My Time in a U.S. College: Things my Parents Would Not Want to Hear

marijuana

Doc Seidman says….

…Should parents be worried about their son or daughter’s behavior in college? Guest blogger Natasha Kurt may have some answers.

College in the United States was a great time. Coming from another country, I was surprised at how different the experience was for me. I made many new friends, both from America and other countries. I learned new things and enjoyed most of my classes. I also got to see places in the U.S. I never thought I would see as a child. Most of all, I enjoyed the parties at college. College in the U.S. was like a big party. I had a lot of fun.

I did not know what to expect when I arrived in the United States for college. I tried to prepare myself but it was not what I expected. Now that I have graduated and have my diploma from a good American college, I can share some of my fun experiences.

  • Drinking alcohol: The drinking age in the United States is 21 but you would never know it. Alcohol was everywhere. American beer was the most popular—and not very strong—but other alcohol such as vodka, rum and tequila were popular too.
  • Smoking marijuana: Marijuana laws are crazy in the United States. It is illegal on the national level (laws made for the country in Washington, D.C.) but legal in some states. I went to college in a state where it is not legal. It didn’t matter. Marijuana was popular. Smoking it out of a pipe or bong was common but many people still smoke it as a cigarette. It was always found at parties or even sitting in an apartment with friends. Someone always seemed have a marijuana cigarette.
  • Watching pornography: Thanks to the Internet, and free campus wi-fi, another popular activity. Americans do not have censorship.
  • Procrastination: Like many of my friends, I often waited until the last minute to complete an assignment. I could have done a much better job if I had started earlier, but it all worked out for me.
  • Skipping class: Not going to (skipping or cutting) class is also popular on the American campus. I don’t know why because college costs a lot of money. I would say that more American students missed or “cut” class than us international students. Many Americans did not seem to take college very seriously. It was strange to see that as my family had to spend a lot of money for me to be there.
  • Drinking Caffeine: This is also popular. Coffee is a popular drink (we had three Starbucks on our campus and they were all very busy). Americans also drink many sugary drinks with a lot caffeine such as Pepsi, something called Mountain Dew, and Red Bull. Coming from another country I was not used to drinking so many of these beverages. They keep you awake though.
  • Sex: After four years of watching everybody, I would say about half of the students were having sex regularly. I would also say that more than half of the students bragged about having sex regularly. Friends would “hook up” with other friends and just have sex. Many had multiple partners. Coming from a country with different values about sex, I found this very different. It seems like most of the sex was not part of a long-term relationship. It was just sex for the sake of having sex.

I am not sure if my parents would have sent me to college in the United States if they had known what college there was like. I had a lot of fun though and I would do it again! If you have the money, you should go. It is a good time.

Natasha is a contributor to www.internationalcollegestudent.com and will be writing for the upcoming site sexandcollege.com.

The Not So Big Sleep

tired

 

Doc Seidman Says….

….A recent world-class study by The National Sleep Foundation concluded that college aged students (18-25 years old) need seven to nine hours of sleep a night.  Studies also show that while some college students get plenty of good sleep, most fall about one to two hours short every night. That might not seem like a big deal but over the course of a week, a month, or a semester, it adds up.

It’s easy to see why. The college years are loaded with non-sleep activities such as academics, long hours at work so you can pay for college, and a healthy amount of socializing. Often, a good night’s sleep is just plain unattainable.

Walk around any college campus and you can see students catching up- or napping up- on the missing one to two hours of sleep in a variety of places. The college library is always a good place to observe many a student catching a few winks. Quiet spots can be found all over the library and even if you are not sleep deprived it is often hard to stay awake in such a peaceful setting. You might also see students snoozing away in a quiet corner of the recreation center, the dining hall, or any other hidden spot on campus.

Of course, many students wind up catching their zzzs in the college classroom. More often than not, you cannot blame them as the teacher is just plain boring. He or she drones on about European History, Organic Chemistry, or whatever else the average student doesn’t care much about, and dozing off can’t be avoided. Like the library, it’s tough for anyone to stay awake during those circumstances. Other times a long in-class movie- or even a short movie-  in a dark classroom will do the trick. Even if a student has every intention to watch the video, the combination of dialogue and a dark room changes the setting from attentive to siesta.

