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Shattering the teacup label - Building resilience and adulting

Surveys of first-year college students’ mental health report that many students feel overwhelmed most of the time, regardless of the school they attend. The Harris Poll revealed that emotional preparedness, defined as, “the ability to take care of oneself, adapt to new environments, control negative emotions or behavior and build positive relationships – is a major factor in students’ success during their first year of college.”

This VidCast features author and college transition expert Andrea Malkin Brenner. Dr. Brenner is a college transition educator and author who speaks frequently with high school students and parents on the challenges related to college transitions.

Discuss In Advance What to Do When Things Go Wrong

First-year students should expect to make mistakes. Struggle with college-level academic and social situations is part of young adult growth. Knowing how to handle themselves when things don’t go as planned, especially in a situation that is unfamiliar and frightening, can make a major difference in a student’s psychological well-being. As high school students prepare for the transition to college, it’s beneficial for them to engage in dialogue with their parents or other trusted adults before leaving home and make a plan for if/when things go wrong.

Some of these topics might include, “What will the student do…”

  • if they overspend beyond an agreed-upon budget?

  • if they are struggling academically or even failing a class?

  • if they feel unsafe on campus or at a party?

  • if their wallet, cellphone, or laptop is lost or stolen?

  • if a friend has passed out due to alcohol consumption?

  • if they feel that they are unable to control their thoughts or emotions?

  • if they try, but just can’t seem to get along with their roommate?

Faculty and staff expect first-year students to find the transition to independent living a challenging one; rookie mistakes and poor planning are normative college struggles. However, by engaging in these discussion topics before arriving on campus, students won’t have to call home every time something doesn’t go as planned in college. Failing at something doesn’t make someone a failure. Knowing this is a huge step toward adulthood.

​Andrea is the creator of the Talking College™ Card Deck, the original card deck of discussion prompts for college-bound students and their parents, and co-author of How to College: What to Know Before You Go (and When You’re There), a leading guide for college-bound high school students. See for more information.


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