College Student Development

The Journey from Freshmen to Graduation

If you would like more information on the things that are typical struggles for each year and issues that may be relevant to certain groups and suggestions on what to do, read the information below. *Information based on Chickering’s Seven Vectors (Student Development Model)

Freshmen: “I’m free! Now where do I go?”

Developmental Tasks:

  • Separating from family and home life and transitioning to being on your own.
  • Developing and/or discovering one’s likes, interests, and preferences.
  • Balancing social and academic demands and pressures.

Common Struggles:

  • Mental Health Issues
  • Homesickness
  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Study Skills
  • Lack of connection, social life, or friends
  • Family problems and stress
  • Loneliness
  • Confusion about major
  • Using unhealthy and nonproductive coping behaviors such as binge drinking, unprotected sex, frequent one-night stands, anger outbursts, isolating self.

Resources on Campus:

*Reminder that all traditional aged college students don’t always fit into neat categories. Other factors such as ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, disabilities influence developmental processes.

Sophomores: “Do I stay or should I go?”

Developmental Tasks:

  • Achieving competence in social and academic life.
  • Establishing personal autonomy
  • Developing a sense identity and purpose.
  • Making important choices as an individual instead of as a collective freshmen group.
  • Declaring a major and a sense of career direction.
  • Exploring values

Common Struggles:

  • Mental Health Issues
  • Confusion
  • Anxiety/ stress
  • Internal conflicts
  • Doubting self, abilities, decisions etc.
  • Dealing with feelings of frustration, anxiety, fear depression.
  • Values clash
  • Family problems
  • Wanting to transfer
  • Relationship and social struggles
  • Academic struggles
  • Using unhealthy and nonproductive coping behaviors such as binge drinking, unprotected sex, frequent one-night stands, anger outbursts, isolating self.

Resources on Campus:

*Reminder that all traditional aged college students don’t always fit into neat categories. Other factors such as ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, disabilities influence developmental processes.

Juniors: “I’m here and I’m confident!”

Developmental Tasks:

  • Choosing a career path (more focus on personal and academic life and job opportunities)
  • Increased commitment to intimate relationships including friendships and a better sense of interdependence.
  • Better sense of values clarification.
  • Increased self-confidence in purpose, role, beliefs etc…

Common Struggles:

  • Mental Health Issues
  • Concerns with career path
  • Relationship issues
  • Struggles with feelings of anxiety, depression and confusion.
  • Decision making difficulties
  • Family problems
  • Using unhealthy and nonproductive coping behaviors such as binge drinking, unprotected sex, frequent one-night stands, anger outbursts, isolating self.

Resources on Campus:

*Reminder that all traditional aged college students don’t always fit into neat categories. Other factors such as ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, disabilities influence developmental processes.

Seniors: “What’s next after college?”

Developmental Tasks:

  • Getting ready to graduate
  • Making plans for personal and career life beyond college.
  • Deciding on job or graduate school.
  • Deciding on the future of intimate relationships.
  • Saying good-bye to meaningful relationships.

Common Struggles:

  • Mental Health Issues
  • Anxiety about gradation and no set plans or clear path.
  • Lack of motivation (depression)
  • Decisions making difficulties about future academic, personal or career life.
  • Feelings of panic, discouragement, confusion, and/or sadness.
  • Disconnecting prematurely from meaningful relationships.

Resources on Campus:

*Reminder that all traditional aged college students don’t always fit into neat categories. Other factors such as ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, disabilities influence developmental processes.

International Students – Tips on How to Adapt to A New Culture

What Do You Know About Culture Shock?

When people come to a new environment they experience different feelings. They sometime feel happy and like this environment but after that, they begin to not only hate it, but also hate even people and everything else in the new culture. However, when they stay for enough time, they begin to adjust to this environment and enjoy their life more. These feelings are called culture shock. Here are the stages of culture shock.

