CAPS

Guide for Family & Friends

For Family and Friends

The college years are a time of much excitement and multiple changes for students. Experiencing a variety of adjustments in their first year here at Saint Peter’s is part of the normal transition to college. College life may also result in students experiencing various challenges. Hopefully, those challenges will be met without difficulty and their experiences will be positive. Some students, however, may encounter difficulties that interfere with their transition. Listed below are some common transitional issues that you might expect your student to encounter.

Emotional

New students may experience a variety of emotions as they are confronted with new 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 is key and can assist with emotional adjustment.

Physical/Wellness

Physical well-being is important to overall success but can sometimes become problematic to maintain. New freedoms, the absence of home cooked meals, (for resident students), more eating on the run, excessive late night snacking, alcohol use, work demands, more difficult courses, and less quality sleep, can all affect wellness. Consequently, reduced overall wellness can have a negative effect on grades, work performance and relationships.

Financial

Some students may also have the additional stressors of having to maintain certain grades, work to offset costs, and budgeting limited funds. Anxieties around financial issues can impact school and job performance. Additionally, some work hours may be a barrier to opportunities for meeting others and developing socially, giving rise to feelings of loneliness or not belonging.

Academic

Saint Peter’s not only has high academic standards, which result 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, and/or 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.

Social/Relationships

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 involved in campus life, 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.

Signs and Symptoms:

Students who are struggling often show signs that they are struggling. Signs may be overt or possibly 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.

  • 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
  • Suspicion or Knowledge of substance abuse
  • Bizarre/inappropriate behaviors
  • References to suicide
  • Incapacitating test anxiety
  • Schoolwork that has themes of hopelessness, despair, social isolation, rage
  • Aggressiveness

What you can do to help

If your student or friend is a resident, and you suspect (or already know), that they are experiencing any of the above symptoms, try to reach out and check in with them on a regular basis. Inquire about their sleep, dietary, and exercise habits. Also, ask if they have a friend or someone else on campus that they are able to talk to. If they do not have anyone they can speak with, recommend that they contact CAPS at (201) 761-6420. After having made these suggestions they have not made an attempt to reach out to anyone, and you do not sense any improvement in their symptoms, please call Counseling and Psychological Services at 201-761-6420. If you feel they are an imminent threat to themselves or to others, please dial Campus Safety at 201-761-7400 at once.

If your student is living at home and commuting, take some time to sit down with them and ask how things are going. Be there for them and just listen. If you feel they are not able to open up to you to share how they are feeling, suggest they call CAPS or come to Saint Peter Hall, 2nd floor, rear of the building to make an appointment to speak with one of our clinicians. If you feel there is cause for immediate concern and if they have exhibited suicidal symptoms or have spoken of the desire to end their life, dial 911 or take them to the nearest emergency room immediately.

***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 CAPS at (201) 761-6420.