College 101: Surviving freshman year
(The Philippine Star) - July 11, 2013 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines - College freshman year is a time of great excitement and anticipation. Exposure to a new environment, meeting diverse people and a more flexible schedule are just some of the novel experiences afforded by university life. These changes, though, can just as easily be a source of anxiety to those who may find themselves overwhelmed by unfamiliar circumstances.

“The first year of college is part of that significant step towards adulthood,” shares Dr. Sheila Hocson, guidance director of Far Eastern University (FEU). “As with any period of growth and development, it requires a certain degree of adjustment.”

Stretched and strained

One major cause of stress for university freshmen, according to Hocson, is academic pressure. She points out that, apart from facing more difficult subjects, students also have to adapt to their professors’ varying teaching styles. Unlike in high school, where instruction is highly supervised, college encourages independent and collaborative learning.

The change in school environment can also affect the transition to college life, especially if a student comes from a small school or remote province. The larger student population as well as the hustle and bustle of the city can prove to be intimidating. Homesickness, culture shock and language barriers are very real concerns, particularly for foreign students.

Moreover, Hocson shares that freshmen also experience social anxieties, specifically when it comes to making new friends. In keeping with adolescent concerns, students want to fit into a community with which they can identify.

How to deal

To help freshmen adapt to these new situations, Hocson encourages maintaining constant and open communication with their family. Seeking counsel from parents, she maintains, is crucial during this stage of adolescence when teens seeks out reassurance amid the numerous changes in their lives.

Connecting with other students and choosing friends carefully is also a good way of building a support system. Joining organizations, for instance, not only hones one’s skills and talents but is also a great way of meeting like-minded individuals who can provide a positive influence as well as a sense of belonging.

Lastly, Hocson also encourages utilizing university resources, such as FEU’s Academic Competence and Empowerment (ACE) program, which are designed to help students make the most of their college experience.

ACE-ing the first year

Specifically developed to aid freshmen meet the demands of student life at the university, the year-long ACE program is composed of six modules geared towards assisting students develop self-awareness, set realistic goals, form healthy study habits, maintain family relationships, imbibe the FEU values and embrace the spirit of citizenry.

Although overseen by the University Counseling & Career Office (FEU-UCCO), the ACE modules are integrated into classroom sessions and facilitated by faculty members who, with their constant interaction with students, are in a suitable position to identify those who may need additional assistance. This set-up provides the additional advantage of helping students enhance their relationship with their professors as well as building camaraderie among themselves.

Student services such as ACE, Hocson maintains, are part of FEU’s promise of delivering quality education geared towards molding students into well-rounded and well-adjusted individuals.

“Ultimately, the ACE program is about empowering students to become purposive self-directed learners,” Hocson comments. “It’s about guiding their personal development so that they can fulfill their academic potential.”

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