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Starting and returning to college reminders

From my personal experience of starting college, it was a difficult transition where I was very close to dropping out. College can be a fun and exciting time but it is not always rainbows and butterflies; it can often be a difficult time for many. For any students starting or returning to college, I’ve included some helpful mental health tips.

Words in images:

1) Often college is portrayed as “the best time of your life” where perhaps the difficulties and challenges are not highlighted as much. This can contribute to feelings of “Why am I the only one feeling like this?” or “I shouldn’t feel this way” when our experience of college does not match what we see on TV/social media.

If you are feeling like you are far from “living your best life” when in college, you are most definitely not alone in this, although it may seem like you are the only one.

2) Back in school/home, you might have been known as “the smartest”, “the best athlete”, “popular” etc.

When you start college, these labels or roles may feel like they no longer apply to you.

The letting go of such identities may be challenging, upsetting and you may feel “lost” at times in who you are without these labels.

3) For those moving away from home or going to a college with little or no previous friends, you may be without some of your home comforts. This can be a big change considering you may have spent the majority of the past 18 months at home or with the same people.

It is important to still connect to some home comfort through this transition; perhaps bring comforting items like blankets, photos, teddys from home, or arranging calls/meetups with friends you are already comfortable with.

4) Making new friends does not always happen instantly, it may take several weeks or months to find people who you truly connect with.

Often in larger colleges, you may get chatting to someone once, and may not see them ever again.

Be patient with yourself and try not to compare how “quickly” others are making friends.

5) Making new friends can also be exhausting. Often when we start to make friends, it takes a lot of effort to put ourselves out there to begin chatting with someone and staying in contact with that person.

It also takes more energy to do this compared to hanging out with people we are already comfortable with.

6) College may even feel like a bigger transition alongside the current transition of many things reopening since lockdown.

You may have worries around Covid-19, social distancing, being in larger crowds, feeling pressured to go to social events when not feeling ready to, trying to make friends (oh and maybe some assignments too).

Try to nourish yourself as best as possible and find what feels right for you for where you are at now.

7) There are many different types of support within colleges to help you with this transition.

Many colleges have mental health supports but these may have long waiting lists.

Despite these waiting lists or if you do not feel ready to start therapy, it can be useful to reach out to college counsellors to see if there are alternative affordable supports in the college/area or perhaps talks/events/societies on campus that may help with some difficulties you are experiencing.

8) College is not everything. It may feel like it is everything especially if you have been told many times by perhaps colleges, schools, family, friends, media etc. that it is everything. However, it is not.

There are so many more options out there despite it feeling like college is the only route.

9) If you unsure if you have picked the right course/college, the below words of Baz Luhrmann in the song ‘Everybody’s Free (To Wear Sunscreen)’ may be helpful:

“Don’t feel guilty if you don’t know what you want to do with your life. The most interesting people I know didn’t know at 22 what they wanted to do with their lives. Some of the most interesting 40-year-olds I know still don’t.”

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