Ask any student, however, and they will tell you that they would prefer to do their sleeping in a nice comfortable bed and not an uncomfortable college desk. So, what’s preventing everyone from more bed sleeping and less campus catnaps? A major culprit would be the assortment of items college students typically consume. Foods many students consume regularly can interfere with the pleasant rhythms of a good night’s sleep.  Aside from sugar and grease, this would include the consumption of caffeinated beverages, energy drinks, and alcohol. These three beverages are practically “food groups” during the college years. They are hard to avoid. Other stimulants such as “speed,” be it prescription, over the counter, and/or from your local black-market dealer, contribute mightily to nighttime sleep deprivation as well. That’s almost a no-brainer. Even someone totally sleep deprived can tell you that.

Technology also plays a big part in collegiate insomnia. Any type of technology use within the hour before bedtime greatly reduces the chances of a restful night sleep. Sorry to say everyone, but this includes texting, sexting, and video games. Snapchat and Instagram are also no-nos. So is cramming to finish a paper. That is not good either so don’t cram. Get that paper done in a timely manner. Your professors can tell. Trust me.

The problems associated with sleep deprivation include an increase in mental health issues such as depression and anxiety. Sadly, these issues are already all too common on campus. Physical health issues can also arise from sleep deprivation making you more prone to get sick. You can become irritated more easily and attentive listening becomes troublesome. Another popular college activity is impacted too. Less sleep impacts sexual activity, leading to not only less drive, but less enjoyment.

So, what’s a college student to do? Achieving the recommended daily dose of sleep is certainly something easier said than done. Aside from cutting back on Red Bull and Budweiser, sleep researchers will tell you to put your technology away before bedtime. Creating a sleep conducive environment can also help. Keep your room dark, comfortable and cool. Try- as best you can, to create a regular sleep routine. Avoid going to sleep too late and stay away from rich foods before bedtime. For those still smoking cigarettes, know that they, and all tobacco products, are stimulants and will force your body to stay awake rather than go to sleep. Scientists also recommend using your bed for sleep and sex only and avoid using as a substitute for furniture. If you live in a dorm and your bed is really your only furniture, I don’t know what to tell you. Good luck with that.

I can tell you that there is little doubt that a good night sleep has a positive relationship with good health. There is not much more important than that. Except, perhaps that students that get six hours or less of sleep a night have a lower G.P.A. than those who get eight or more hours. So, if you are having a hard time keeping up with your coursework, get more sleep out of the classroom than in it.

Wrap It Up

condoms

Doc Seidman Says……

…..Although sex in college is a popular activity, it is not as popular as most might people think. A 2015 study by New York Magazine found that 41% of women and 49% of men denied being sexually active in college. Additionally, almost 40% of those studied claimed to be virgins. What is high, however, is the percent of college students who will contract a sexually transmitted disease (STD).  Studies put that estimate around 20 to 25% of the total student population with some students getting an STD more than once.

Let’s face it; college can be fun; too much fun at times. But too much fun can also have consequences. As the English poet William Blake famously said, “Fun I love. But too much fun is of all things the most loathsome.” Loathsome indeed. Too much fun in college can lead to a host of loathsome woes ranging anywhere from extreme hangovers to contracting an STD.

If your plan is to have a lot of fun in college- while maintaining your commitment to academics, no doubt- be somewhat mindful of the consequences. If the fun end-game is to get to “third base” and beyond, so to speak, whether you are a guy or gal, don’t forget the all-important condom. For as unsexy as condoms can be, they are an integral part of staying healthy while in college.

But condom usage among the college population is down too. Studies vary on this but they generally agree that around 50% of students claiming to have an active sex life do not use condoms. It is worth noting that the “50%” represents those students claiming to have the more “traditional” sexual experiences. Condom usage percent decreases for the “less traditional” experiences. (For more information and better definition of “less traditional” look it up yourself.) Whichever way- traditional or nontraditional-  those percentages are too low; college sexual health experts claim.

