For many students, freshman year is their first opportunity to live on their own. It can be overwhelming, as you have to learn how to feed yourself, manage your time, and live life without your parents. Many adult responsibilities now fall solely on your shoulders. Your parents aren’t there to ask you if you’ve finished your homework or to remind you to drink water.
You must learn how to manage your school, work, and social life. The transition can be even harder if you’ve been struggling with your mental health because of the pandemic. While you may have been taking care of yourself before college, there’s a different level of independence when you start school.
All of that already sounds like a lot to do, and then there’s the main reason you’re in college — to get a degree. Movies make freshman year seem like an idyllic chance to fall in love and find your purpose in life. But if your first year is less than perfect, here are four ways to make it better.
1. Ask for Help
Colleges have many resources for students, though you’ve probably heard of this from your freshman orientation class. While college resources are fantastic, remember they are no substitute for mental health treatment to address stress, anxiety, or depression. College resources can address challenges with adjusting to college life and struggles stemming from classes.
If you’re struggling with a class, tutoring may be just what you need. It’s okay to struggle with understanding concepts. Tutors can be beneficial if you don’t feel comfortable meeting privately with your professor or don’t know your classmates yet. If you aren’t struggling, having a person there to answer questions can still be helpful.
If you’re struggling, talk to an older student you admire, a professor you like, or your adviser. If you approach an older student, they’ll usually be happy to give you advice. Professors of first-year classes are particularly used to helping students adjust to college life. Advisers and sponsors can give you direction, motivation, and provide other campus resources to turn to.
The office of accessibility is another resource you might consider. The name may vary at your institution, but often there is an office to ensure each campus is accessible. If you qualify, they can provide accommodations ranging from closed captioning for videos to extended time to take a test. While there is often a stigma around getting help, there’s no shame in asking and everyone deserves help when needed.
2. Identify Problems
Freshman year can be hard for many reasons. And every problem usually has a different solution. When you’re busy and stressed, it can seem like everything in your life is giving you trouble. Chances are that’s not the case.
The next time you feel overwhelmed, sit with your feelings. Try to recognize what’s happening around the times when you’re most stressed out and see if there’s a pattern. Did you just finish a class you find incredibly useless but still have to take? Do you have to get ready for a job you hate? Is this a time you used to spend with your friends or family back home?
If it’s more than one problem, list them from worst-thing-ever to manageable-with-ice-cream. The biggest problem you’re facing is the one you should address first. When that one is handled, you’ll be that much closer to enjoying life again.
3. Make Some Friends
Finding people you connect with on campus is one of the best ways to manage feelings of homesickness and stress. Friends are the key to being happy in college. You can make them by getting involved on campus and getting to know your classmates.
There are many different clubs or organizations on campus that are each dedicated to something specific. From sports to the campus newspaper, pick one and get up the courage to go. If it isn’t the right fit, you can leave! If you don’t feel comfortable going alone, find someone to ask. Chances are, they’re also looking for friends and ways to get involved.
If they share a major with you, then you can talk about coursework and plan study sessions. If they don’t, then you have someone to attend campus activities with. Friends from different majors often offer a different perspective, which makes you a more well-rounded student and better-connected on campus.
4. Practice Healthy Habits
It’s easy to let your health slack when you have so many other new things to worry about. The freshman fifteen is so well-known for a reason. While college is stressful, nothing will feel right if you aren’t taking care of yourself first.
First and foremost, get some sleep! There is a perception that hard-working and serious college students must always stay up studying and survive on caffeine intake. This isn’t helpful or true, and you’ll find that after getting a few good nights of sleep, you can handle anything.
There’s countless articles out there telling you what you should eat and how you should exercise, but everyone’s health looks different. Find food and exercise that makes you feel good and allows you to celebrate being alive. Remember to reward yourself for passing a hard exam or making it through a rigorous week.
Practicing self care can help you relieve stress and recharge when it may feel like you’re running on empty. Your college dorm probably doesn’t have the bathtub your parent’s house does, so bubble baths might be out. But you can still find a way to treat yourself and relax. This might look like taking a walk around a local park or painting a picture.
The thing you must remember is that you are more than capable of dealing with the difficulties of life. It’s okay if your first year of college is hard, but hopefully with these four tips, next year will be easier.