Self-Regulation in College: Redefining the Freshman Five

Remember the Freshman Five? The phrase refers to the pounds we gained during our first semester in college. For many of us, college was our first opportunity to eat unsupervised. And we did! We ate for fun, we ate to reduce stress, we ate to socialize, we ate to abate anxiety, we ate for comfort. Studies show college freshmen gain weight at a much higher rate than that of the general adult population. [1]

In the first semester, self-control meets self-regulation – right around the waistline. “Self-control is about inhibiting strong impulses; self-regulation, reducing the frequency and intensity of strong impulses by managing stress-load and recovery. In fact, self-regulation is what makes self-control possible, or, in many cases, unnecessary.”[2]

Self-control includes things like stepping back and taking a deep breath. In the case of the dessert table at the cafeteria, self-control might mean taking a minute to recognize that you are not actually hungry. Self-control happens and can often be helpful in the moment. But forcing behaviors generally backfires in the long-term and we end up binging on boxes of Entenmann’s chocolate chip cookies. Self-regulation, on the other hand, is about recognizing and potentially avoiding stressors which might feed such binging. Self-regulation is the older, wiser sister of self-control.

In an academic setting outside of the cafeteria, self-regulation is the “self-directive process by which learners transform their mental abilities into academic skills (Zimmerman, 2001)… self-regulation of learning involves more than detailed knowledge of a skill; it involves the self-awareness, self-motivation, and behavioral skill to implement that knowledge appropriately…It’s about setting goals, selecting strategies to attain those goals, monitoring progress, restructuring if the goals are not being met, using time efficiently, self-evaluating the methods selected, and adapting future methods based on what was learned this time through.”[3] In other words, self-regulation is the key to higher learning in college.

“Successful people and learners use self-regulation to effectively and efficiently accomplish a task. They will regulate different strategies and monitor the effectiveness of that strategy while evaluating and determining the next course of action… The use of self-regulation techniques assists students in performing tasks more effectively and independently. For example, successful learners will constantly check their comprehension. When successful learners read a passage and realize that they do not understand what they have read, they will go back and reread, and question or summarize what is that they need to understand. On the other hand, when a student with learning disabilities reads a passage, and realizes that they do not understand what they have read, they tend to shut down, or just continue to read because they do not recognize the goal of reading the passage. Students with learning disabilities tend to be passive learners, often failing to evaluate and monitor their own learning, in order to compensate they allow others to regulate their learning or rely on the assistance of others to successfully complete a task.”[4]

Focus Collegiate support programs address this passivity very specifically by starting with student-focused goals. Through consistent monitoring, evaluation, and reflection, we help each student adapt strategies and base future support on successes this time through. Rather than regulating their learning, we provide prompts that reinforce self-awareness and nurture self-motivation. Thus, increasing student engagement and ultimately self-regulation.

With perseverance, the older wiser sister of self-control is redefining the Freshman Five. Instead of unwanted pounds that take a life time to lose, the new Freshman Five becomes attributes serving a life time of gains: Self-Awareness, Self-Motivation, Self-Advocacy, Accountability, and Adaptability.





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