Posted by & filed under Human Development, Learning, Psychological Health, Stress, Stress Coping - Health, Stress: Coping Reducing, Student Success.

Description: I have done some research looking at factors involved in how (or how not) first year students adapt to their first year of post-secondary study. A LOT of the research into that question focuses on all of the things that can go wrong or be otherwise challenging about being a new college or university student. Stress, anxiety, depression, avoidant coping to name but a few, are commonly measured concepts and variables. While there has been a lot of work done on how to reduce the rates of these issues in the first year student population it is not clear whether things are getting significant better (actually to be fair things ARE better for a LOT of students by the time they enter 2nd or third year) for first year students. The research article linked below describes a single study aimed at shifting focus from a “what can go or is wrong” focus to a focus arising out of Positive Psychology. Positive Psychology is a relatively recent area of theory and research in psychology that try’s, instead of focusing on problems, challenges, and negative functioning, to focus upon positive aspects of human functioning and looks at ways to increase positive ways of being rather than reduce negative ways of being. So have a look through the article and see what it suggests may be of assistance in increasing the positive experiences of first year students.

Source: Stress and subjective well-being among first year UK undergraduate students (see reference below).

Date: October 8, 2017

Photo Credit:  Piotr Marcinski – Fotolia

Links:  Article Link —

Much advice to new college and university students involves some version of the statement that “it is up to you”. The article linked above takes that a little bit further by suggesting that learner autonomy and learner self-efficacy and how they play off relative to one another especially when things do not go strongly or well in first year are important parts of understanding how students manage first year and how they can do so more positively. These variables are the ones that shift and change not the stress levels that students experience. The goal of adjustment then is perhaps not making the stress go away but, rather, developing ways to positively address it.

Questions for Discussion:

  1. What happens to the levels of stress experienced by students over their first year of college or university?
  2. What are self-efficacy, academic alienation and leaner autonomy and how do they relate to one another and to student stress levels?
  3. What sorts of things might we do to help first year student better manage their transition to first year (according to the results of the linked study)?

References (Read Further):

Denovan, A., & Macaskill, A. (2017). Stress and subjective well-being among first year UK undergraduate students. Journal of Happiness Studies, 18(2), 505-525.