“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.” Wait—you mean this quote isn’t describing the college experience?
After years of desperately waiting to move out, sometimes college freshman realize that independence isn’t exactly all it’s cracked up to be. Jobs? Internships? Grades? New relationships? How can students be expected to balance all these things when just a few months ago they were living comfortably at home with childhood friendships and a fully stocked refrigerator? Erika Giganti, who received her psychology BA from Florida State University and currently teaches AP Psychology, gave us some advice of five ways to preserve your sanity during your college transition.
1. Continue To Do What You Love
Who am I? What am I doing with my life? What is my future going to be like? Students can lose their sense of self when transitioning into college. Sometimes, students can become immediately overwhelmed by schoolwork and forget to make time for activities that make them happy. In the face of an essay worth 40% their grade, continuing the weekly yoga workout just doesn’t seem as important anymore. Other times students feel pressured to fit in with a new group of friends and so they neglect the pastimes they truly enjoy. It can be something as simple as watching shows on TV! If all your new friends watch The Bachelor, why wouldn’t you give it a try too? While it is important to focus on school and pursue new interests, staying true to what makes you happy is a crucial part of having a smoother college transition. Giganti said, “Try things that peak your interest. If you enjoy sports, join an intramural team. If you plan on studying business, join a business fraternity.”
2. Remember That Not Everyone’s Life Is As Perfect As It Seems On Instagram
“Facebook and Instagram can sometimes lead to isolated feelings because students are constantly looking at what other people are doing,” said Giganti. In society today, most people are guilty of religiously posting about every move they make. People post status updates about their new job, their adorable candid with their new boyfriend, or screenshot their 4.0 GPA, but they leave out all the things that aren’t perfect. This illusion of massive amounts of success can make other students feel like they’re failing at college already. It’s important for college freshman to understand that they have four whole years to find those killer internships and part time jobs. Rome wasn’t built in a day and neither is a “perfect” life.
3. Never Be Afraid to Ask For Help
Regardless of how much of college makes students feel like “an adult”, realizing they’re never too old to ask for help is very important. Having a difficult transition into college is common and for some, far too overwhelming. Giganti said, “The best advice I can give is to be aware of the signs of depression and if you think you might be depressed or if you think you know someone who might be depressed seek help. Almost all universities provide counseling services.”
There are other resource s available if you need help ASAP:
Samaritans 24-Hour Crisis Hotline: (212) 673-3000
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1 (800) 273-8255
4. Know That Great Friendships Take Time
The advice everyone loves to hate: time heals everything. Although cliché and completely uncomforting, it’s true that with time, things can and usually do get better. For some students, leaving home means leaving childhood friendships behind. When arriving in a new city, students can begin to lose hope of ever finding genuine people like the ones they knew back home. Giganti says, “Even though students may be surrounded by other people, if they have not made any meaningful friendships or relationships they may feel alone.” Exchanging occasional notes or meeting with group-members in the library isn’t exactly anyone’s ideal form of a deep, meaningful friendship, but it is a start. All friendships have to start somewhere; the girl who you occasionally study with could become your new BFF and the guy you in your building who needed a ride could become your friend for life.
5. Learn To Be (Somewhat) Independent
Gone are the days of having mom stock up the pantry, make doctors appointments and write notes for being late. In college, students have to reach a level of independence that they most likely never had to have before. “The new level of independence can be overwhelming, especially if students have never found themselves in a situation where they are independent,” Giganti said. In high school, many students’ parents pushed them towards success, whether it was by reminding them to finish their homework or literally yanking them out of bed in the morning. Once students leave home, that extra push is gone.
Students have to be their own personal motivators, trainers and even their own financial advisors. It’s difficult to balance all of the responsibilities at first and it only adds to the stress of transitioning to college. What’s important is that college students figure out what works for them. If you need to write everything down in an agenda, do it. If you know you’re not a morning person, don’t sign up for 7:30 a.m. classes. If you’re aware of the fact that you have a bit of an online shopping addiction, well… there’s still no fix for that. The point is, being aware of your strengths and weaknesses is the first step to addressing them and becoming more independent.