The reasons for low condom usage vary. Many blame high schools for failing to provide their students with proper sex education. Sex Ed curriculum in high school is noted to be on the decline, people who study this claim. Furthermore, close to 90% of high schools allow parents to exclude their children from these classes if they do not agree with the curriculum. And of the schools that teach Sex Ed, 30% do not allegedly teach proper condom usage procedures. This is all unfortunate as many would say that sexual education in high school is not just important, it is where the rubber meets the road, so to speak.

As we all well know, whereas high schools are traditionally easy to blame, also falling in the blame game column is the higher than normal usage of drugs and alcohol in college. Over 45% of binge drinking college freshmen claim to not even consider using a condom, or other type of contraceptive, when engaging in sexual activity. Many of those non-condom using binge drinkers go on contract an STD.  Sexual health experts- as well as our parents- all agree: don’t binge drink.

But before we all give up beer pong, we need to know if condom wearing completely prevents getting a sexually transmitted disease. Sex health experts want to remind everyone that some diseases such as herpes are passed along through skin contact during sex. Even if you do wear a condom, it is still possible to get herpes. But condoms do, however, minimize the risk of getting an STD. It is universally agreed that wearing a condom is a much better option than not wearing one, especially if there are multiple partners.

At this point a college parent might ask, “What more can I do to help my son or daughter maintain good sexual health while in college?”

One answer might be in choosing a college that has a good sexual health reputation. (Yes, this data exists too. College sex research seems boundless.) A recent analysis based on CDC STD reporting calculated a campus sexual health index for most U.S. colleges. The findings were based on three factors: Access to contraception, average campus sexual assault rate, and public STD data from the surrounding region. The colleges with the best sexual health reputations were Oregon State University, Boise State University, and Florida Atlantic University. The worst scores went to Marquette University, Vanderbilt University, and University of Louisiana at Monroe.

Do these findings mean anything? Do they influence admissions? Do the sexually healthy schools brag about this during their campus tours?  I would imagine these results are meaningful, however, it is doubtful they influence admissions. Some of the schools on the “bad list” such Vanderbilt and the University of Pennsylvania are highly selective. I would imagine students might be happy get accepted, sexual health reputation be damned. As for hearing about this on a campus tour…. prognosis doubtful. The subject of sex rarely, if ever, comes up.

So, what can we conclude? For one, the vice industry seems to be alive in well in the college community (sorry, parents). Cigarette smoking is up, as is the percent of students having unprotected sex. Reported cases of sexually transmitted diseases are also on the rise. Binge drinking remains popular, as is the use of drugs of all kinds. Research shows that healthier students are happier students. Happier students tend to retain and graduate. There’s little doubt about that. Clearly, college students can benefit by adopting healthier lifestyles.

And that’s a wrap.

Cigarette?

cigarette

Doc Seidman Says………

………When it comes to buying condoms and cigarettes, what’s the difference between the 1960’s and today?

Today, a customer walks into a drug store and says, “Give me a box of condoms!”…… and then whispers to the clerk, “Oh, and slip in a packet of cigarettes, too.”

Welcome to the year 2018, where sex is in and cigarette smoking is out.

Or, is it? While only 15.5% of U.S. adults admit to smoking cigarettes, that number is almost double for college students. So, what gives?

Cigarette smoking is still reported to be relatively popular in the college environment. There are several reasons for this. For one, many say that smoking cigarettes is considered a rite of passage in college. It is part of the newfound freedom being away from home brings. It’s right up there with drinking beer and pulling an all-nighter. Others claim the social aspect of smoking is what starts them, and keeps them lighting up. They say that smokers can bond with other smokers as they stand outside in the cold, puffing away.  Walking outside a bar or restaurant and joining another smoker in friendly conversation is easy to do. Asking for a cigarette or match gets the conversation started and sows the seeds of a special bond.

