Everyone Feels the Strain of a New Year

A week full of events including residence hall rallies, movies on the mall, a Welcome Week dance, along with a lip sync contest help welcome freshmen to the whole new world of college.

All of this is a great way to transition freshmen to a new stage in their life, but what about the rest of us?

Just because you’re a sophomore, junior or senior doesn’t mean you don’t have trouble transitioning to that new stage in your life.

Sophomores have to figure out a major and decide if that major is right for them. For juniors, the major concern is where their major will lead them and what to do with it. Concerns for seniors are in the near future. Whether to go to graduate school, professional school or find a job are some of the things that can keep seniors up nights agonizing over a decision that has to be made.

Most would assume that the hardest transition into college life would be from high school to a freshman in college, but Mary Higgins, assistant vice president for Student Retention, believes otherwise.

“Freshman to sophomore is the most challenging transition and it is challenging I think because … the initial excitement of starting college and living in a new place and moving away from home for the first time has passed,” Higgins said. “That initial excitement has gone and for some, the reality of ‘I’m really in college now and the light at the end of the tunnel seems a long ways away.’ ”

Mary Doan, an A&S sophomore, has begun to feel the stress of the new school year, worrying about getting good grades and deciding on a major. Over the last year, Doan has changed her mind about her major not once or twice but six times. She is currently undecided. Her major choices have ranged from pharmacy, music, law, sociology, chemistry and now pre-med.

Those who struggle are those who don’t have a clear picture of their future, Higgins said.
“They feel, inaccurately, but nonetheless, that everybody has a major, everybody knows exactly what they are doing, they all have a career path and a major and a minor and they are just rolling down the tracks,” Higgins said. “They think that if they don’t have it all figured out they are odd, unusual and behind schedule. This is really not true, but it is hard to live with that ambiguity and that murkiness.”
Figuring out one’s identity as a sophomore can also be a daunting task.

“Sophomores are struggling more with identity of responsibility,” said Dusten Crichton, assistant director of Residence Life. “No longer are their parents necessarily holding their hands and/or the staff around campus trying to help them the way they did their freshman year.”

Because of this, the most important thing a sophomore can do is be willing to ask for help and “don’t be timid,” Crichton said.

Just because you are a junior with a major, doesn’t mean you have everything figured out. Kali Mann, A&S junior, and a history and secondary education major said her concerns are about balancing her academic, work and social life.

Mann’s advice to students who are feeling stressed and overwhelmed is to find your own coping mechanism and to be in tune with yourself. “Know when you are feeling stressed and know what helps you. Remember that what works for someone else may not work for you,” she said.

The concerns of seniors are focused on what the future holds after May. Nathan Riggle, A&S senior, and a mathematics major, is not only worried about classes, but also about getting hired after he graduates. His other concerns are whether he will have enough time for work and classes.

Cindy Fendrick, assistant director of apartment living, sees firsthand the stresses of upperclassmen. “For them, the new wave of stress becomes what do I do once someone hands me a diploma in a couple of months and says ‘go out and conquer the world.’ ”

Riggle’s advice to students is simply said: Find a good balance. “It is about striking a balance so you are not burned out or stressed more. It is good to find enjoyment in what you are doing,” he said.

Every year, students are faced with new stresses and concerns. Just because they have successfully stepped over the threshold into college life, concerns and anxieties still plague their thoughts.
“Progressively as you come back each year, it’s about challenging yourself, so you don’t get into the same pattern each year, so you are constantly looking for a new activities, events, experiences, that are going to move you personally to the next level. That is individual for each person,” Fendrick said.