Going to college can be one of the most gratifying and exciting experiences when you’re a young adult. However, many go into college expecting it to be like a movie; constant partying, meeting new people every night, complete independence, etc. and while those are all real things you’ll likely endure, there’s a lot of other aspects to it that many don’t prepare enough for.
College students have some of the most alarming mental health statistics out of any other demographic in this country. America is one of the only nations in the world that charges an unfathomable amount for a college education. When you add endless financial burdens on top of actual schoolwork and navigating the world of adulthood/discovering yourself, it’s easy to fall into long periods of depression and anxiety.
In order to avoid this, it’s important to know what exactly you’re getting yourself into when you begin your secondary education. It’s also just as important to have the tools to navigate all the trials and tribulations you might face within your four years away.
Freshman year can be one of the most overwhelming in terms of class schedules. This is the year where you’re most likely going to get a lot of your core curriculum, or general education, courses completed in order to actually take classes in the field of your choice. Because of this, you’re likely to have a wide range of course topics and assignments, so finding an organized way to plan out everything you have to do is essential.
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Freshman year can also be the year where you discover all the extracurricular’s that you might want to take on during your time at university, which is an even better reason to find yourself a solid way of planning out your weeks. Getting a large planner, desk calendar, white board, etc. is a great way to visually see everything you have to complete within a given week/month. Having a larger planner, or white board, to list out all of the obligations and extra activities you want to take on will give you more visual space to write out specific details, and will make prioritizing what needs to get accomplished much easier.
It seems silly to tell a college student to make sure they find time for a social life, but it’s also important. You need to make sure that you have a solid group of people in your corner with you as you deal with all the new coming stresses college has to offer. Going out on the town, attending club meetings, shopping, going to a frat party, etc. are all parts of college that should be taken advantage of as a means of reducing stress. If you’re not into partying or shopping, that’s okay! Find your crew of people who have the same interests as you; maybe that means going for a weekly hike, or trying out for the on-campus play, whatever it is there is a guaranteed group of people at your college who enjoy whatever it is you want to do in your free time.
Don’t ever be afraid to reach out for help for anything. When you’re first starting your college journey, there’s a lot of aspects of it that can be overwhelming, luckily, most schools have a resource for any sort of stress you may be having. Your RA/RD staff has most likely already seen/heard/experienced any issue you might have, so utilize them even if it’s just to talk.
If your classes are what’s overwhelming you, utilize your campus’ tutoring services/writing centers as well as your professors office hours. Like an RA, the individuals working on the educational side of college have been in their field for a while, so they’re prepared and more than willing to help you work out any classwork discrepancies. Remember, no one wants to see you fail, it might sound like an obvious thing, but it’s worth remembering that everyone is on your side, especially when it comes to doing better in school.
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Mental health should always be your number one priority. If you’re not feeling good emotionally, you’re not going to excel in any other areas of your busy schedule. Utilize on campus mental health services and psychologists when you feel like you want to talk to someone with a completely unbiased perspective. Yes, your friends and family should always be there for you to help as well, but sometimes hearing things explained from a third-party can give you the final push you need to do whatever it is you need to do to get back on the right track.
If your mental health continues to hinder, talk to your family about your options, maybe going away for college wasn’t the best fit for you, or maybe you still want to be away, but definitely closer to home than you originally thought. Whatever it may be, you will have support, so don’t ever hesitate to ask for help.
Finally, going along with the theme of mental health, it’s most important to find time for yourself and your relaxation. Complete independence away from home is a major transition for anyone, and while it may seem like a total blast to not have anyone tell you what to do all the time, it can also be extremely eye-opening. Not having your parents there to prepare your meals or do your laundry will quickly catch up to you. Make sure you’re eating three meals a day, that “freshman 15” rule can also apply to losing weight, so don’t let college become so overwhelming that you forget to give your body the nutrients it needs to have you functioning at your best.
Drink plenty of water throughout the day, and make sure you’re getting enough sleep, especially during the week. While pulling an all-nighter seems like an inevitable experience to have while at college, I can tell you from experience it’s very easy to go all four years without doing so. It just takes, as discussed previously, proper planning, solid organization, a good team of individuals in your corner, a social life that’s balanced with plenty of “me time” and an optimistic attitude. College is meant to be a time of self discovery and fun, don’t let all the other stresses anchor you down from having a life-changing time creating unforgettable memories.
Eric Mastrota is a Contributing Editor at The National Digest based in New York. A graduate of SUNY New Paltz, he reports on world news, culture, and lifestyle. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.