Also, many people, women most notably, use cigarettes as an appetite suppressant and a useful step in weight control. Others think it’s cool. Some use it as an excuse to step away from a dull conversation. The thought being that stepping away to light and smoke a cigarette might be a better alternative than hearing about how well Fred did on the Chemistry test. Some students state that cigarette smoking reduces anxiety. It can be an excuse for a study break, a way to combat boredom, and/or a way to relax after a sex romp. For many, however, cigarette smoking is just plain addictive.

Interestingly, half of the 33% of college smokers don’t consider themselves to be habitual smokers and declare that they will give up the habit after college. Not surprisingly, this doesn’t happen. As any habitual smoker will tell you, giving up the habit is easier said than done.

Colleges often try and help students quit, but many anti-smoking advocates feel they do not do enough. Obviously, it’s in the school’s interest to wean students off cigarettes. Like any environment, a healthy population is a happy population. (And yes, not smoking cigarettes is healthier than smoking cigarettes.) Colleges host anti- smoking drives and wellness clinics. They make the campus tobacco free, forcing smokers to the fringe of the campus to light up. They provide smoking cessation classes, prominently display anti-smoking posters and distribute flyers. Some colleges have begun promoting anti-smoking apps such as QuitNet and SmokLog. Many even make nicotine replacement therapy such as patches and gums available at no or low cost through the college insurance plan.

Of course, cigarette smoking is only one aspect of tobacco use on campus. Chewing tobacco, vaping, and cigar smoking are becoming more popular. For every student who manages to quit cigarettes, someone else arrives on campus seemingly taking their place, vape pipe in tow.

It’s hard to believe now, but a generation ago, smoking cigarettes was an accepted part of the classroom experience. Thirty or so years ago, ashtrays could be found on classroom desks. Students were free to light up and puff away while the professor was discussing Shakespeare, Chaucer, or Nixon. Students could toke away on a Marlborough while reviewing the Periodic Table of Elements without fear of violating any school rule or policy. And if an ashtray wasn’t provided, a Styrofoam cup, Coca-Cola can, or leftover baked potato from lunch worked just fine.

Professors also used to stand in the front of the class and smoke. I’m guessing many a prof took a deep drag off a Raleigh to not only stay focused on their lecture material, but to manage the anguish over those students who were not focused on the lecture material. All this gave real meaning to the term “smoked filled room.”  To see that scene played out today in an American classroom would be downright comical. Clearly, the ashtray business is nowhere near as strong as it used to be (and baked potatoes are relegated back to consumption, only).

A generation ago, the consumer was bombarded with cigarette advertisement. Cigarette promotion seemed to show up everywhere, even in the student newspaper. Moreover, cigarette companies made their presence known on campus with lavish displays and free samples. Joe Camel was more in demand than your textbook author. But as just about all of us older folks know, public policy has shifted, bringing with it changes in how the tobacco companies can target their consumers. Joe Camel is out; your textbook author is in; sort of.

Which brings us back to cigarettes vs condoms. As our opening riddle points out, cigarettes and condoms have apparently shifted positions. Whereas free cigarettes where commonly distributed to college students a generation ago, today, free cigarettes are out, and free condoms are in. In place of Joe Camel is Carl Condom. Who saw that one coming?

Whereas the distribution of free cigarettes was shown to increase the number of smokers, can the same be true for condoms? We know sex in college is popular, but is it any safer?

$166.84

textbooks~2

Doc Seidman Says…..

….One hundred and sixty-six dollars and eighty-four cents can buy you a lot of things. It can get you 36 Frappuccinos® at Starbucks. Do you like Chick-fil-A?  Twenty-Five Chick-fil-A Chicken Deluxe Sandwiches are yours for that price. You can head over to 7-11 46 times for a mega Slurpee.  Guys, you can take your girl to a movie 18 times, or, surprise-  get 19 buckets of large popcorn.  For those of you not “borrowing” someone’s password, $166.84 can buy you 15 months of Netflix. (No charge for the chill, so I’m told.) More strikingly, $166.84 buys you one class worth of textbooks, on average, at your college bookstore. Now there’s a real surprise!

