Academically prepared but emotionally overwhelmed?

The transition from high school to college can be one of life’s first and most significant changes. Most college freshmen are away from home for the first time and find themselves overwhelmed by an entirely new environment. Commonly known as the ‘freshman blues’, many young adults do not know where to turn for help in their first months of college, or even why they are floundering.  Many college freshmen drop out during their first year because they were ill-prepared to handle such a major transition.

This is where The Net comes in. The Net is a recently launched program designed to equip college-bound students with the emotional, social, and life skills they need to be prepared for college, as well as a plan for handling the various stressors that often present themselves over freshman year. Founders Kate Ireland, PhD (Nancy’s daughter!) and Sara Turner, MEd, created The Net based on their personal experiences of adjusting to college as well as their professional work with high school and college students. Kate has held various roles in adolescent mental health, most recently working in the Bowdoin College counseling center.   Sara, a former Division I athlete,  coached softball at Penn State. In their work, they saw too many bright, enthusiastic, and academically capable students who found themselves overwhelmed and sometimes derailed by stress, anxiety, and difficulty adjusting to college life.

The numbers match what Kate and Sara found in practice. According to a 2009 study by the American College Health Association-National College Health Assessment (ACHA-NCHA II)

  • 39 percent of college students will feel hopeless during the school year.
  • 25 percent will feel so depressed they’ll find it hard to function.
  • 47 percent will experience overwhelming anxiety.
  • 84 percent will feel overwhelmed by all they have to do.

The Net aims to equip students with the skills it takes to develop healthy coping strategies, a strong practice of resilience, and the ability to get what they want from college. Kate, who has a PhD in Psychology, and Sara, who has a Master’s in Education, combined psychological tools with resilience research to create four core competencies that students learn over the course of the program. These include sense of self and meaning, decision making, effective communication, and handling stress and anxiety. The Net also helps parents learn how to best support their children through this often challenging transition, teaching them how to direct their children back to the skills when they call home in distress, as well as coaching them through their own adjustment to sending a child to college. With a safety net and new skill set in place, students and parents will feel emotionally prepared for and supported in the transition to college life and students will be positioned to thrive.

The group program launched mid-January, 2021 and is comprised of:

  • weekly Zoom calls
  • prompts, check-ins, and videos throughout each week
  • regular office hours with Kate & Sara
  • guest experts speaking on topics related to student wellness and college life
  • a supportive online community in which participants can connect to each other and further engage with Kate & Sara

The Net is available to individuals, high schools, colleges, and families.