Happy college students

By: Emily Reel

Going away to college is one of the most exciting transitions that can happen in your life. The move from high school to college is symbolic, representing freedom, growth, and forward movement toward being an independent adult.

Life at home was usually predictable; it was filled with the daily routine you’ve known for years. The same goes for high school – you woke up at the same time most days to get to school, went to the same classes every day, and probably sat next to the same kids in every class. You worked so hard to get to college, and you are ready to
begin your new life as a college student.

Beginning college is not so routine. You are tasked to make a variety of big choices and you may feel unprepared and insecure. How will you decorate your dorm? What classes will you take? What clubs/groups will you join? There is also a great deal of uncertainty involved with college. Will I like my roommate? What if I hate my major? What if I’m not going to be able to cut it?

You might find that college doesn’t feel the way you expected. Instead of living the great college life you see in movies, you are wracked with worry, self-doubt, and uncertainty.

Many students struggle with leaving the predictability and structure of home with the chaos and uncertainty of the first semester of college. Discovering what time to go to bed, where to eat lunch, or even how to buy your textbooks can be overwhelming.

Feeling worried, anxious, or withdrawn is a common reaction to adjusting to the new environment. Many students feel worried about a paper that is due in three months instead of focusing on the homework assignment due this week.

Others may feel anxious in the evening about something they said to a fellow student in their 9am class. Some students may spend their time sleeping to avoid facing the struggle of college.

There is a period of personal adjustment for any new student, and it’s sometimes hard to know where to start.  You may find that you’re not adjusting as quickly as you should. You may find that your college experience isn’t living up to what you expected.

It is a challenging transition, but it’s possible to evolve into the college student you are meant to be. Here are some tips that you can use to make your transition to college a little easier.  We find that these are the best places to start when you’re struggling.

1. Create a consistent daily schedule that works for you. Wake up and go to bed around the same time every day. Interrupted or insufficient sleep can impact how you feel and how you adjust to new things.

2. Take care of your body. Try to eat three balanced meals a day. It can be challenging to know what to eat, so reach out to others for assistance if needed. Physical activity is important for overall mental health. Walk to class, walk to the dining hall, or join a club or gym. You may even make some new friends this way!

3. Make sure you are meeting your social needs: Join social groups. Check with your advisor about any clubs that might match your interests. Talk to the other students in class. You may feel awkward but remember that other students might feel a bit uncomfortable and will welcome some conversation!

4. Check in with yourself and know when to ask for help. Try to be aware of how you’re feeling. If you notice that you often feel sad, overwhelmed, worried, anxious, or generally aren’t feeling like yourself, ask for help. A licensed counselor can help you develop skills to adjust to college. You might find that just a little extra support will help you feeling better in no time.

Remember, college is a challenging transition. College can be filled with growth and fun, but it is sometimes overwhelmed by uncertainty and self-doubt.

Once you get settled, you can have a wonderful experience.