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The Importance of a Healthy Transition into College

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As high school graduates in the community are preparing to attend college in a few months there is a high degree of anxiety for students and to a larger degree the parents as well.

Here is a “must read” miindia.com article by Dr. Aparajita (AJ) Jeedigunta, PhD.  AJ is an immigrant woman who grew up here in Detroit, a mother and a two-time Traumatic Brain Injury survivor. AJ has overcome numerous challenges in life and is passionate about making a difference to others.  As a social psychologist with a specialization in cultural studies, AJ can help students leverage strengths and unlock limitless potentials. 

College – it is the first time in many of our young lives that we live apart from our families. We enter an environment of independence, freedom, intense competition, and countless social opportunities. The combined effects of these experiences are supposed to set us up for success in the rest of our lives, as they help us become who we are supposed to be. But, as some honest souls might tell you, the initial experience of adjusting to college life can be overwhelming. The collegiate environment is a space where there are an untold number of distractions that make it almost comically easy for us to lose complete sight of ourselves – of who we are and who we want to be. By making sure that the initial transition to college is healthy and developmentally stable, we can lay down a strong foundation that propels us toward success, and can avoid the derailment. In the story below, you will have a chance to read about my experience in college, my expertise, and, how I can help you start your college experience with the confidence of knowing that you are going to be able to maximize the benefits of the opportunities and the unknowns that lie ahead in your life. 

Twenty years ago, in May, I was graduating high school, and I was getting ready to embark on my first big “solo” adventure in life – college. In high school, I was a member of the National Honor Society, the Spanish Honor Society, a Presidential Scholar, an AP Scholar with High Distinction, a valedictorian and salutatorian finalist, and a few other long forgotten things. 

I started college as a freshman at the University of Michigan in the Fall of 1999, with enough credits to be almost a junior. What I remember is that I graduated high school in 1999 at the end of May, just nine days after my 17th birthday. I remember that I was supposed to feel like this highly accomplished young adult who was venturing off into the unknowns of the “real world”. Yes, I thought college was the real world; that should tell you how naïve I truly was. I had grown up as an extremely protected child in a very traditional Indian family. And, in college, the expectation was that I continue to be this highly cultural, successful, national scholar level, confident young woman who made her family proud. My parents and community expected great things out of me; I expected great things out of myself for their sakes. I was hell bent on proving myself by continuing my streak of nearly perfect grade point averages that would then launch me into a top-notch medical school and propel me towards a career as a neurosurgeon or a cardiologist. I had my whole life totally mapped out. Plot twist, but not really: I failed at meeting any of these expectations, developed a severe inferiority complex and other mental problems with my self-worth and self-esteem, got taken advantage of an untold number of times, and nearly killed myself in the process of “trying to be perfect”. 

Not everything in college was bad, of course. I had fun, and learned more than I ever thought was possible. In retrospect however, I can be transparent and candid about my complete uncertainty, confusion and unpreparedness about my transition to college life. 

Even today, the reality of Indian-American lives seems very similar to my experience. Our cultural values come with some high expectations. We expect all of our young adults to be high performing, high achieving doctors or engineers (maybe business or law as a backup). After all, we are called the model minority for a reason. They are expected to keep their noses to the ground, excel in school, and take up important jobs in the STEM fields. These young adults face the pressures of being perfect and achieving the highest ranks possible in every class while still upholding familial honor and cultural pride in the course of their personal achievements and successes. The formula that has always been taught is that they can achieve this by being good, and by being humble, self-deprecating, nice, friendly, submissive (if you are a woman), paragons of virtue. They cannot fail, because that would somehow bring shame to their families and the nearly 4 million other people who look like us in the United States.  

In the middle of all of these pressures, mental well-being and stability gets forgotten. No one looks into how Indian-American kids internalize failures and problems because they are expected to do that themselves, in the middle of the constant studying and not dating. The expectation is that failures should be internalized shamefully so they learn to never fail again. If they aren’t feeling mentally stable, that’s a problem they need to get over on their own, while making sure it doesn’t get in the way of their goals. They can’t talk about their problems or things they are struggling with inside their heads because “that’s crazy talk”.  And, this is something they carry with them for at least the rest of their academic careers and probably even after.  Imagine how different our outlook on success and stability would be if we took control of our mental well-being, and made sure that we are going to be okay, no matter what life throws at us.

This is where I come in. I am a social-personality psychologist, a cultural identity and mental well-being empowerment coach who helps others who look like me. Along the way, I’ve taught over a dozen courses to a few thousand people, and have given talks domestically and internationally on diversity and inclusion, cultural identity, love and relationships, the power of resilience, and many more topics. I was able to do this because I found my core and my inner fire. You can read more about my personal story here. 

Professionally, as a coach, I serve those who need help in taking back control over their own mental well-being and in leverage their strengths towards success. I empower people so they can find meaning, value, purpose, and fulfillment, in their own ways, while still honoring themselves and their lives. I help people turn their failures into success. I assist students in their transitions to their next stages in life in healthy ways, while helping their parents also adjust to these transitions, because they struggle with it too. I help Indian American men and women navigate relationships. What I do is definitely not therapy. I am a doctor, but not a therapist. I am a coach; a member of the International Coach Federation. As a coach, it is my fundamental belief that you have the resources you need to transform yourself in the best ways possible. What I do is support you in the work it takes to align your cultural values with what you want in life, develop personalized tools to help you with stress management, help you reframe failure for what it really is – a step in the growth process, and help you navigate expectations and values in relationships. I do all of this through one-one-one sessions, family workshops, group workshops and webinars, and soon, via e-courses that anyone can take advantage of at any time.

I want to make it extremely clear that no one is to blame for things being the way they are, especially not the parents. There is zero doubt that every parent in our community loves, cares for, and sacrifices deeply for the sake of their children. I am not pointing any fingers at anyone. Our current status quo is a result of long-term societal and community level forces outside of our control that have shaped our reality into what it is now. Where we go from here however, IS completely within all of our control. Our community needs to heal and bridge these gaps if we want to retain any of the true greatness of our cultural heritages. We all need help to be able to move forward and to make ourselves healthy, successful, and loved. And, it is okay to take this help, especially when it is being offered as a readily available resource. So, let us do the work together to make the future better. For all of us.

During our one-on-one coaching sessions, we will partner together to work on aligning your cultural values with your personal core values, developing a sustainable growth mindset that is critical for academic and professional success in life, and, on transforming you into the best version of you that you can be in your journey of growth for the rest of your life. You will be more confident in learning, more comfortable in social relationships, and more true to yourself in every aspect of your life than you can imagine right now. None of these changes can happen instantaneously, or without your investment in yourself. The first step is that you need to have a deep desire to grow, and then, you should be open to being honest, transparent and authentic about who you are and who you want to be. That is the only way to ensure that our time together will be the most effective it can be. 

So, do you want to start off your college journey with the assurance and confidence that you will be able to make the most resilient, and, most impactful decisions for yourself? Do you want to learn how to reframe every failure and rejection you encounter so that they launch you towards greater success? What about wanting support in understanding how to balance your academic and social loads in college so that you can have fun while still being able to focus on your learning and development? If you have answered yes to these questions, don’t wait! Set up your free consultation with me now. 




Dr. Aparajita Jeedigunta, PhD
Social-Personality Psychology
Coach | Diversity and Inclusion Consultant | Speaker | Author
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