Back to School: College freshmen most at risk in first weeks on campus

Students move in to the dorms at UW-Green Bay on Thursday, August 28, 2014.

GREEN BAY - It's that time already: Freshmen moved into the dorms at UW-Green Bay Thursday morning.

More than 765 students make up the Class of 2018.

But as freshmen start their college career, they can be faced with a lot of challenges. The first few weeks are when they're most at-risk.

As families unload student's boxes and bags at UW-Green Bay, freshmen like Taylor Shillcox feel a bundle of emotions.

"Nervous. Excited. Tears,” said Shillcox, as tears overcame her.

"Meeting new people, starting new things. Um, I’m nervous being away. I’m tearing up. But yeah I’m excited,” said Shillcox, trying not to cry.

Staff who run the Freshman FOCUS program say the transition to college can be rough.

“They go through this period of independence and some of them handle it very well and others are a little less mature in the way they handle that independence,” said Steve Meyer, co-director of the freshman FOCUS program on campus.

In the first semester away from home students are more likely to have problems with drinking, drug abuse, sexual assault, eating disorders, and depression.

“I think a lot of those issues crop up in the first three or four weeks,” said Meyer.

As students transition into living on campus here at UW-Green Bay, staff say they’re trying to help them cope with those issues

"Student leaders are very visible on this campus because it’s so small,” said veteran resident assistant Jordan Grapentine. “They reach out and they say, ‘I’m not doing well,’ and we can sit there and talk to them about it and refer them to counselling and health."

College staffers want moms and dads to know parenting doesn't end at the dormitory door.

"At least once a week make sure you contact your student and see how they’re doing,” said Meyer.

This mom says she's talked about coping strategies with her daughter before arriving on campus.

"Typically makes very smart choices. So we’ve talked about some of the situations and I’m pretty confident she’ll make the right choice,” said Tanya Pautz, Shillcox’s mother.

So even though Shillcox’s freshman's transition began with a few tears, she and her mom hope she will settle in happily to her new home.