When I was in first year, I was invited to participate in a study called “Stressed @ Brock”: a huge study conducted by professor of Psychology at Brock, Teena Willoughby, PhD., looking at how first year students cope with personal and academic stress, and how this stress changes or stays the same during subsequent years in university. I participated in the study first year by filling out a large survey about various ways I feel and cope with stress, and continued to participate by rewriting the survey in second year, and now third year.
The goal of the study is to improve the transition to university from high school for Brock students, and there are two points I want to “stress” regarding this study. The first is money. Although I would like to be able to say that my friends and I (as well as over a thousand other first year students) initially participated in the study for the good of future Brock students, the truth is that we were paid to participate. We got paid $10 first year, $20 second year, and $30 third year just to fill out a 1-hour form about ourselves. How cool is that???
My point is – these types of studies are happening all the time around Brock’s campus. Not only are there posters constantly hung around the school asking for participants, but there are also studies advertised on various departements’ websites. It’s a great way to earn some extra cash, and take part in something that will hopefully better peoples’ lives in the future! So keep your eye out first year for these types of opportunities.
The second thing I’d like to touch on is what this study actually focused on: STRESS! Now you’ve probably heard some general tips on how to cope with stress (exercise, manage your time, etc.) but from personal experience I know there are stressors unique to first year students living away from home that sometimes require special attention:
Feeling isolated: yes, it is possible to live in a residence of 800 students and still feel alone. For many first year students living in residence is their first experience being away from friends and family. My advice is talk, talk, talk. Skype is a free resource that you can use to keep in contact with loved ones back home – take advantage of it! If you can’t see them in the flesh, it’s the next best thing. A 15 min. chat with mom can make a world of difference.
Lack of money: $200 for a textbook? What?! University is expensive, no matter how you cut it. Although you can’t lower textbook prices, you can learn to manage your money. First years often fall into the trap of “going out” every weekend – but this isn’t the only way to have fun! Brainstorm ideas with your roommates and friends about how you can have fun for less money (I’m sure they’re feeling the financial stress too!)
Keeping your grades up: research shows that most students see a significant drop in their grades during first year. It’s totally normal! The grade drop happens for several reasons. The teaching is different, the assignments are different, and there are different expectations in university. As long as you pay attention to what your professor wants, and manage your time wisely, there is no reason why your marks shouldn’t go back to normal after the first semester (once you have the chance to get your grades back and improve on your mistakes).
Final word: many researchers have put stress in place of the common cold as the #1 cause of illness. So chill out, and stay healthy!!!