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New Psychological Research Calls College Years SEASONS of Adjustment

Asst. Prof. Noelle Hurd seeks to discover how support systems can help students adjust

Can support networks empower students to make their college years some of their best? Asst. Psychology Prof. Noelle Hurd, the principal investigator of Students’ Entrance, Adjustment, Social Outcomes and Next Steps After College, said she believes she may be onto the answer.

“I became interested in this study through my interactions with undergraduate students during my first year as a new assistant professor at U.Va.,” Hurd said. “Hearing students talk about challenges they have experienced and resources that have helped them succeed prompted me to launch an empirical investigation to better understand students’ experiences.”

SEASONS is a psychological research project which gathers data from a representative sample of the University student body. Participating students fill out questionnaires about their college experience throughout their four years as undergraduates, answering questions about their level of adjustment to college life and interpersonal relationships. These responses yield quantifiable data about their relative degrees of adjustment to college life.

Hurd is interested in identifying variables which affect the extent of students’ adjustment to college. These include parent and University support groups. For example, Hurd investigates the possibility that relationships with nonparental adults may help at-risk youths cope with psychological and academic challenges. Support networks, she believes, may hold the key to effecting a smooth college adjustment process.

“I am particularly interested in learning about the support students receive from people at home and at the University during their transition and progression through their four years at U.Va.,” Hurd said. “I think these findings may generalize to similar types of institutions.”

Students participate voluntarily in the SEASONS project. Unlike many single-blind psychological studies, students are aware of the goal of Hurd’s research when they volunteer.

“Yes, students are informed of my interest in better understanding their experiences during their time at U.Va.,” Hurd said. “I believe that students have been motivated to participate in the study because they know that my plan is to use the findings of my research to improve the college experience for students at U.Va. and similar institutions.”

Hurd believes her results may be directly applicable to improving the college adjustment process for undergraduates. To this end, she is optimistic about the future expansion of this study to other American universities.

“I hope to use the results of this study to improve the college experience for students at U.Va. and similar institutions,” Hurd said. “I will likely use what I learn from this study to inform a multi-institution study in the future.”