“Aren’t you so excited to start college this fall?”
I must have heard this question a thousand times last summer, and every time, I’d smile and say, “Yeah, I can’t wait!”
Partly, that was true. I was looking forward to this new adventure. I wanted to meet new people, make my own decisions, take classes in subjects I was passionate about, try new things, and have a lot of fun.
But the thing I never said was also true: part of me was scared. I’d been away to summer programs so I had no problem in a college setting. It was just that this was going to be different. Once I left for college, I wouldn’t be coming home in a few weeks. I would really be living on my own for most of the year, without the comfort and safety net of family life. It felt like my childhood was truly ending, and for all of my excitement, I also felt sad.
When I got to campus in the fall, I did meet great people, took interesting classes, enjoyed my independence, and had a lot of fun. But there were also times when I felt lonely, stressed, or homesick. I missed my sister, my parents, and my best friend from high school. I missed family dinners, good food, my own room, and privacy. At college, I had to learn to set boundaries with a roommate who had different ideas about noise and sleep and visitors than I did. I had to figure out how to use my free time that I didn’t have in my structured days in high school. I had to adjust to a different climate.
There was a lot of adjusting to do, and many people don’t talk about that. Whenever someone would ask, “How are you liking college?” I’d always say, “It’s amazing!” But I know other people felt like I did last fall, so I wanted to share some tips:
- Reach out for help. If you’re struggling to adjust to college, don’t be afraid to reach out for help. Talk to your professors, your resident advisor, or go to the campus mental health center. They can provide you with the support and resources you need to get through anything you’re dealing with–from roommate problems to homesickness, to depression or anxiety.
- Get involved. Joining clubs and organizations can be a great way to meet new people and feel more connected to your college community. It also helps you meet people outside of your freshman dorm and expand your social circle with people who share your interests. Also, you’ll meet older students who are really nice and supportive because they remember what it was like when they were freshmen too.
- Take care of yourself. At college, you have a million things going on but it’s important to take care of your physical and mental health during this time of transition. Make sure you’re getting enough sleep, eating well, and exercising regularly. Most college gyms can be crowded, so going for a walk or run is a good alternative. It’s also important to make time for yourself and do things that you enjoy or just to relax. If you feel pressure to always be social, remember that having some downtime alone is important to help you recharge too.
- Be open to change and take advantage of what’s offered. College is a time of change and growth, so be open to new experiences and opportunities. I recently discovered that I love to paint because I went along with some of my friends to a painting club. College will go by very quickly, so now’s the time to discover what you love.
- Stay connected with family and friends. It’s important to stay connected with the people who matter most to you. Reach out to friends from high school so you stay updated on each other’s lives. Tell your family how you’re really feeling because they care and want to know. Sometimes it’s the people who have known you longest who can help you deal with a hard situation as you adjust.
Now that I’m in second semester, I really do feel at home here, but honestly,there’s still more adjusting to do. I hope this advice helps anyone who feels like they can’t talk about all the feelings that come with making the transition to college!