Curbing College Anxiety for Students and Parents

College can be an exciting time for students–a fresh start, new friends, redefining yourself–but it also can be a very overwhelming and stressful time, too. With 75 percent of all mental health conditions beginning by the age of 24 and 1 in 5 young adults experiencing a mental health condition, it is crucial for college students and parents to talk about mental health.

Kari Welch, behavioral health consultant at Memorial Behavioral Health–Counseling Associates, provides insight on potential issues college freshman, returning students and parents might face, and how to manage the stress it can create. Parents can prepare themselves and their child in case they encounter a mental health concern.

“College freshmen are under academic, social and financial pressures. When these pressures are added to teens who are predisposed to mental health conditions, too much stress can lead to developing unhealthy habits,” Welch said. “Knowing the signs of anxiety, what types of stress are typical and when your stress and anxiety has become too overwhelming will provide proper tools to protect the student’s mental health.”

Some signs of anxiety include:

  • Intense worries or fears
  • Difficulty focusing
  • Social isolation
  • Physical symptoms such as headaches, panic attacks or drastic changes in sleeping patterns

“There is nothing wrong with reaching out early for support. Identify the campus counseling center and resources available to your student. This will help manage anxiety easier,” Welch said. “Having a strong support system will help your child feel comfortable reaching out with any problems. Keeping lines of communication open and staying in touch on a regular basis will help parents recognize if symptoms of anxiety are becoming disruptive for the student to successfully transition to college.”

It is normal to be anxious about the thought of going away to school, especially in a different town or state, or leading up to finals week. However, if the anxiety doesn’t calm down over a couple months, consider reaching out to a mental health professional on your college campus.

Memorial Behavioral Health offers counseling and other support services in central Illinois for people struggling with mental health problems. For more information, visit

Kari Welch, LCPC, behavioral health consultant, Memorial Behavioral Health–Counseling Associates, specializes in therapeutic treatment of children with emotional and behavioral health needs. She has a bachelor’s in psychology from Bluefield College in Virginia and a master’s in clinical mental health counseling from Western Illinois University. Her interests include post-traumatic stress disorder, depression, anxiety, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and adjustment disorders. She has worked in the outpatient mental health field since 2003.