Mental Health - Transition to College Checklist
Updated: May 1
Academic and residential skills are frequently talked about in conversations about how to prepare our students for college. But students with mental health challenges may need extra support and additional conversations about what to expect and how to prepare for the emotional aspects of transitioning to college.
Emotionally Prepare Your Student
My personal experience coaching college students as well as current research reveals that many students do not feel emotionally prepared for the college transition. In this recent study, 60% of students wish they had gotten more help preparing emotionally for college. Emotional preparedness was defined as "...the ability to take care of oneself, adapt to new environments, control negative emotions and/or behavior and build positive relationships – is a major factor to students’ success during their first year of college.." How can we equip students to handle the emotional transition?
Review Current Supports
I recommend that families and school teams have a discussion during junior and senior year about the socio-emotional supports that are currently being provided both inside and outside of school. Does your student receive 30 minutes of support form their school social worker? Do they meet 2x weekly with the school psychologist? Does your student meet with a therapist and/or psychiatrist outside of school? Identifying the current level of support is an important place to begin a conversation about support in the future. Will your student's mental health change in the next 1-2 years? Probably. Is mental health a tricky thing to predict in general? Absolutely! But reviewing your student's current support plan is a great place to start.
Research Mental Health Supports at Prospective Colleges
Whether your student is considering attending a community college, four year university or taking 1-2 online classes while working, mental health supports can play a significant factor in your families' college decision. I recommend that students research and connect with the mental health supports that are provided on each campus they are considering applying to. Families, ask your students to use the college website to research counseling supports, physical health and wellness offices, and disability support offices as well. Have your student record the information they find in a worksheet like this one.
After researching through the college website, if your student is comfortable, ask them to call or email the disability office or supports t have a more personal conversation. College websites are usually monitored and managed by an information technology department, a department who is not necessarily familiar with all of the department supports. Websites can be incomplete, minimal or in a worst case scenario, incorrect! I always recommend that families and students have a conversation with a campus staff member in addition to doing website research.
What Mental Health Support Do Colleges Typically Offer?
Mental health supports can vary from college to college and can include voluntary peer support groups, licensed counselors and therapists, and supervising psychiatrists. All support are voluntary and must be sought out and initiated by the student.
Start the Conversation with Current Providers
It is also important for students to talk with their current mental health providers about the transition to college. This may include signing any releases of information that would allow current and future campus providers to connect with each other.
The JED Foundation is non-profit organization that according to their website protects emotional health and prevents suicide for teens and young adults. CLICK HERE to visit the JED Foundation website and access their transition care planning checklists and resources. This excellent guide helps students prepare for the emotional transition to college and is one of the best and most comprehensive toolkits that I have found.
Although students may have available resources on campus, they may need guidance on how and when to advocate for help and to develop coping strategies that can be used in non-crises situations that lessen academic-based anxiety and help students to become "unstuck" and move forward. Fast Forward College Coaching has experience supporting students in these ways. Please reach out to us to arrange a conversation to talk about how we can help your student!