Going off to college is an important time in a young person’s life. It is the start of a new life, one that will be filled with increasingly more responsibility and a lot of independence. Although it is an exciting time, it can also be a frightening one. There will be so many questions and uncertainties, and it’s hard to know where to go.
Let’s look at some of the ways by which to conquer or alleviate some of those fears.
1) Go to the freshmen orientation event.
Nothing will ease some of those early “going to college anxieties” like the freshmen orientation program. It is designed to introduce you to important things you will need to know. You can meet other freshmen who are in the same position at the same time. Being surrounded by a bunch of people who are in the very same position that you are in will help you realize that what you are feeling is normal. It’s also a great way to start to make some friends.
2) Communicate with your roommate.
Sometimes colleges will contact incoming freshmen to let them know the name of their roommate. If the roommate has given their address and other information, the college may release that. Talking to your roommate can be very helpful. After getting over the chit chat about who is going to bring what and how to decorate your room, you can discuss your real fears.
3) Talk to other freshmen.
Don’t be afraid to talk to other freshmen. They are in the exact same boat. Sometimes having someone initiate a conversation will really get the ball rolling. When everyone else is feeling similarly, it will be easy to talk about those fears once the ice is broken. The orientation program is the first way to initiate this. Talk to people as you wait to go into a classroom. Say hello to someone sitting next to you.
4) Take advantage of your resident assistant.
Freshmen who live in dorms will have a resident assistant who is responsible for overseeing things on a floor or wing of the dorm. The resident assistant is always an upper-class person who goes through some training, and part of their job is helping freshmen adjust more easily.
5) Talk to your faculty advisor.
Most students have a faculty advisor. This is the person who consults with you before you register for classes. Once you’ve declared a major, your adviser is a faculty member in the department of your major. No matter how experienced or inexperienced the adviser is, they will have gone through exactly what you are, and they can help ease your anxieties.
6) Talk to teaching assistants and upperclassmen.
Many undergraduate classes are taught by teaching assistants. This is especially true of courses like freshmen composition or rhetoric. A teaching assistant is a graduate student who has already gone through what you are going through, and they are basically student teachers who are training to be college professors. A good teaching assistant will be very understanding. Upperclassmen are often very willing to be helpful to incoming freshmen. After all, they went through the same thing themselves.
7) Be prepared ahead of time.
Don’t wait until the last minute to find out where your classes are or to buy your books and supplies. There is always the possibility that the bookstore will run out of the books that you need. That will mean you have to wait until the store can get more. Make sure you get any software you might need. Get reference materials you will need in advance as well.
8) Never isolate yourself.
Avoid spending too much time alone. When you are anxious and filled with fear, the more time you spend alone, the more likely it is that you will stew in your fears. That will just turn the fears into a vicious cycle and cause you to spiral into a more unstable emotional state.
9) Never be afraid to ask for help.
Sometimes anxiety and fears can really take control of one’s life. If there comes a point where the fears and anxieties seem to be controlling you rather than you being able to control those fears, it may be a good idea to seek professional help. Colleges offer counseling for students who need it, and they do it for free. Start at the counseling service and they can refer you elsewhere if need be.
10) Remember that you are not alone.
It’s important to keep things in perspective. Remember that you are not alone in feeling what you feel. Every other college freshman is probably feeling the same thing. Your professors, upperclassmen, and teaching assistants have also experienced it. Accept that this is is a normal part of starting college for the first time. It is a phase that will pass.
11) Take time for yourself.
Make sure that you remember to take some time for yourself. If working out helps you alleviate stress, allocate some time in the day to work out. If watching television is the best way for you to unwind, then decide what shows you really want to watch and plan to give yourself the time to do that.
12) Don’t use food to self-medicate.
Every prospective college freshman hears about the “Freshman 15.” Many students are at a loss as to how to deal with the fear, anxiety, and loneliness they feel when they are first away from home. They try to squash those feelings by eating a lot of junk food like pizza. Poor nutrition will make you feel tired and run down; your brain won’t work at it’s best and you might even feel depressed. Proper nutrition is fuel for both your body and your brain.
All that junk food that leads to weight gain only makes the emotional turbulence that a new college freshman is feeling more intense. It contributes to a negative self-image and feelings of doubt.
13) Join some social or academic organizations on campus.
Sororities and fraternities are a great way for a college freshman to meet other people who have similar interests. So are academic organizations. If you play a musical instrument, and that’s something you love doing, consider trying out for the school orchestra or marching band. Keeping yourself busy by doing something you love will take your mind off of things that bother you.
Try not to let the fears control you. Accepting them and dealing with them is one thing, but dwelling on them and obsessing about them can make them more powerful than the fears really are.
There are people who care, people with whom you can talk, and places where you can go, but most of all, remember that you are stronger and more powerful than any of those fears.