Guide for Family & Friends

CAPS Student Support Guide

For Family and Friends

The college years are a time of great challenges and excitement for students. However, it is also a time for many changes; therefore, students will likely experience many adjustments in their first year at Saint Peter’s. Hopefully, students will adjust without difficulty and their experiences will be positive. However, some may encounter difficulties that interfere with their transition. Here are more common transition issues that a new student may encounter:


New students may experience a variety of emotions as they are confronted with new and unknown situations. Successful adjustments can naturally resolve unpleasant emotions; however those emotions that are left lingering due to a complicated adjustment can contribute to low self-esteem, and may lead to a sense of hopelessness and giving up. Preparing for the transition, and learning to manage emotions can assist with emotional adjustment.


Maintaining physical well-being is important to overall success, however this becomes a challenge for the college student. Confronted with new freedoms, absence of home cooking (for on-campus students), more eating on the run, late night study snacking, alcohol use, jobs, more demanding courses resulting in less sleep can all deplete wellness. A depletion of wellness can have a negative effect on grades, work performance and relationships.


Some students may have additional stress of having to maintain certain grades, work to offset costs, and/or learn to budget allotted monies. Anxieties around financial issues can impact school and job performance. Additionally, some work hours may be a barrier to opportunities to meet others and develop socially giving rise to feelings of loneliness or not belonging.


Saint Peter’s not only has high academic standards, which results in more challenging coursework for the student, but also places the responsibility for a student’s education with the student. Some students may struggle with identifying a major, understanding the relevance of coursework, study skills, balancing social life with school requirements. Some students are willing to expend the energies necessary to achieve their goals, while others are not as committed. Poor adjustment academically can result in an overall negative college experience, which may contribute to drop out or substance abuse.


Saint Peter’s provides students with the opportunity to meet a variety of people. Some students may have difficulty meeting new people or struggle with the diversity on campus. Those commuting may feel less of an opportunity to meet others, while those living on-campus may have difficulty adjusting to living with others. Struggles encountered on a social level can result in further social, emotional, academic and physical difficulties.

Students who are struggling often show signs that they are struggling. Signs may be overt or can be less obvious. The following are some indicators that suggest a problem may exist. The presence of one indicator may not be indicative, but the more indicators there are the more likely a problem exists.

Signs and Symptoms:

  • Change in mood (depressed, angry, crying, agitated, irritable)
  • Withdrawal/social isolation
  • Marked changes in personal hygiene/less attention to appearance
  • Decline in academic performance (failure to complete assignments, poor grades, lateness or poor attendance, repeated requests for special considerations
  • Decline in athletic performance
  • Poor concentration, difficulty making decisions
  • Listlessness, lack of energy, falling asleep in class
  • Dramatic weight loss or gain
  • Overly nervous, tense, tearful
  • Traumatic changes in interpersonal relationships (death, break-up, divorce)
  • Impaired speech or disjointed, confused thoughts
  • Know or suspect substance abuse
  • Bizarre/inappropriate behaviors
  • References to suicide
  • Incapacitating test anxiety
  • Work products that have themes of hopelessness, despair, social, isolation, rage
  • Aggressiveness

***If a family member, friend or peer is experiencing difficulties in any of these areas you can contact Counseling and Psychological Services for assistance, or suggest they contact The Center at (201) 761-6420.

Student Stress Periods

Counseling and Psychological Services recognizes that college can be a stressful time for many students due to the academic, physical, social and interpersonal pressures. Below is listed some typical stress factors that may influence a students life during the academic year. Knowing in advance can heighten your awareness allowing you to be more observant of signs of distress, and it can help in planning strategies to manage the stress periods.

SEPTEMBER can be stressful for first-year students in particular.

  • Homesickness; struggle with making new friends; may feel alienated from others and/or experience discrimination.
  • Students are faced with new experiences and people different from them. They may experience conflicts in values and beliefs and begin questioning their own.
  • Feelings of inadequacy stemming from a discrepancy between high school status and grades and initial college performance.
  • Returning students may be struggling with their new position (e.g., sophomore, junior, senior) at college and discovering their identity within that position, while managing the accompanying responsibilities.
  • There can be significant stress if a student feels the need to re-establish one’s self in a new environment.
  • New students may also struggle with newfound freedom. They may find it difficult to develop a structured lifestyle that will help them meet academic demands.
  • Anxieties regarding how to live with roommate or stress involved in commuting.


