Feeling Nervous About Starting College? It’s Ok, Everyone Feels That Way!
It is perfectly normal to be worried or nervous about heading to college! It is a big transition from high school to college for all young adults and especially for neurodivergent young adults. Feeling anxious before freshman year is truly a universal experience.
One way to manage anxiety is to gain control of things within one’s power. Teaching helpful coping strategies to incoming freshmen is one way to get a handle on the anxiety.
Start off each week by setting goals. This helps to keep the focus on what is to be accomplished that week and not so much on the feelings of anxiety.
Setting goals takes some thought and planning. If the goal for the first week is to meet new people, then steps must be taken in that direction. For example, instead of entering a new classroom and immediately sitting down and looking at your phone, introduce yourself to the people sitting near you and ask a low-stakes question like, “What other classes are you taking?” You can only meet new people by communicating. One tip to remember is that EVERYONE is nervous and hoping someone will talk to them!
Another goal is to finish all assignments each week. To achieve that goal, you need to make a plan to set aside time each day to study and complete homework. If time management and organization is challenging, reach out to a Life Coach or Academic Advisor and ask for help – that is what they are there for!
Setting goals can help remind you about why you decided to attend college and what you want to accomplish while you are there. Working toward achieving a goal creates structure to your days and weeks, as well as provides that sense of control that can alleviate some of the natural stress you may be feeling.
Avoid Social Isolation
One thing that makes anxiety feel worse is feeling alone and isolated. But it can be difficult to make time for socializing when you’re stressed and overworked.
One way to avoid feeling alone is to force yourself to make plans and socialize. Decide that you will say “yes!” if anyone asks you to go for coffee or grab lunch. While this may feel overwhelming, many colleges offer programs and social events to help students find friends with similar interests. Try attending a sporting event, chatting with classmates instead of being on your phone at the beginning of class, joining a club, volunteering, or talking to a resident assistant.
If meeting up with other people feels like too much, you can start by studying in the library or a common area. This is a good first step because you’re no longer isolated, but you won’t feel pressure to strike up a conversation.
Don’t forget to call home as well. A good talk with someone who truly knows you can help you feel less alone in a new environment.
Create a Study Plan
College classes can feel overwhelming when you are not organized. Assignments pile up and before you know it, you can feel like you are struggling to keep up.
One tip is to read every single page of each class syllabus and write the date of every exam or assignment due date in your calendar. This gives you a visual picture of your semester as well as lets you plan ahead. From there, you can plan a study schedule that will help you stay on track with each class. Knowing when important due dates are approaching will help you predict weeks that will be especially busy and stressful.
If you have a hard time organizing your studies, make an appointment with your Academic Advisor, Life Coach, or college tutor.
There seems to be no lack of advice for practicing self-care and for good reason: it helps to reduce stress and anxiety. Simply getting enough sleep has been proven to decrease anxiety. Other ways to prioritize self care is to eat a balanced diet and move your body.
Try making a plan to eat a balanced breakfast every day. And to get your body moving, go for a walk around campus when the anxiety starts to bubble up or join an intramural sports team.
Taking care of yourself means taking breaks. This doesn’t mean you should avoid any situations but rather, give yourself a chance to rest and relax. Do the things you like to do such as going to see a movie, meeting a classmate for coffee, or listening to music.
Consider Talk Therapy
Sometimes, it becomes difficult to address your anxiety on your own. Most colleges have mental health services and counseling centers on campus. You can also find many independent therapists, and they are a great option as well.
A mental health professional can help you work through your anxiety and reassure you that you are not the only one living with those feelings. It can be difficult to take that first step in trying therapy and seeking professional help. However, it may end up being one of the best decisions you’ve ever made. Consider what’s most important to you when finding the right therapist.
Embrace the Change
One of the best and scariest parts of starting college is all of the change. Even though the change can be overwhelming and daunting, it also holds a lot of possibilities and hope.
When thinking about the change that is to come when you attend college, try and remember why you made this decision in the first place. Instead of thinking about all of the bad things that can happen, try and remind yourself of all the good things and the reasons that make you excited for this time in your life.
Embrace the change and live in the present moment. You got this!