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Adjusting to College Life

It’s not unusual to experience a period of low mood or increased anxiety while adjusting to a major life change, such as starting college. Your role in your family may have to undergo dramatic changes as you shift into a student role, which can cause stress for all family members.  This is especially true if few of your family members have attended college; you and your family may feel frustrated at the demands college places on your time and energy. You may find yourself balancing work, family, and school, and not having much time to rest and recover. If you relocated to come to UMSL, you may feel homesick.  Many students on campus worry about connecting socially and romantically with others, and may thus struggle with loneliness.

Here are some tips to help you adjust to college life:

  1. Stay engaged. Take part in college activities or first year experiences to build your connection to your new life on campus and make new friends.
  2. Establish a personal routine. Finding your rhythm and keeping each day as consistent as you can will help you get rest and feel more relaxed in your new role as a college student. If you are someone who goes to bed early and everyone's staying up late, it's OK to go to bed early.
  3. Do something to feel closer to home. Write a letter, look at a family photo.
  4. Talk to someone. Seek out people who either understand what you're going through or have similar feelings. There is probably a student group on campus that is full of people who share your interests and/or background and have felt how you feel.
  5. Explore your new surroundings. Look online for new places nearby to check out, or just go for a walk. Asking others about their favorite places to eat or hang out is a great icebreaker, too.
  6. Remember time flies. Think that time is actually pretty short to make time go by faster.
  7. Exercise. Even just a 20-minute walk can improve your mood, reduce anxiety, and help you connect to your new environment.
  8. Refrain from comparing yourself to other people. It’s tempting to assume that you’re the only one struggling with adjusting to college life, but beware of comparing your internal experiences to others’ external appearances. Lots of people find college challenging, but not everyone talks about it.
  9. Consider talking to a therapist. If your adjustment period is lasting more than a few weeks and you’re having trouble getting to class, taking care of yourself, and/or feeling like yourself, it may help to talk to a professional. Call 314-516-5711 to schedule an appointment with UMSL Counseling Services.