Managing First Taste of Adult Life With College Academics

As part of NBC 5’s week-long focus on mental health, we’re taking a look at the pressures and stresses of college life.

Going off to school is exciting, but it’s also often a student’s first time on their own and balancing high-level academics with a new taste of adulthood can be overwhelming.

But at the University of North Texas (UNT) in Denton, students and staff are working together to make school feel like home.

There’s a lot to learn on a new college campus, people to meet, classes to figure out. But in those quiet moments, it can start to sink in…

“No one has to tell me to do anything,” said UNT sophomore Cam Johnson. “I can kind of just go do whatever and at first that was really cool and then I was like, oh my god, I have a million things to do.”

You’re on your own now.

“I got really scared,” said freshman Marcos Sillero of his first week on campus. “It wasn’t fun. It was nights of calling my mom and missing my dogs, missing my little brother and sister, it was tough.”

Going off to college is a privilege and an exciting time. But there’s also stress and pressure and experts say students can get into trouble when they don’t admit to themselves that they’re struggling.

“Failing a semester, you and I know you can get around that,” said Dr. Pam Flint, UNT’s Associate Director for Clinical Services and Training. “The break-up of a romantic relationship, we know you can survive that. But for a young adult who may not have a lot of experience solving problems on their own, that can be overwhelming.”

Dr. Flint uses therapy dogs to help UNT students feel more comfortable talking about their feelings.

“It feels more relaxing, so you don’t have to feel like you’re in therapy,” said Dr. Flint.

“I would love to totally ignore all my homework and classes and stay here,” one student said while playing with the therapy dogs.

Dr. Flint sees patients struggling with high-level academics, while managing career goals, finances and their parents’ expectations.

“I’m first generation to go to college,” Sillero said. “I’m the first one at a university in my entire family actually. So it’s a lot of pressure for me because I feel like I have to succeed.”

“It’s a lot to take in all at once,” added Johnson. “Especially now in 2016 just with everything that you have to do to kind of become that perfect candidate at the end of your four years here to get a job. It can be a lot.”

Johnson had some tough times during his first year. Now as a sophomore, he’s an orientation leader, helping freshmen like Sillero find their footing.

“It may not seem like you’ve got that same support that you had at home,” Johnson said. “But there’s always someone here who’s here to listen to you, wants to hear your issues.”

And saying them out loud to whoever will listen, human or canine, goes a long way.

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