There’s nothing quite as fun as college can be, as long as you approach it with the right attitude and remember that this is indeed your life. You don’t get to go to college twice (well, unless you become one of those endless students).
Being a student — while potentially fun — also brings with it a bunch of not-so-fun stuff. College students often experience their first serious romantic relationship. They can also grapple with their first battle with a mental health concern — like depression, bipolar disorder, ADHD, or anxiety (like social anxiety or test anxiety).
The good news is that there’s a lot of free resources available to the savvy college student. Which includes you, since you’re reading this article.
Blah, blah, blah… Everyone’s already told you what to expect from university. So I’ll try not to repeat any of that information here.
What they may not have mentioned is that college life is actually a good prep for understanding how life works once you graduate too. It’s full of trying to juggle stress, relationships, friends, needing to do your work, but also wanting to have some fun and downtime. It’s full of its share of good times, but it’s also going to be full of a few bad times too.
Going into it with these kinds of realistic expectations can help. Understanding it’s not going to be one long, endless party is a good step too. But if all you’re doing is putting your head in a book, hibernating in the library, and playing video games, you’re also not really taking much advantage of the college experience.
College life — like life in general — is all about finding and striking a balance. A little partying is healthy, but so is studying. Making new friends is what a good part of college is all about. Staying up all night playing video games with your new friends is not (well, as long as it’s not every night).
Nobody can tell you what that balance is going to look like exactly for you, since everyone is unique and different. But finding it is something that you should treat as a priority, especially if you feel a little empty or without particular direction.
Free Stuff That’s Available To You in College
Being a college student also has lots of benefits you don’t typically get outside of university. For instance, you may not realize this, but you have access to free student counseling and therapy services. Yes, that’s right — free counseling! While this may seem like a non-benefit (“Only crazy people need that sort of help, right?”), you never know… especially if you’re feeling especially down, stressed out, or otherwise have reached some internal limit or breaking point.
Talking to someone can help. And if it’s free, wow, you can’t beat that with a big stick.
Student counseling is sometimes combined with academic counseling. One of those places is where you can get help for common student concerns like test anxiety, or figuring out how to give an oral report in front of others when the thought of doing so keeps you awake at night.
In addition to free counseling, you have the opportunity to check out a whole bunch of activities, interests, and pursuits that would normally cost you a hefty sum to investigate outside of college. Everyone can feel a little shy in stepping up and trying something new, with new people — but that’s also the fun, exhilarating part of it. I always tell myself, “Well, if it doesn’t work out or I don’t like it, I’ll never see any of these people ever again anyway, so why not give it a try?”
You may not appreciate it as much — since you have the wealth of the Internet at your fingertips — but your college library is also a much under-appreciated resource. And despite what you might think, most of the stuff at the library is not yet available online — nor as readily available to non-students (although most university libraries allow non-student patrons to use their resources too).
Outside of work, you’ll never have the opportunity to be with as many like-minded people your age, all pursuing similar activities. This is a key opportunity to make friends, and explore friendships — even ones outside of your normal comfort zone.
College life is fun, but also full of hard work, lots of studying, and lots of figuring out what you — as a person — are all about. Take the time to do all those things and more, and you’ll have a great experience you’ll always remember.
Here are some more articles you should check out on Psych Central about college life:
- College Life: Freshman Friends
- Back to School: 4 Tips for Thinking Like a Student Again
- Making the Most of Your Freshman Year of College
- College Activities: Not-So-Incidental Learning
- Post-College Planning: Build Your References from the Start
And if you’re in college and you don’t feel like you quite fit in, it may be because you were never meant for college in the first place.