Adjusting to college life

Photo by Kyle Parks.

Looking back on my first year of college, I wish that I hadn’t heard that “it’s the best four years of your life” so many times.

It made me feel as if I was an outsider because I wasn’t having fun 24/7 like everyone told me I would be. One of the worst feelings that I felt during this time was that I was alone in whatever I was feeling. Whether it was anxiety, homesickness, or just a feeling of being trapped in college, it was difficult to see that I wasn’t the only one feeling this way.

According to the most recent Association for University and College Counseling Center Directors survey, 70 percent of directors believe that their campus saw an increase in students with “severe psychological problems” over the past year.

So what can be done to help this epidemic? I composed some tips and tricks for surviving and adjusting to college life that proved very useful for me.

My first tip is to find a way to make the school feel smaller than it actually is. Even at a small, liberal arts college such as McDaniel, it can be overwhelming to be away from home and living on your own; so find something that makes campus feel more close and personal to you. Whether you are an athlete, theater kid, musician, or just interested in a club, college life is much easier to manage when you have a core group to lean on.

Another common feeling in college is homesickness, especially as a first-year student. I live just an hour or so away from campus, yet I find myself missing home frequently. If you are in a similar situation, never underestimate the power of a trip home for the weekend or even for a day. Sometimes getting away from campus life for a short time can work wonders.

If you are in a situation where a trip home for the weekend is not a realistic option, then be sure to call a parent, friend from home, or another family member just to catch up. This can help treat homesickness and also help the people back home who are missing you.

One of the most valuable skills to have is good time-management. Whether you have an extremely busy schedule or not, it is important to budget your time wisely to be both productive and also well-rested. Personally, I despise doing homework at night; particularly after practices and meetings end. I find that I work much more effectively during the day, so that is when I get the majority of my work done. This is obviously not a “one size fits all” strategy, so it’s wise to assess your own strengths as well as what time of day you produce your best work.

Another crucial tip I can offer is to utilize the resources that are available to you. If you’re unhappy with your grade in a class, talk to your professor to discuss what you can do to improve it. If you feel that you need some mental health support, then visit the counselors in the Wellness Center on campus. Believe it or not, faculty members want you to succeed, so they are willing to put in the work to make it happen as long as you are, too. College success is often reflective of the effort that you put in, so be proactive; you owe it to yourself.

The last, and arguably most important, tip that I have is to remind yourself that you are not alone.

When I struggle with anything that I previously mentioned, it helps immensely to remind myself of this. It is okay to feel exhausted, worried, or sad from time to time. Whatever it is you may be going through, chances are someone else feels the same way. College does not have to be the best four years of your life, but it doesn’t have to be a four-year nightmare, either.