Roughly one in five students drop out of university in Australia in their first year. Students with prior emotional difficulties, who are doing their degrees part-time, mature age at entry, or from a lower socioeconomic status background are most likely to be in this category.
Not all of these factors can be changed. But there are ways parents and students can prepare for the transition to university.
Students who have previously struggled with emotional difficulties or mental health problems are particularly at risk. But the earlier the strategies to support these students are put in place, the more likely they are to succeed.
How much stress or anxiety is normal?
Starting university is a common cause of heightened stress. There are many new challenges to overcome, such as adjusting to a new learning environment that has less personalised assistance and greater emphasis on independent learning. It’s also challenging to be in a course with hundreds of other students you don’t know.
Most students adjust to these challenges, and the stress they experience should be temporary. But those who find change difficult, who worry excessively about their performance, are overly perfectionistic, or are fearful of public speaking or exams are likely to find transitioning to university particularly challenging.
Students who find these things difficult on an ongoing basis are likely suffering from an anxiety disorder. Anxiety disorders tend to run in families, and often start early in life. They have very negative impacts on someone’s functioning and well-being.
If your child is skipping lectures or tutorials, avoiding class presentations or exams, failing regularly, not handing in assignments, losing sleep, constantly worrying about their performance or thinking they’re not good enough, it’s time to intervene.
– Viviana Wuthrich