In 2015, Priceonomics, an online data analytics company, studied textbook pricing from the University of Virginia.  They reviewed prices from the 31 most common majors and came up with an average textbook price, per class, of $166.84. Of the 31 majors, textbooks for those studying Economics carried the biggest price tag at $317 while African American Studies had the lowest textbook burden for students at $80 a class.  Various college prep websites calculate an annual textbook expense at $1,200 a year. If a typical student takes 30 credits a year, the textbook cost per credit is $40. For a typical three credit class, that comes out to $120. If we factor in that some classes might not require a textbook, the $120 per class is most likely more like $150-$160.

The first question often asked is why textbooks are so expensive? A 2015 report in Business Insider claimed that because there are only a handful of textbook publishers, and many professors require specific editions, supply is limited and demand is high. Publishers truly have a lock on the market. Additionally, many courses now bundle the textbook purchase with other online resources that are available only with the purchase of an access code. Access expires at the end of the semester forcing the next group of students to repeat the purchase cycle. The rise of textbook “bundling” eliminates the used and rental books market which offer textbooks at a much lower price.

Apparently, students aren’t taking this lying down, or even sitting down. Studies show that 65% of students won’t purchase textbooks at some time throughout their college career. And who can blame them? One hundred and sixty-six dollars and eighty-four cents can buy things much more appealing than textbooks.

Sadly, this forces students into a difficult decision. Purchase the required books and resources or get by without them?  Students must reconcile not buying the required textbook with the degree in which it may impact their grade. College students are faced with enough difficult decisions, however, this one seems particularly unfair. With anxiety and stress on the rise within the college student population, the textbook dilemma doesn’t make college life any easier.

There are certainly alternatives. When it is possible to do so, students can save a great deal of money by buying second-hand textbooks or even renting them. Third party sites found on line also offer less expensive options. But again, many professors now try and get around this by bundling important class resources with the purchase of the textbook, thereby wiping away this savings. If you think about it, this is downright mean.

Another dissatisfier lies with professors who write and require a textbook they themselves have written. This can certainly be a double-edged sword as on one hand, they can direct the course precisely from the words they have written in the textbook. On the other hand, many students feel they are being punished by these same professors if they don’t buy the book. That too is a major dissatisfier.

When I visit various college bookstores, there does seem to be one category of textbooks in demand, at any price. Those would be the books required for any class about sexual health, trends, and education. Sex is certainly a popular activity in college and sitting in an academic classroom learning about the subject is becoming almost as popular. Aside from the various elective classes, many colleges now offer majors in Sexual Studies. This includes large universities such as Ohio State, Northwestern, University of Chicago, Yale, and Dartmouth (College), to name a few. I don’t know for sure but I would venture to say that the $135.28 students plunk down for a copy of Introducing the New Sexual Studies, 2nd edition, is a bargain. College bookstores probably struggle to keep Sex Matters: The Sexuality and Society Reader in stock, even at a price of $96.19. And if a student loan package pays for these textbooks, all the better. It’s Christmas in September.

As a professor, I didn’t teach Sexual Studies, I taught Marketing and Management. Those textbooks didn’t quite have the same appeal. Marketing for Hospitality and Tourism, 7th edition, by Phillip Kotler with a retail price of $171 didn’t quite have the same appeal as Sex Maters for College Students, or Essentials of Human Sexuality, at any price. Therefore, getting my students to purchase the Kotler book was uphill at best. I wanted my students to have the textbook but encouraged them to save money. I allowed them to rent books and even share books. I even allowed older editions and worked hard to not punish those students who did not have the most recent copy. To me, any textbook was better than no textbook.

Today’s college leaders and provosts are becoming more aware this is a problem. Some colleges now bundle e-textbooks into the tuition. Others now encourage faculty to provide less expensive options such as printed and bound class notes. There is also a growing movement to provide copyright-free, open-access textbooks. Unfortunately, only a small percent of schools have adopted this policy.

Until things change, students will continue to anguish over the battle between buying textbooks and having extra spending money. They must decide between fifteen months of Netflix and a few mega Slurpees, or one Kotler textbook. Hmmm…….

The Bright Side

smiling sun

Doc Seidman Says….

