Heading off to university is a major milestone full of exciting changes, however the transition from home to university life can cause anxiety for some. A recent American College Health Association assessment found that 63% of students at university in the U.S. claimed to have experienced “overwhelming anxiety” with going off to college. The assessment stated that it was the initial transition away from home and into college that caused the sharpest increase in anxiety, and incoming college freshman were highest at risk for experiencing anxiety.
How to cope with anxiety in college
Fortunately, there are many healthy and effective coping methods for managing college anxiety to ensure your transition is as smooth as possible.
Here are 9 ways to overcome the anxiety of heading off to college.
- Visit the campus
Fear of the unknown is one of the biggest triggers of college anxiety. Even if you already toured the campus previously, revisiting the campus can help establish a sense of familiarity. If visiting in advance is not possible, take the edge off your anxiety by finding, downloading, and familiarizing yourself with the online campus map. The more you learn about your new surroundings in advance, the more prepared and confident you’ll feel.
- Prepare as much as you can in advance for college life
Part of the university experience is learning life skills. Before heading off, be sure you know the basics:
- How to cook/prepare a healthy meal
- How to budget expenses
- How to do laundry
- How to clean the kitchen and bathroom
- How to call and schedule a doctor appointment
- Have goals
Getting accepted to a university and going off to college have likely been your goals for the past couple years. You did it! Great job! It is now time to set new goals for your upcoming college experience. Setting some college goals is a great way to grow your confidence one achievement at a time, and the best part is, you can decide what an achievement For example, you could make it a goal to enroll in an extracurricular activity, introduce yourself to someone, eat a healthy meal, learn about tutoring options, become acquainted with the university’s technology (such as familiarizing yourself with a new school laptop), learn how to budget your expenses, etc.
Pro tip: Keep your goals flexible. College is a time for exploration and changes are not only possible, but they are also likely.
- Practice self-care
Self-care is any act that restores your sense of confidence and calm, and everyone can benefit from it. Self-care is not gender specific, and it looks different for everyone. College is often a busy time for many young adults and taking time for self-care is crucial for managing anxiety.
College self-care ideas: Exercise, eat healthy, laugh (laughter is literally the best medicine), take a nap, limit caffeine, get a massage, come up with a grounding ritual or routine for coping with stress, meditate, practice art, listen to music, etc.
- Lean into supportive new friendships
Everyone starting college has the trifecta of nervousness, hopes, and questions. Chances are, you will meet many other people who share your feelings, interests, and values. Be friendly and be patient. Friendships are not forged overnight, and it takes time to get to know people. Avoid interacting with people who may potentially add to your anxiety, and instead, be selective. Building a supportive community takes time, but remember, you’re not alone. The reality is that the majority of the other college students are probably feeling very similar to how you feel. You really are in great company.
- Keep in touch with parents, family, or friends back home
Your family and friends will be missing you just as much as you miss them. Reaching out to someone with whom you already have a strong relationship with is often a great antidote to anxiety and feelings of homesickness. Nothing overcomes anxious feelings like a catch-up chat with a longtime friend or a family member.
- Decorate your dorm room
Making your surroundings feel like home can be super helpful for managing anxiety. Display pictures of happy memories, designate a specific space for work or relaxing, and be sure to invest in a comfy mattress and bedsheets. Your dorm is your temporary home away from home, so make it a place that you enjoy being in.
Therapist tip: Keep your favorite snacks and nourishing treats on hand.
- Embrace the change
Going off to college can seem intimidating, but college is an exciting time full of possibilities and hope. The next few years will be over before you know it, so enjoy it. You are starting a new adventure, and absolutely anything is possible.
Pro tip: Avoid overloading yourself and give yourself time and space to embrace the adventure that is college. It is good to be ambitious, but if your course load is overwhelming, it’s ok to re-evaluate.
- Know when to get help
College can be stressful at times, and establishing a relationship with a therapist before the anxiety hits may be a good idea. If your college jitters aren’t subsiding, help is available. Please reach out for help by talking to a parent, friend, teacher, coach, or you could even contact me.
You are not alone
If you would like to set up a therapy or coaching session, I offer convenient virtual services with an easy pay-as-you-go scheduling feature. If you would like to request an appointment, then please contact me here. I would love to hear from you! I am here to make quality care as easy and accessible as possible for you, so if you have any questions, please let me know.
Hi there! I am Lida Far, MS, LPC, CST. I’m a licensed Professional Counselor, Certified Sex Therapist, and Coach, and I have been providing a judgement-free, no-shame-allowed space for healing and growth to flourish for over 15 years. Being entrusted with sensitive information is a privilege I take very seriously, and by leveraging a progressive approach to foundational psychotherapy techniques, I help my clients recover, regain, and revive their lives and relationships. Learn more about me or explore my services.