Thursday, July 25, 2024

Conference discusses how to better prepare students for the transition from high school to college 

by BIZ Magazine

SHREVEPORT – The transition from high school to college is one of the most stressful times in a college student’s life as students face an increasingly difficult academic courseload while managing newfound responsibilities that come with being more independent. 

LSUS associate dean Dr. Katherine Wickstrom said universities continue to ramp up support of first-year students during this transition, and faculty and staff realize that this transition can negatively affect mental health. 

Wickstrom addressed an audience of mostly school-based mental health professionals such as school psychologists and social workers as part of Friday’s Mental Health Awareness and Substance Abuse Prevention Conference held at LSUS. 

“These students are in the process of becoming adults, and there’s more pressure to perform academically on top of these other life changes like managing their time and their money,” said Wickstrom, who began her career as a school psychologist in the K-12 arena before preparing psychology graduate students to enter the workforce. “They have new economic responsibilities and need to know how to manage their money, whether they are earning it from a job or whether they are getting it from their parents. 

“There are new social networks and are usually new living arrangements where they are living with one or more roommates.” 

Students are likely cooking more of their own food and washing their own clothes, perhaps for the first time in their lives. 

Wickstrom spoke about building more resilience in these students before getting to college. 

Research shows that students who held a part-time or a full-time job before college, attended a summer class and/or had their parent(s) attend orientation with them were more prepared for the college transition. 

“We want to increase the resiliency of students before they get to college, making them more adaptable and flexible to make decisions and solve problems,” Wickstrom said. “In a survey of students, they say the area in which they were least prepared was the increased academic workload, specifically the amount of studying college requires. 

“Balancing school, work and a social life was another of the most challenging aspects of this transition.” 

Once students are on campus, consistent communication about the available resources increases the likelihood that students will seek those out if needed. 

“We fire a lot of information at students at orientation, and it’s like we expect them to remember all of that,” Wickstrom said. “So we’ve found that communicating about the resources we offer consistently over a period of time increases their rate of success.” 

Examples of LSUS resources include the Student Success Center (academic tutoring), Counseling Services, the Food Pantry, Financial Aid, Disability Services, Career Services and the Title IX Office among others. 

LSUS also strives to connect students with outside wraparound resources such as SNAP benefits and medical services through its SHARE Center. 

The University was selected to participate in a national initiative to transform the early-college experience, which is designed to increase graduation rates. The initiative is led by the Gardner Institute, a leading national student success nonprofit organization.

The conference featured keynote speaker Dr. Robert Stevens, who highlighted effective strategies to engage families, teachers, staff and clinicians and make sure they are communicating about a student’s mental health needs. 

The afternoon session focused on how trauma precipitates bullying and methods to prevent or reduce the impact of trauma with Dr. Dudley Chewning. 

Attendees of the annual conference received clinical education unit hours required in their professions. 

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