It was a few years ago, but I remember it like it was yesterday. I was in my freshman dorm room; my parents had just left and I was trying to organize my side of the room. I was waiting for my new roommate to arrive. We spoke a little on the phone, but I had no idea what living with a stranger would entail. That’s when “being a freshman” hit me. On one hand, I was excited to be on my own and choose my own schedule. On the other hand, that kind of abrupt change began to feel overwhelming and lonely.

It’s nice to look back and see how much I grew and found myself, but it wasn’t without growing pains. To ease the process for others, here are some things I wish I knew going into freshman year. The best part? Research backs it up, so you don’t have to take my word for it!

  1. Difficult feelings will arise – and it’s ok!

This is a huge change! Whenever there’s a change in our lives, even if it’s good and something we want, it often comes with uncomfortable feelings. It’s our body’s way of helping us navigate something new. It’s absolutely ok to have feelings of loneliness, anxiety, sadness, confusion and even anger. In fact, it’s better to own it and deal with it, rather than ignore it. Studies have found that one of the main reasons students drop out of college in the first 2 years is due to not dealing with stress and these feelings appropriately. Emotional and social adjustment is as important as academic adjustment! When you start to feel this way, seek social support, or other positive means of coping. Don’t know where to begin? Read the next tip!

  1. Create a support network

One of the best ways to deal with the very normal, and very real stress of college, is to have a support network. Research shows that faculty and peer support significantly predict more successful adjustment to college. If you don’t know where to begin, colleges have mental health professionals on staff that you can speak with for free. It’s part of health services and they’re there for you. College is also a great time to join clubs and get involved in activities. Not only will this be fun for you, it’s an easy way to meet like-minded people who can easily turn into good friends.

  1. What do you care about? Now is the time to find out

What are some of your values? Clarify who you are, what is important to you and what kind of person you want to be in the world. What virtues do you aspire to, and hold in high regard when you see them demonstrated by others? Do you know what your personal boundaries are? It’s awesome to try out new things, now’s the time! However, you might encounter lots of things along the way that can get you out of focus. Explore, but stay true to yourself! It is only when you are clear about what you care about, that you are capable of planning and learning to make better decisions.

  1. Have fun and take care of yourself!

Seriously. Join a yoga class, play some sports, create some art, practice mindfulness – there are plenty of ways to have fun and take care of yourself. Get enough sleep, eat well, laugh out loud, get involved in an activity that helps others, have fun with friends, read a book, listen to your favorite music, write a journal, or work on a relaxing project. Pick something that you like and is enjoyable that helps you feel good. Research says that students who do this are creating a buffer against stress, and have a better chance at succeeding in college.

You’ve worked really hard to get here! You put in a ton of time and effort to make the grades, fill out the application and get accepted to college. Not everybody can say that. Enjoy this next chapter by seeking comfort and support when needed, exploring what college has to offer, besides Biology 101, and recognizing that taking care of yourself is a sign of strength. You’ve got this!

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