….Going away to college can bring about a whole litany of emotions. It can be fun. It can be scary. It can be enjoyable. It can be depressing. It can be life-changing. It can be anxiety-riddled. It can be many things. Most important, however, it should be productive. If the college did its job, you should leave a much better person than when you started.

More people than ever are now attending college. That is the good news. The bad news is that more people than ever are struggling with the experience.  Mental health concerns are on the rise as college leaders scramble to put systems in place to address this. Whereas this is certainly a growing concern, lest not forget that for most students, the college experience is favorable. It is positive. It is memorable. And most important, the years spent there are productive. The experience not only leads to better opportunities in life, it leads to a better life.

Whereas data show that graduates of a four-year program earn more money over their lifetime than their counterparts who do not graduate (over $1,000,000), there are other, less tangible benefits the experience brings. I classify these as the “FFO” benefits: Friends, Freedom, and Opportunity. They represent the bright side; experiences that will make going away to college a positive one. But don’t just take my word, take the word of recent graduates. When asked, they were all too happy to share the positive experiences college gave them. And almost in lockstep, they all said the same thing.

 Friends:

You may not know it when you are in college, but the people in your orbit, be it near or far, may become lifelong friends. It could be someone as obvious as your buddy who you hang around with regularly, or, it could be someone much less obvious such as the person you see occasionally in the dining hall. You just never know. It could be someone who lives in your dorm, or someone sitting in the same literature class. It could be someone you regularly run into at the campus Starbucks, or even someone who exercises on the same elliptical machine you do.

In today’s techno-driven world, it’s easy to stay connected. You can casually stay in touch after college via social media and deepen that relationship over time. After all, you have that commonality built in; you all attend the same school and share the same experiences, for better or worse.

Friends become like family. Sociologists will probably tell you that good friends replace your family over time. They are there for you. They’ll be at your wedding and celebrate special occasions with you. They’ll be there for you during good times and bad times. That’s what friends do. And that’s what college does. It creates friends.

Freedom:

Almost everyone would agree that the freedom going away to college brings is a double-edged sword. Nobody is now forcing you to attend that 9:00 AM class. That’s the good news. The bad news is nobody is forcing you to attend that 9:00 AM class. But putting aside the issues all that newfound freedom brings, freedom, if managed correctly, can be a great thing. It can help you grow and learn. It can open the door for your curiosities and bring you new experiences. Being away in college gets you out of the bubble of the world your parents provided for you and allows you to pursue your curiosities. Whether it’s meeting new people or exploring newfound sexual freedoms, simply feeling free is something to be cherished. Going away to college provides that. (Don’t let your parents lecture you about this. More than likely they enjoyed their freedoms too, back in the day.)

Opportunities:

No matter where you attend college, opportunities abound. You have an opportunity to study new things, travel to new places, and explore new cultures. You can have your resume spruced up at a career service office and find an internship or cool job at an exciting company. While you’re at it, apply for many jobs. You’re a college student. You are in demand.  Get to know your professors. They’re not all old and crusty. And besides, they may very well serve as a lifelong reference. You can learn a new language, a new musical instrument, or even a new sport. (My freshman year roommate was from the deep south. First thing he wanted to do in our upstate New York university was learn how to ski.) You can find a new hobby or discover a new passion. Opportunities are everywhere; you just need to go after them. Many graduates look back on their experience and regret they did not take advantage of everything college provided them. Whereas it’s rare to find the person who does everything, don’t be regretful. Take advantage. Learn new things.

 

True, the college experience can certainly have a dark side. That’s normal. (Life does too, as a matter of point.) It is o.k. to acknowledge this. If the experience leaves you sad and anxious, seek the help you need, but try and look at the bright side. There are so many great experiences out there for you to discover and enjoy. Find them and jump in. Take advantage of all that college has to offer. And if the college does its job, you will leave a better person. Students must do their part too. If you do, there is no doubt that you will leave a better person.

Yes, college does have a bright side.

