or adjusting an old, prescription. While it seems like your grades should be your top priority, in reality your health should always be your top priority.”
Sign: You’ve Tried, but the School is Just Not a Good Fit
You’ve given yourself time to adjust, you’ve tried joining clubs, making friends or joining groups in your community. But you still just don’t like your college. Curtis-Bailey asserts that a bad college fit shouldn’t mean the end of a student’s education, but that students will have to do some assessment to figure out why the school is a bad fit and what they should look for in their new school.
“If you would like to transfer, either to a smaller school, school closer to home or that is more cost effective, check with that institution to get some key information, such as what are their transfer requirements, how your classes transfer from your original school to their own and what the process will be for you to attend for the following semester. Sometimes it takes being in a wrong place to know what environment isn’t best for you.”