College Tips: Speaking From Experience

By Ashley Barnes


Adjusting to any new environment can be daunting and intimidating. You may not know exactly what to expect out of your new college environment. You won’t be surrounded by the same group of friends from back home, you likely won’t be eating the same food, and definitely won’t be sleeping in the same bed. You may feel alone in this drastically different experience filled with change, novelty, and it may feel overwhelming!

The reality is, everyone around you will be going through similar adjustments. Acknowledging the universality of this change may help readers better understand that you are not alone in this seemingly lonely experience. In fact, you will be presented with many opportunities to form valuable and lasting connections.

Finding a routine.

Part of adjusting is finding a new sense of stability. Finding a new sense of stability can be achieved through the creation of a routine. Creating a routine helps foster an internal locus of control, meaning that you will feel that outcomes of your behavior are a result of your own abilities; you will feel that you have a sense of control over this aspect of your life even if you may feel other aspects are beyond your control. A plus to this is that you will get to choose how your routine will look.

If you have classes later in the day, you may allow yourself to sleep an extra hour. If you are an “early bird,” you may swing by a cafe and pick up coffee before heading to class. You may go to the gym after class on Tuesdays and Thursdays. You may eat at different dining halls on certain days of the week. You may call a loved one every Sunday to catch up. You have the power to orchestrate a routine that works best for you!

Take good care of yourself.

With so much going on around you, you may have trouble finding balance when first entering college. The stress of the adjustment has the potential to be taxing on your physical and mental health. Many students who are first entering college may feel anxious and depressed. Make sure to drink water, get adequate sleep (around 8 hours for college students), maintain a balanced diet, stay active, and stay connected to your support groups as best you can. Speaking from personal experience, I suggest you don’t overlook the power of a good night’s sleep as well as the influence that it has over your mental and physical health!

Taking good care of yourself could also entail seeking the support of a mental health professional, especially during times of great adjustment such as leaving for college. Psychiatrists and therapists are utilizing telehealth now more than ever before, which may aid in accessing quality care, even when miles away at your college or university. Additionally, individual therapy or group therapy may be options you could explore as part of self care.

Take advantage of resources available.

Colleges and universities often offer various amenities to students including libraries, study spaces, gyms, swimming pools, music rooms, cafes, and much more. They may offer counseling services in terms of both educational and mental health needs; tutoring services are also offered in these spaces. Many educational spaces also offer training and resources for applying to jobs or securing internships. Colleges and universities may offer work study programs as well as on-campus jobs through the career services office.

New student programs and activities are sure to be provided for those attending the school for the first time, whether as freshman or transfer students. Some schools have on-campus museums, paid research participation opportunities, and guest speakers. Take advantage of the resources provided to you, as there are sure to be many!

Connect with your community.

To reiterate what was mentioned before, it is important to recognize that you are not alone in the drastic changes that entering a new chapter of life entails. There are hundreds or even thousands of other students at your university in the same position.

Being surrounded by so many people also means that there will be a variety of communities that will exist amidst the larger student body. There will be student-run clubs and organizations that you can become a part of and you may be surprised how specific they can be to your interests. In addition to the better known panhellenic organizations (sororities and fraternities), there are also professional fraternities for psychology, economics, engineering, and more. Colleges and universities often have gardening clubs, fashion clubs, art clubs, skiing clubs, and even crocheting clubs.

You can join study groups, volunteer organizations, or hiking groups. Many schools also offer club sports and intramural sports leagues where students can compete in matches and games. In sum, colleges and universities are filled with various niches and passions that are bound to align with some of yours. By joining these clubs and organizations, you can find other students who share the same interests and values as you do. This is a great foundation for lasting friendships that can last a lifetime.