  • Students begin to realize that life at college is not as perfect as they were led to believe by others.
  • Students may begin to feel overwhelmed by the academic demands.
  • Some may feel lonely because they have been unsuccessful at developing supportive friendships.
  • Some students get a “wake-up call” after poor performance on mid-term examinations.
  • Non-dating students may experience a loss of esteem.
  • Job panic for mid-year graduates.


  • Increased academic pressure may be experienced due to procrastination, difficulty of work, and/or lack of sufficient ability.
  • Depression and anxiety may be experienced because of they believe they should have adjusted to college by now.
  • Financial worries because funds from parents and summer jobs begin to run out.
  • Isolation and withdrawal; students may be tempted to give up on making friends; social isolation may negatively affecting their academic performance.
  • May worry about returning home for the holiday if the semester is not going well.
  • Feelings of isolation and homesickness for those students who may not be able to go home for the holiday.


  • Extracurricular activities drain student energies.
  • Worry may increase as final examinations approach and papers are due.
  • Pre-holiday feelings of sadness; especially for those who have concerns for family, those who have no home to visit, and for those who prefer not to go home because of family conflicts.
  • Financial strain because of holiday gifts and travel costs.
  • Students may have concerns about losing some or all of the recently acquired freedom/independence while at home for winter break.
  • Pressure on intimate relationships increased because of the approach of an extended separation.


  • Sadness over loss of security and familiarity as students leave home and return to school.
  • Some apprehension about academic performance if first semester was more challenging than expected.
  • Some students may feel ashamed of their grades from the previous semester.
  • Students may feel sad losing relationships of those not returning to school.
  • Students may also find that they do not like the classes they registered for and/or need to register for different classes due to last semester’s performance.
  • Students may experience frustration at trying to establish desired class schedule.
  • Seniors may feel sad about impending loss of college student identity and changes in friendships that will occur with graduating in May.


  • Career anxiety; some seniors may worry if they decide they do not want a job in the field in they chose.
  • Pressure on relationships when some couples begin to establish stronger ties.
  • Some may experience loss when relationships weaken or end.
  • Students who have failed to establish social relationships or achieve some recognition may feel frustrated and dissatisfied with their college experience.
  • Students begin to feel the pressure of midterms as spring break quickly approaches.


  • Talk of Spring Break plans tends to dominate students’ conversations.
  • Drug and alcohol use increases.
  • Students may hear bad news about students who have died or been seriously injured while on Spring Break.
  • Academic pressure increases.
  • Existential crisis for seniors. Must I leave school? Is my education worth anything? Was my major a mistake? Why go on? Where is God? Will I make it?
  • Increased worry about life after college for seniors who have not looked for a job or have not found a job.
  • Students may also worry because they have yet to find a summer job.


  • Academic pressure continues because of impending final exams.
  • Sophomores realize they will be taking classes in their major next semester. Some may worry about their abilities to meet the academic requirements of their chosen major.
  • Employment concerns; Students may worry while waiting to hear from companies.
  • Anxieties regarding declaring a major.
  • Pressure of planning for graduation.
  • Final exams, papers, and projects may feel overwhelming.
  • Social pressures for end of the year activities.
  • Seniors may feel anxious about not having job offers especially when they learn peers are getting offers.
  • Difficulty motivating oneself for academics because of warmer weather and longer days of light.


  • Concern at the realization that the year is ending.
  • Transition issues for seniors; concerns about their new phase of life (job, graduate school, marriage, etc.).
  • Students may experience sadness, frustration, and anger over leaving friends and returning home.
  • Pressure of passing final exams peaks.
  • Panic over not having any confirmed plans for the summer.
  • Concerns about packing up to move out of the dorms and going back home.
  • Fatigue and exhaustion resulting from cramming for exams and completing projects.
  • If a family member or a friend is having difficulty managing these stress periods, encourage them to contact us or you can call us to discuss the student….it’s FREE and CONFIDENTIAL. Our number is (201) 761-6420.