Starting college is an exciting and transformative time in life. You’re gaining a new sense of freedom and autonomy that you might not have had before. Finally, you get to decide what your day-to-day life looks like without the oversight of your parents. You can choose when you do your homework, what you want to eat, and how late you want to stay out. It can feel empowering and exciting, but also challenging. If you’re living in a dorm or apartment, this can bring on its own set of obstacles and new responsibilities. In addition, you may feel anxious about starting classes and navigating a new campus. You want to do well in your first semester. You may want to make new friends, be more authentic, get good grades, and have fun. After reading this article, you’ll learn a few tips to not only survive, but thrive, as a freshman in college.
Put Yourself Out There. During your first semester, this is the time to step outside of your comfort zone and try new things. This may look like talking with people in your classes, asking a question in a lecture, or connecting with people in your dorm. You may feel anxious about putting yourself out there. It’s important to remember that anxiety is only temporary, and you can feel anxious and still move towards your goals.
Get Involved in Organizations and Activities You Care About. You were probably a part of clubs/teams in high school, and now it feels like you have to start over. Luckily, there are a ton of different organizations on campus, so there is something for everyone. Joining a club on campus can help foster a sense of belonging and community. It’s a way to form connections with people who have similar interests and values. It also provides you with opportunities for leadership, improving communication skills, and experiencing personal growth.
Stay Connected with Friends and Family. Starting college can feel lonely and stressful at times, so it’s important to keep in touch with your support system during this period of transition. Regular interactions with your friends and/or family can provide you with an outlet to process your feelings and receive support, which can reduce feelings of loneliness and homesickness. Be intentional about planning time to call friends or family throughout the week.
Practice Healthy Coping Skills to Manage Stress. Your first semester is full of firsts: the first day of classes, first homework assignment, first exams, and first finals. Each of these situations can cause a lot of anxiety, so it's important to find ways to manage your stress. While college is a new environment, you have overcome several stressful situations before you got here. What helped you when you felt stressed in high school? You might have enjoyed running, reading, journaling, talking with friends, or meditating. Continue practicing those healthy coping skills in your daily life to manage the effects of stress.
Utilize College Resources. Colleges have so many resources available for students. Whether it’s academic advising, libraries, or the Disability Resource Center, there are many resources to support you as you transition to college. Many colleges also have tutoring centers, professor office hours, counseling centers, and fun activities. Take advantage of all the resources your school has to offer.
In all, starting college is a huge life transition that can bring about a wide range of emotions. As a therapist who specializes in working with college students and University of Florida alumna, I understand the unique challenges that come with this period, and it’s completely normal to feel a mixture of excitement, anxiety, and uncertainty. Whether it’s reaching out to friends, practicing healthy coping skills, or utilizing campus resources, there are numerous outlets that can help you navigate this transition. As you start your journey, know that you have the resilience to adapt, grow, and thrive in college. If you have been experiencing trouble adjusting to college and want more support, consider seeking professional support from a therapist. I specialize in working with college students who are feeling stuck, anxious, or depressed in Gainesville, Florida. (Click here to learn more about me!) Feel free to give me a call or text at 352-649-3876 or fill out my contact form to see if we'd be a good fit.
Written by Sasha Larson, LMHC