Adjusting to life in college is one of the biggest challenges young adults face early in their lives. Although their parents try their best to prepare them, nothing but time and experience can truly teach them the skills they need. It’s not easy getting used to life on your own, and it’s normal to feel a mixed bag of emotions as you get ready to enter college.
Excitement can quickly shift to anxiety, and you can be just as nervous as you are eager to start this next chapter. The best way to get ready for the new college year is to plan ahead and know what to expect; you can’t control everything, but learning from former students’ struggles can help you make the right choices for yourself. It’s also a good reminder that no matter how difficult things may be at times, you’re definitely not alone in how you feel. Let’s check out seven of the most common problems college students face in university and what to do if you ever encounter them.
Moving away for college can be one of the hardest things you do, no matter how excited you are about the chance to study at your dream school. If you’ve gone to an out-of-state university, you could be hundreds or even thousands of miles away from your family and friends. All your familiar spots now feel distant, and you might worry whether you made a mistake that it’s too late to turn back from. Don’t worry; homesickness is normal during the adjustment period. As hard as it is, it does pass.
The best way to get used to life at school is to be as social as possible. Look up cool places to go and things to do in your new area; go to student meet-ups, join study groups and other events that help you connect with others. If you find yourself struggling more than you can handle, open up to your dorm’s RA or talk to a student counselor. There’s no shame in needing some extra help, and just talking about how you’re feeling can make it easier to cope with the transition.
The “freshman 15” is not entirely a joke. When you’re suddenly dealing with a packed class schedule, homework and attempting to maintain a social life, it can be easy to rely on quick meals and fast food. Takeout is tempting, sacks are second-nature and exercise might be the last thing on your mind. But staying active and eating right is important because it helps you maintain physical and mental wellness; the more energy you have, the easier it is to plan ahead and stay on top of your studies without getting too overwhelmed.
Healthy habits you build in college also tend to stick; don’t think that you can eat terribly and barely move for the next four years only to emerge as a full-fledged adult who looks after themselves. It’s much better to put your well-being first now, which means eating healthy foods and being active. Even a 30-minute walk around campus to unwind after class counts.
From sudden nights out with friends to impulse Amazon buys, it’s easy to lose track of money in college. If you’re lucky enough to have parents with enough money to help, it can be tempting to overspend and just call them up for some extra cash. Avoid falling into poor money management at all costs. The best thing you can do for yourself as a new college student is learn how to make and stick to a budget.
When you begin looking at your finances from a larger perspective, you can find opportunities to save and make life easier. For example, if you’re thinking about graduate school, then you’ll want to know how to manage your finances before you take out graduate loans with benefits. All the extra funds are great, but they can quickly be squandered and leave you penniless and in debt if you aren’t careful.
Procrastination might be tempting, and you could even find yourself deciding to skip classes and lecture halls simply because there’s no large penalty for doing so. Don’t fall into this trap; classes give you a chance to meet others, learn more from the professor and stay on schedule. Structure is important in college, and time management will allow you to build self-discipline. Set aside two hours every weeknight to do homework and study; you’ll appreciate having some more free time on the weekends and not having to cram every week.
Loneliness in college is more common than you think. It might be easy enough to have a conversation with a classmate or roommate, but finding friends takes time. Be patient with yourself, and know that connections don’t happen overnight. You may have to spend a few weeks or even a month or two flying solo before you fall in with a good group of people. The best way to meet new friends is to join clubs and attend social events. Clubs mean you already have something in common with the people there, so there are plenty of icebreakers to start conversations. Social events also provide a common space to interact that feels way less awkward than just talking to someone out of the blue.
Don’t pressure yourself to find a boyfriend or girlfriend in college. Although it can be a great experience, dating adds a lot of stress to your life that simply might be too much of a distraction while you’re in school. If you happen to meet people and enjoy going out, great, but there’s absolutely no pressure to find your future spouse or the love of your life while you’re in school. Avoid filling your free time with random meetups from dating apps; although it can be a fun way to meet new people, it’s much better to focus on yourself, building high quality friendships and getting to know people in real life.
Depression, anxiety and other psychological conditions can become prominent in early adulthood. The stress of moving, adjusting to life in college and coursework can trigger symptoms and make them harder to manage. Pay attention to your feelings, and know that it’s okay to not be happy all the time. You don’t have to be okay to be okay. Get help when you need it, even if it feels a little awkward or embarrassing. The best thing you can do is reach out to someone you trust or even talk to a therapist. If there are any major underlying problems, you can get a head-start on treating them so they don’t negatively impact you the rest of your life.