College Student Survival Guide
With tens of thousands of students either returning to or entering college for the first time this week, there can be many potential pitfalls that can hinder their success. Students often focus on their course work and forget to tend to their mental health. Daniel Applegate, with Compass Counseling and Consulting, is here to discuss what to look out for and how to get help.
What went in to your survival guide for college student?
This idea was put together from themes that come up in my office when working with college students. Whether you are an incoming Freshman, an upperclassman, a graduate/PhD student, or a more mature, non-traditional student coming to college or back to college in your 30s or 40s, life doesn’t stop happening because you’re in school. There is a recipe for success in college, and similarly, there is a recipe for not succeeding. This always includes neglecting your physical and mental health.
What are some of the aspects of college life that creates challenges?
School Responsibilities—perfection is unobtainable-set realistic expectations, organize yourself now!
Social Life—peer pressure, pre-gaming, alcohol abuse, drug use, sorority/fraternity culture, sexual assault, becoming your friend’s therapist—so bad!
Romantic relationships—LD relationships are nearly impossible while in college, becomes easy to ignore school to spend time with partner
Family Pressures— knowing how often to stay in touch, if they are close are they pressuring you to visit on weekends when you may need to be studying?
Engaging in extracurriculars—bands, clubs, political organizations—all these take time—be sure you have the time to give. You only have one of you and only have 100% to give.
Athletics—time consuming, travel, practice, etc. Stay organized.
Doing all this while trying to manage your depression or anxiety, or festering negative thoughts
What about graduate students?
Graduate school is so demanding! If you’re a graduate student, you have most of the previous commitments and more–perhaps you’re married, have kids, own a house. The pressures for graduate school are magnified, and a greater percentage of marriages do not survive while one partner is in grad school.
International students may face more unique challenges, such as never having been out of their home country, having to learn how things in America works, whether it’s banks, shopping, and things we often take for granted. Additionally, some students come from cultures where shaming is a norm; meaning, they are here to get an education and go back home to provide for their families, and if they fail, they feel great shame. Some of these cultures accept suicide as an acceptable option if you have shamed the family. Furthermore, some cultures do not have counseling and care very little for mental health issues. This is a big roadblock for international students seeking help!
What can students do to maintain all these pressures?
Seek help. You don’t know something until you know it, and that’s ok. College is a different beast, and you have to take care of yourself! Self care! Access to yoga, gyms, pools, and tons of ways to get involved in the music and arts community
The Counseling center on campus will get you some initial help. You get 5-6 sessions for free at the counseling center, and then they will refer you out to someone in the community. If you have opted in for your student health insurance at the university you can get counseling for a very small copay.
Learn to set healthy boundaries—don’t let yourself be taken advantage of when it comes to friendships
Create a good support system—family, close friends, at church, mentors, etc.
Do not neglect your mental health! Whether you are coming to college with a history of mental health challenges, or you develop depression, anxiety, stress while at college, get yourself into counseling! Counseling can become a part of your self care, your positive support structure, and can alleviate a lot of the concerns that are coming up for you.