The Transitional Journey from High School to University

An English 101 perspective

By: Maddi Stratton

When I arrived on my college campus I was way out of my element. I was in a new city with strangers. I began to feel a wave of anxiety. I began to ask myself the same question multiple times, “What happens now?”. What happens once bags are unpacked, classes began and the stress of being independent began to settle?

So, I began to write, about what made me anxious, but it was in my English 101 class that my writing came into play. For the whole quarter, we were tasked with creating projects based around student life at Western Washington University. I continued my writing and focused on the anxieties during the transition to college life. I eventually developed the “Confused Expectations Theory”. The theory that by having the knowledge of college, students are able to better succeed in school and, in turn, reduce stress. By having a firm understanding of what to expect from college a person will have less stress; from classes, when interacting with peers, and when living independently.

8:30am, Humanities 108:

For nine-weeks I came to English with a cup of coffee while being half awake. I peer-edited my classmates work, and wrote about stress, anxiety, and the fear of being independent. Asking myself “How am I going to make a 10-minute podcast and research paper on this subject?”.

The Recording of Anxieties

Our first task was to create a 10-minute, well-edited podcast based on a general question. This question was answered and backed up by interviews and source work. My podcast was about anxieties when first coming to college.

I interviewed some of my friends and asked them what was most nerve-racking when they first arrived on campus. The main response was leaving their dog behind or the fear of not making friends. For the first couple of days they were uncomfortable in their surroundings. But once they settled in and started interacting with others in the dorm their circle of friends widened.

Casual Haggens Run

But not everyone had a feeling of homesickness or the worry about not making friends. My Hawaiian friend had a different reaction. He was more than happy to come all the way to Western. “You’re stuck on an island, like, your entire life, you’re like ‘What is the actual world like?’” It was a break from being surrounded by water and seeing the same thing day after day. When he arrived to the Pacific Northwest he was overjoyed to see so many other white people. “There’s like 15% of us are white in Hawaii, so I am exotic. But here I am like ‘Wow everyone is white’ so it was kinda cool”.

Eventually, everyone feels more comfortable and somewhat accepted into the college atmosphere. But classes start becoming harder, homework increases and sleep is minimal. The body stresses-out. What now?

Second task: Dragons.

Our next objective was to create a research and analysis paper based off our podcast. This became more challenging as we had to create a new, more detailed version of our original question. This question was to be supported by data from peer-reviewed articles, and create a new theory that expanded the thought of the original question.

All the facts and figures, can be summed up in “Stress Tolerance: New Challenges for Millennial College Students”, “Stress is a major issue for college students as they cope with academic, social, and personal challenges. College students are expected to carry a more difficult workload at a faster pace while adjusting to a new environment with little or no supervision.”( Bland, Helen W., Bridget F. Melton, Paul D. Welle, Lauren E. Bigham. 2012.) A person’s inability to reduce these stresses of daily life has shown to negatively impact the health of college students. A decrease in class participation and attendance, mental stability, and overall attitude and relationships with family and friends.

The negative impacts of stress can create most incoming college students to struggle with interaction with peers in the classroom and in extracurricular activities. Incoming college students would benefit from knowing and understanding the social and academic expectations of college. I call this the “The Confused Expectation Theory”.

Future or fade

This study looks at the stress and anxieties during the transition to college life. The research shows that the major sources of stress during this transition includes increased academic workload, added social pressures, and living away from home. This is relevant to all students because at some point in their first year at college they have felt stress and anxiety from classes, interaction with peers, and living independently in a new environment. In future, more should be done to educate students about social and academic expectations of college. By taking English 101, I have been able to find research and data points to help extend and counter this study. English 101 is a good introductory course to help in writing composition and beginning research.

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