Stage Situation Approach Reaction
Honeymoon First contact with the new culture. Observe, and check out preconceptions to understand the new culture. Excitement; curiosity; slight anxiety.
Initial Confrontation/
Rejection Phase
First intensive interaction or problems with new culture, must solve some basic survival problems. Negative reactions may surface Respond behaviorally as one would in own culture, solve problems in familiar ways. Surprise and confusion; may not know how to handle problem effectively; can’t understand why our own behavior doesn’t produce the desired results; puzzled about others behavior. Frustration and depression my surface.
Adjustment Phase Ongoing confrontation with the new culture; problems may intensify. Respond now with a mix of old and new ways of doing things; some tentative experimentation with new behaviors. Becoming judgmental about new culture; feelings of anxiety, embarrassment, frustration, anger; confusion about own identity.
Adaptation/ Recovery Phase Accommodation with the new culture replaces confrontation; sense of belonging to culture emerges. Creative use of a variety of coping strategies to help one function effectively. Regain confidence; feeling that the culture is understandable; very positive sense of personal accomplishment; enjoy many aspects of this culture.
Coping Strategies Ineffective Forms Effective Forms
Avoidance Frequent or complete withdrawal; no interaction with the culture. Using no resources. Temporary, occasional withdrawal to overcome “cultural fatigue.”
Participation Fighting against the culture (aggressive behavior). Working to learn the ways of the culture (assertive behavior).
Utilizing Resources Becoming totally dependent on others and never learning to cope on your own. Using resources to promote learning and self-reliance.
Studying the Culture Fitting new culture into old framework; rejecting new insights, perspectives. Striving to acquire cultural insights; learning new perspectives.
Utilizing the Culture Totally adopting new culture and rejection own culture and identity. Developing effective coping strategies; enlarging skills; maintaining own identity. Incorporating both perspectives to broaden personal identity.
Utilizing Stereotypes Using as a complete guide to the culture; never testing them. Never seeing differences. Using only as tentative guide to the culture; constantly challenging them; seeing individual differences.

Many students bring unrealistic expectations to a foreign culture. A set of cross-cultural effectiveness guidelines would include:

  • Don’t assume problems will go away by themselves = seek help.
  • Don’t exclude yourself from being part of the problem = learn new behavior or ways of thinking
  • Don’t expect cross-cultural differences and problems to be obvious = talk and discuss feelings.
  • Don’t isolate yourself = keep connected to peer group and meet new people.
  • Don’t try to understand everything immediately = learning comes with time.
  • Expect people to think, behave and feel differently about things = open your mind to new ideas and ways of being.
  • Prepare for the cross-cultural experience = step out of your safe experience and try new things and meet new people.
  • Try to find cultural informants who can help you to learn = use campus resources.
  • Expect the unexpected = know that you can prepare for everything.

Certain personality characteristics which are useful to development would include:

  • Flexibility
  • Tolerance of ambiguity or living with uncertainty.
  • Tolerance of difference.
  • Non-judgmental attitudes
  • Patience.
  • Ability to discuss feelings.
  • Being o.k. with making mistakes and learning from mistakes.
  • Realistic expectations
  • Sense of humor
  • Risk taking behavior.


Issues that international students my discuss in therapy: How to deal with loneliness, depression, anxiety, culture shock, roommate conflict, homesickness; fitting in to a new culture; dating or meeting new people; not doing well in school.

Information taken from Texas A&M Study Abroad program website.

The Process of Growing Up and Knowing Who You Are!

Past Developmental Stage: Where I just came from.

You just came out of your adolescence and now your entering a new stage of development as a young adult in college. As a young adult, you may still want and need the help and guidance of your parents, and maybe dependent on them for some things, but you also are preparing for being independent and living on your own. Your biggest influence in adolescence (beside your parents) have been your peers and finding a social group helped you learn about yourself through identifying or disassociation with such peer group(s). One of several obstacle to overcome may have been peer pressure and finding or fitting into your social peer group. This has all been important in the developmental process of finding your own identity.

Present Developmental Stage: Where I am now.

