There are also more serious issues addressed, such as safety procedures and financial aid dispersal. Then there is the presentation about Counseling and Psychological Services, or Counseling and Psychological Services. A run-through of the services are available if students are feeling overwhelmed by academic stress.
But there’s one thing missing: a real discussion about the harsh realities of college life. The overwhelming feeling of wanting to be involved in everything, the ever increasing amount of homework, and the stereotypical expectations of college students are never discussed bluntly with new students.
Although the presentation of available resources on-campus is helpful, it does not give enough insight into the different emotions a first-year can go through when transitioning to living and learning in a new place.
Recently 32 students, including sophomores, juniors and seniors, were polled by a member of this board on their introduction to UNC. When asked if they wished there was a time during their first-year when someone, such as a professor or older classmate, talked to them about the more emotional aspect of starting college, 68.8 percent said yes. Only 6.3 percent said no, and 25 percent said they were indifferent.
From this poll it is clear that students prefer a more well-balanced introduction to college, including both positive and negative aspects.
As a first-year, not having enough discussion about how difficult it might be to feel at home in a new place can make students retract themselves from any type of activity occurring outside of classes. It is easy to feel like an outsider for not wanting to join in on all that UNC has to offer. This isn’t to say that first-year orientation is the sole perpetrator of insecurities going into college. It could be easier to identify with other students if, during orientation, the idea of sadness during freshman year is treated as a “definitely” rather than a “maybe.”
Of course, the intention to promote a sense of community during first-year orientation should not be misconstrued as a way of furthering the discomfort and loneliness that accompany any new situation.
The point is that the discussion regarding the fun aspects of the first-year as well as the more challenging ones, such as homesickness and overwhelming amounts of work, should be more equally distributed. That way, those who are not immediately drawn to the idea of branching out and trying new activities with new people can feel less abnormal.
When asked what they would change about first-year orientation, the same poll of thirty-two students mentioned including more about the emotional aspects of the first year of college as well as better presentation of the different extracurricular activities offered on campus.
It is worth mentioning that there are multiple groups on campus that are dedicated to mental health.
Currently, for example, there is a group on campus trying to bridge the gap between CAPS and first-year students through outreach programs. UNC Mental Health Ambassadors will be giving presentations to freshman dorms later this semester. Ambassadors will also be available to walk first-year students to their CAPS appointments if necessary.
First-year orientation at UNC is a fun and informational experience. While it may include a thirty minute discussion of mental health, placing more emphasis on keeping up with one’s own mental health and understanding that everyone adjusts at their own pace will more candidly reinforce the idea of success at Carolina.