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University Counseling Center

Responding to Students with Transition Issues

Facts about transitions:

  • Transitions are times of change that usually involve both loss and opportunity.
  • Entering college is one of life’s most demanding transitions; arguable the most significant transition since the start of kindergarten.
  • College students face many challenging transitions including graduating and entering the work force.
  • The changes inherent in a transition produce stress and challenge a student’s coping resources.
  • Students commonly experience a decline in functioning (academic, social, emotional) during transitions.
  • Transition stress can be compounded by counter-productive coping mechanisms such as avoidance of stress-producing situations and people, excessive partying, and alcohol abuse.
  • Transitions can pose greater problems to students who have existing psychological problems or difficult life circumstances.
  • Students going through a transition may benefit from counseling to enhance their coping efforts or to prevent the onset of serious problems.

Signs that a student is having transition problems include:

  • Anxiety symptoms such as nervousness, irritability, tearfulness, and sleep problems.
  • Depressed mood.
  • Difficulty managing responsibilities or relationships.

What You Can do:

  • Covey to the student that transition stress is normal and often brings a temporary decline in performance.
  • Encourage that student to use positive coping strategies to manage transition stress including: regular exercise, use of social support, a reasonable eating and sleeping regimen, and scheduling pleasurable activities.
  • Refer the student to UCC if performance problems persist beyond a reasonable amount of time, or if the symptoms are acute, or if the student feels he/she could benefit by talking with someone about it.


  • Assuming that the student understand the impact of transitions and is aware of the source of stress
  • Minimizing or trivializing the student’s feelings and reactions.
  • Discounting or overlooking factors that put the student at risk of more serious problems.

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