Posted on August 13, 2019
Getting ready for college involves a lot of preparation. From stacks of paperwork to buying long lists of items for school to finding housing, there’s a lot to accomplish before making this big life transition. Getting all your ducks in a row before heading to college is important, but students tend to forget that one of the most important aspects of this transition is their mental health.
College brings with it many major changes in your life. This is likely your first time living away from home, your first time encountering a heavy school workload, and your first time being exposed to so many different social situations.
All of these changes can offer the opportunity for major personal growth. Yet, without properly preparing, college can often feel overwhelming and take a toll on your mental health. Between college admissions, deciding on which college to go to, and figuring out the balance between school and college life, you can easily become overwhelmed throughout this new phase. The stress of college can even cause anxiety for some. That’s why it’s so important to check in with your mental health and, if needed, seek assistance from a therapist who can help you to navigate through this new chapter. In addition, here are some tips for you to keep in mind as you embark on this major milestone.
One of the biggest causes of stress for college students is falling behind on coursework. If you procrastinate and always prioritize hanging out with friends over your schoolwork, it will catch up with you eventually. With that said, proper time management in college isn’t just about doing schoolwork during all of your free time, it’s also about finding the right balance between work and play.
It’s important for your mental wellbeing to do activities that are fun, relaxing, and stimulating in ways that schoolwork typically is not. Making new social connections and finding fun hobbies to participate in are important aspects of college, too. By managing your time correctly, you will be able to make room for all your schoolwork as well as some time for fun.
A planner can be a great tool for time management. In it, you can remind yourself of upcoming due dates for projects, tests, and other school responsibilities. Additionally, you can block out time for fun activities and events, such as going to your school’s sports games or simply relaxing with new friends.
College life is usually very different from anything you’ve experienced before. A big part of attending college is being exposed to new ideas and people. You’ll likely be surrounded by students from many different backgrounds who hold different worldviews and values. Additionally, your classes might expose you to new ways of thinking.
Part of preparing mentally for college is knowing that you may start to be exposed to different viewpoints other than your own. This is true not only of your college experience, but also for the rest of your life. The more willing you are to being open to different people and their opinions and viewpoints, the more opportunity you’ll have to learn from them rather than being aggravated. This doesn’t mean you have to change who you are when you go to college. It simply means you’ll grow to be open-minded.
No matter what way you slice it, college is going to be a big change. You’ll have new courses, a new campus, and new friends to meet. The reason for keeping your mental health a priority during this transition is that there will almost certainly be some challenges thrown your way. But oftentimes it’s not the challenges of going to college, but the sense of overwhelm and isolation that comes with it.
Remember, you’re not the only one feeling this way. You’re surrounded by peers who’re going through the very same transition. College is exciting and fun, but it can also be hard to be away from your home and surrounded by so much change. Part of the process is just knowing that things will feel unfamiliar for a little while, and that’s okay.
Getting ready for college mentally is a big task, but you don’t have to do it by yourself. College counseling can help you feel prepared for what’s to come. College counseling is a great opportunity to ask the questions you might have about campus life, such as what it’s like and what to expect.
There’s college counseling available for every step of your college transition. Some counselors specialize in helping you choose the right school. Others can answer your questions about your new school and help you prepare for the transition. Once you get to school, counselors are available to talk to about the changes you’re experiencing. Therapists are trained to be great resources for you too. Whatever questions you may have, you’re likely not the first student to have them. Your counselor or therapist can help you get on the right track mentally, so you can have the best experience possible away at school.
Alison LaSov, LMFT
Alison LaSov is a Licensed Marriage & Family Therapist with experience treating clients struggling with anxiety and depression. She predominantly focuses on mental health intervention for children and adolescents, particularly those who are in crisis. She has worked within the Los Angeles education system treating students with Individualized Education Plans (IEPs), as well as supervised a non-profit Teen Crisis Hotline out of Cedars-Sinai Hospital. Alison earned her B.A. from UCLA and M.A. from Pepperdine University. She is a native to Los Angeles and co-founder at Advekit.