This new developmental era you are entering through your college years will help to develop more social, intellectual, emotional and physical skills for the next stages of your life. During these years in college, you will be developing and understanding your own unique identity independent from parents, family or friend. All of the following are skills you may be challenged to learn during your college years. Everyone varies with which skills they will need to learn, and which tasks will be more challenging to master.

Developmental Tasks of Young Adults (Chickering’s Model):

  1. Moving through autonomy to interdependence
    • Learn to separate from parents and learn physical and emotional independence/ interdependence.
    • Life transition phase can be difficult and can lead to homesickness.
    • Conflict = parent need to be needed and struggle with letting go = Students don’t want to need parents.
  2. Managing Emotions
    • Learn to identify, express, and/ or control your intense emotions and learn appropriate responses.
  3. Developing and Clarifying Purpose
    • Learning to prepare for a vocation, avocation, or a life style.
    • Developing a career path by exploring interests, choosing a major, learning job skills, and gaining job experience.
  4. Developing Mature Interpersonal Relationships
    • Learn to develop permanent and significant intimate relationships with friends or with an intimate partner.
    • Learning tolerance, understanding, empathy and intimacy skills.
  5. Developing Competence in:
    • Intellectual and academic competence.
    • Critical thinking skills.
    • Physical or manual skills.
    • Emotional and social effectiveness.
    • Living a Wellness lifestyle by learning to balance social, physical, emotional, intellectual, occupational and spiritual needs.
  6. Developing Integrity
    • Acquiring and clarifying a value system which includes: morals, beliefs, ethics about life and personal right and wrongs.
    • Develop ones own spirituality beliefs.
    • Become congruent with values and acts.
    • Develop cultural awareness.
    • Develop responsible behavior
  7. Developing Self-Identity
    • Explore who you are and what kind of person you want to be.
    • Develop ones own gender role identity or sexual preference.
    • Decide on one’s beliefs and feelings about personal gender roles, body, appearance, self-esteem

The overall goal in these four years is to find out who you are as a unique individual. and the challenge is to accept yourself, no matter how similar to or different from your parents and friends you may become. The struggle for both student and parents is to come to a place of acceptance with each others individuality and differences. It is not an easy task to master everything you need to before you move on to the next stage of your life? Each person will struggle with different things. This time in your life will bring new experiences, and experiments to try new things. Some things in your life will come into question or will be challenged. College provides the environment to be exposed to different ideas, people, and experiences.

Anytime you struggle with new information, it can cause stress. A person can feel anxiety, fear, confusion, imbalance, and insecurity. Anytime a person is struggling, it is an opportunity for positive growth to occur. These struggles can be from:

  • Internal forces– dealing with thoughts and feelings that lead to behavior.
  • External forces– things that happen to you from outside (Events).
  • Past experiences– in childhood or growing up that are still with you.
  • Present experience– happening right now or while in college.


Past External Events

  • Family Conflict
  • Divorce
  • Death
  • Parent’s Alcoholism
  • Eating Disorder
  • Rape
  • Sexual or Physical Abuse
  • Drug/ alcohol Abuse

Past Internal Feelings

  • Feeling of Inferiority
  • Angry
  • Hurt
  • Fears
  • Depressed
  • Anxiety / Perfectionism
  • Obsessive / Compulsive Disorder

Present External Events

  • Pregnancy/Abortion
  • Date Rape
  • Eating Disorder
  • Family Conflict
  • Death
  • Academic Problems
  • Feeling Homesick
  • Rejection from Peers
  • Confused about Career
  • Identity Exploration
  • Relationship Break-up
  • School
  • Over Achiever/ perfectionist
  • Divorce
  • Drug/ Alcohol Abuse

Present Internal Feelings

  • Anxiety
  • Poor Concentration
  • Insomnia / Sleep too much
  • Depressed
  • OCD Behavior
  • Angry
  • Loss of Appetite
  • Insecurity
  • Inadequate / Fear of Failure
  • Stress / Tension
  • Fears

The best way to deal with a struggle and master the developmental task at hand is to seek the appropriate university resources. CAPS can help with many of the issue or challenges that you will face during your years here at UCF.