*Special thanks to the outstanding staff at Affordable College Prep for their guidance with this post

The Dark Side

sad face

Doc Seidman Says…

….You might breakup with your boyfriend/girlfriend. There could be a challenge with a roommate. Certain academic classes are leaving you anxious. You feel the professor is out to get you. The weather might be gloomy. Your part time job sucks. You miss your family.

There’s no doubt about it; college can get even the most upbeat student down. What should be a positive, enlightening experience can turn into something glum and stressful. When that happens, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed and alone.

Don’t be discouraged. You are not alone. A 2013 survey by the American College Health Association found that 40% of male students and 57% of female students experienced overwhelming anxiety in the past year. More recently, a 2016 study by the UCLA Higher Education Research Institute found that 12% of college freshmen have admitted to being frequently depressed. Despite the data, researchers feel that most mental health issues go unreported. Depression, anxiety, frustration, and despair are quite common amongst the college student population.

College life can have as many “downs” as it does “ups.” Being away from home can be trying for many people. Easy access to drugs and alcohol can lead to anxiety and depression. Moreover, academic demands don’t help either. Forget to turn a paper in on time? How about that test you didn’t study for all that well? Suppose you’re sick and miss more classes than you thought? Those incidents are common and do very little to help your state of mind.

Whereas mental health treatment for their student population won’t be showcased on campus tours, colleges are becoming more aware of the mental health challenges their students face. More schools are now putting resources in place to help. They are expanding mental health facilities, hiring more counselors, and encouraging students to seek assistance. Florida state universities alone are seeking to hire over 100 new mental health counselors during the next several years. Many schools are teaching faculty and staff how to identify troubling signs and encouraging us (faculty) to be more attentive.

It’s all a good start, however, students need to do their part as well. College students should not be reluctant to seek mental health assistance. Basic services are usually covered under the college’s health insurance requirement so there should be no extra cost. Moreover, counselors make their presence known on campus and present themselves as empathetic resources. The stigma of obtaining mental health assistance is declining.

Additionally, many schools now offer mental health related workshops or activities under the guise of general wellness as another means of addressing this growing issue. Relaxation techniques such as yoga and meditation are becoming popular activities on campus. Stress relief workshops and general wellness clinics are also becoming more common.

As a veteran college professor, I can say that the subject of mental health is something not enough of us pay as close attention to as we should. We get wrapped up in the nuances of our class and often fail to take a step back and recognize the challenges outside the classroom students are facing. The blinders we so often wear keep us from realizing that some students might be troubled. Perhaps there is a bad breakup with a friend or partner? Or, perhaps a family member is going through a serious health concern or life changing event? The student might even be going through a serious issue with his or her own health. Most of us just carry on, going through business as usual, just trying to get through our workday. We may or may not make an exception to our students for missed work. The paper you may be struggling to complete at all, let alone on time…. too bad. The deadline is what is. See the syllabus.

Ironically, most of us have good hearts and are sympathetic to the frailties of our students. We just don’t know they exist. Rare is the student who self-identifies as having a mental health issue. We are often made aware there is a learning disability, or even a physical disability, but a diagnosed mental affliction such as depression or anxiety almost always remains unknown to us.

If you are a parent who’s about to send your son or daughter to college, take the time to speak with a school representative about how the campus manages the mental health of their students. This can be done privately during a campus tour, or if you cannot visit the campus, you can telephone or email the dean of students. Even if you feel your child doesn’t need these services it is important to know they are there “just in case.”

If you are a student struggling with the stresses of being in the college environment, there are things you can do as well. Try to maintain a heathy lifestyle, something that can be tricky in college. This would involve eating well, sleeping well, and getting regular exercise. A healthy sex life can also be helpful. Be mindful of overindulging in drugs and alcohol. And most important, don’t hesitate to speak to an on-campus mental health counselor. The counselors I’ve gotten to know over the years are nice people who genuinely want to listen and help. All visits are private, too.

Whereas mental health woes such as depression anxiety are common, keep in mind that college experience can also be positive and highly rewarding. There are many great benefits college provides.  Finding happiness in the journey is critical to making the most of these years. Great things are all around. You just have to know where to find them.