Written by: Ashlee Cantrell
Congratulations! Welcome to college as a first-year student! It was only a few months ago that you received your acceptance letter, and now look at you! I can only imagine what some of you may be feeling; excitement, independence, freedom, but most of all… anxiety. It is common to feel those first-day jitters. You might be thinking about how you are going to make new friends, and how you are going to find your classes; what if you don’t like your professors and your homesickness? Ugh! But don’t worry. Many people are feeling what you’re feeling right now. Let’s talk through it together.
Making New Friends
Having anxiety as a new college student is super common. In fact, I bet that at least 1 in 5 new students that you’re seeing on your campus are feeling anxious right now. So, when I tell you that you’re not alone, I mean it. Reading that you’re not alone is one thing but finding a new friend who makes you feel supported and safe is something else! Making new friends can be difficult, especially if you are nervous, or if you have social anxiety. So, how can you find a friend for support so that you can enjoy the college experience?
- Join a club of interest
- Volunteer on campus/school event
- Attend sporting events
- Eat in the common area
The key is to avoid social isolation. Social isolation can increase anxiety and make making new friends even harder. One way to avoid social isolation is to force yourself to make new friends by saying “yes” to social offers (if you’re comfortable and safe, of course)! If there are no social offers, make the first move and spark up the first conversation.
Getting Used to Classes
Throughout the first few weeks of school, you’ll discover that college classes are vastly different from high school classes. You get to take the classes you want to take and find your future niche, while also getting to meet all your new professors. But, while there is more freedom, there is also more responsibility, more walking around campus and so many assignments. It can all seem overwhelming if you’re not prepared for it. Would you like some tips?
Tip #1: Organization is key when it comes to keeping your assignments from piling up. Keep a planner with a calendar to help keep track of when all your assignments are due for each class. This will give you a visual schedule of the semester and will help you plan a study schedule for important assignments.
Tip #2: READ THE SYLLABUS. Your syllabus will include the description for each class, what materials you’ll need, the assignments to be completed, and their due dates. It will also include how assignments will be graded, the schedule for the class, and course policies such as late policies on assignments, and the tardiness policy. This information is crucial because each professor has their own rules for each class. Some professors are more lenient than others and you don’t want to mistake one professor’s rules for another.
Tip #3: If you’re on a big campus, get a map of the campus. Highlight where each of your classes are then go through the map and highlight a quick and easy pathway that you can use to get you to and from your classes. After a few weeks, you should be able to memorize the pathway you’ve chosen.
One of the most exciting things about going away to college is just that; the going away part! You get to decorate your dorm room, meet your new roommate, and get to explore your individuality. However, being on your own for the first time can often lead to feeling uncomfortable in a new environment. Whether you’re moving 50 miles from home at a college close to home, or 500 miles from home, homesickness affects most students all the same. Is homesickness something you think will affect you? Let’s talk about some ideas to help you along the way.
- Know that what you are feeling is normal. At least 70% of first-year students experience homesickness in college. You are not alone.
- Stay in touch with family and friends back home. One of the best things about the modern world is our immediate access to family members and friends. Call them, text them, and video chat them despite the distance! I know they would love to hear from you.
- Practice self-care. I know, I know. You hear all the time about self-care this and self-care that, but there’s a good reason! Prioritizing self-care helps to reduce stress in simple ways. For example, eating a well-balanced meal, getting a good night’s sleep, or taking a well-deserved break with music and a good book can help to ease stress.
Starting college as a first-year student is no small feat. This is specifically true for those with anxiety. Now that we are here, we still must answer our big pending question: How do you settle into college with anxiety? We have gone over a lot of information so let’s recap.
- Connect with your peers
- Give yourself time to adjust
- Stay in touch with family and friends
- Embrace the change
- Consider therapy
For those who still feel overwhelmed by starting college as a new student, who may feel anxious about making new friends starting new classes, or experiencing homesickness, know that you are not alone and help is out there! Consider therapy as an option with us today at URC.