Adjusting to College Transition

Facts about transitions

  • Transitions are times of change that usually involve both loss and opportunity.
  • Entering college is one of life’s most demanding transitions and is arguably the most significant transition since starting kindergarten.
  • College students face many challenging transitions, including graduating and entering the work force.
  • The changes inherent in a transition produce stress and challenge a student’s coping resources.
  • Students commonly experience a decline in functioning (academic, social, emotional) during transitions.
  • Transition stress can be compounded by counterproductive coping mechanisms such as avoidance of stress-producing situations and people, excessive partying and alcohol abuse.
  • Transitions can pose greater problems to students who have existing psychological problems or difficult life circumstances.
  • Students going through a transition may benefit from counseling to enhance their coping efforts or to prevent the onset of serious problems.

Signs that a student is having transition problems include:

  • Anxiety symptoms such as nervousness, irritability, tearfulness and sleep problems.
  • Depression.
  • Difficulty managing responsibilities or relationships.


  • Convey to the student that transition stress is normal and often brings a temporary decline in performance.
  • Encourage the student to use positive coping strategies to manage transition stress, including regular exercise, social support, a reasonable eating and sleeping regimen and pleasurable activities.
  • Refer the student to Counseling and Psychological Services at 828.227.7469 if performance problems persist beyond a reasonable amount of time, if the symptoms are acute or if the student feels he/she could benefit by talking with someone about it.


  • Assuming that the student understands the impact of transitions and is aware of the source of stress.
  • Minimizing or trivializing the student’s feelings and reactions.
  • Discounting or overlooking factors that put the student at risk of more problems.
  • Agreeing to maintain confidentiality.


Many of the resource/support offices you may want to reference as you work with first-year students in transition, may be accessed on the First Year Experience Web site Faculty/Staff page.

You may also want to contact our Residential Case Manager at 828.227.3498 or Residential Academic Initiatives at 828.227.3493.


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