As a young person entering into college life, you are probably having many thoughts about what lies ahead and feeling excited about this fresh start. Your parents are excited too, and probably nervous that their teenage child is now moving into adulthood. They may have had successful college years, or perhaps, they are seeing a dream they had for their own education realized, as you enter into college. Their feelings and expectations, when combined with your own, are a part of a transformation that can be both exciting and terrifying.
Young adulthood is already a time of transition that usually includes establishing a new identity and managing new emotions. Going to college presents even more change during this time, and that will require you to have a stronger ability to adapt. Moving into a new environment and meeting new people means leaving everything that’s familiar. The past may have been great—something that’s hard to leave behind; or maybe it was more difficult, you struggled just to get through, and what you’re facing may be a welcome change. Regardless of your experience, what’s happening now is a loss; a loss of your adolescence, of a time in which your family and friends provided a pretty reliable safety net when you needed it.
What often aren’t addressed are the common fears, the nerves, and anxieties, that often surface while trying to figure out a new way to establish yourself in a new environment. It’s important to acknowledge that these struggles and new emotions can occur naturally in this stage of life. It’s normal for young adults to feel stress at this time. Stressors, such as figuring out new living arrangements, redefining your role in your parent’s home, managing finances, long distance relationships, breakups, or how to add or drop a class can mean extra demands that you may not have been prepared for. Adapting to changes, learning new coping mechanisms, or revisiting some familiar ones are all important strategies that can help you feel grounded.
The following are a few tips to help maintain some sense of normalcy and maybe gain a little relief while adjusting to the changes that are natural in this stage of life.
1. Good time management is important! It’s time to start putting it into practice, if you haven’t yet. By having an organized schedule, you can stay on track of your priorities and tackle each day in a proactive fashion.
2. Implement a routine of healthy habits. You can’t succeed if you don’t stay healthy! Tight budgets, new parties, a heavy caseload, and late night snacks, can wreak havoc on healthy habits. Preventing illness, and having a healthy routine can help you keep some balance in your new environment.
3. Ask for help. Sometimes it’s not clear where to go, or maybe it’s embarrassing to ask. Identify the fear and recognize that it may be holding you back from getting good information. Then you can find out who has the answers, or at least where you can go for some direction. Once you ask, you can move through the fear and move forward. Your college is full of resources, such as counselors, mentors, and other advocates. Don’t hesitate to ask your parents, teachers, or new friends at school for some assistance. Remember: at some point, everyone needs help with something. None of us can do it alone!
4. A social outlet may bring many great benefits. Getting into campus life will help you learn your way around and build a support system. Being able to have friends to turn to in tough times is important. It’s also great to have them in times of celebration. Having fun with friends stimulates healthy hormones that can help you feel better emotionally and physically; so join a club, play intramural sports, or start another new activity that will inspire new friendships.
5. Remember your safety net. Returning home on weekends or vacations to get “refueled” can give you a short break and allow you to return refreshed. A home environment that makes you feel safe and that’s familiar can be very comforting, and may give you just what you need to make it through the end of a tough semester.
6. Take time to relax and enjoy yourself. Staying present and in the moment can help you appreciate and recognize what is going on around you. Slowing down and being mindful is important for you to stay healthy and create a successful college experience.
The start of your college experience can be complicated, but it’s also an opportunity to get your feet wet as you’re branching out into the adult world. Using healthy coping skills and building a support system will get you through the tough spots. As you become more familiar with your new life, being able to trust yourself to manage what’s ahead, and find enjoyment in it, will help this transition be a fun and successful one.
© Copyright 2010 by Danielle Organista, LMFT, therapist in Seal Beach, California. All Rights Reserved. Permission to publish granted to GoodTherapy.org.
The preceding article was solely written by the author named above. Any views and opinions expressed are not necessarily shared by GoodTherapy.org. Questions or concerns about the preceding article can be directed to the author or posted as a comment below.