Heading off to college is a really exciting time. You’re entering a season that will have a big impact on the rest of your life in a lot of different ways. Not only are you about to discover a lot about yourself—your passions and interests, your weaknesses and strengths, and what type of career might be a good fit for you—but you’re also about to meet a lot of new people and make some friendships that you might take with you well into your adult years.
College looks different for everyone, but no matter who you are, there are a few things you can do to win at this whole college thing. Consider the following as you think through your future at school.
1. Connect with people
It can feel a little like you’re the new kid in third grade as you meet your roommates, classmates, and other people at your chosen university those first few weeks. If you’ve had the same friends for years at your old high school or in your hometown, it can be a bit of a change to flex that friend-making muscle and remember how to sort of sit in the awkwardness of not knowing anyone deeply yet.
The good news is that if you’re new to this college, you’re in the same boat as a whole lot of other people as well. If everyone is new, then you can rest easy knowing that everyone is probably feeling similar to you, so don’t be afraid to reach out and invite someone to go grab a meal at the dining hall or to try out for an intermural sports team with you. Friendships take time to grow, so keep in mind that you’re in this for the long game. It might be a whole year before you start to feel very settled, but chances are good that it will happen much more quickly than that.
2. Go to class
Skipping class is often a college student’s dream, and while skipping class every now and then might be delightful and necessary, it really is very important that you try to go to class as much as possible. While it’s tempting to stay in bed snoozing instead of hoofing it across campus at 6:45 in the morning to your history class, your college experience will not be enjoyable if you continually miss class.
A massive part of your time at college is solely to learn important information and get your degree. Better grades mean graduating higher up in your class, and that could make all the difference in the type of job you get someday.
3. Pay attention to stress and anxiety
It can be easy to sweep your mental health under the rug, but it’s really important that you pay attention to and manage your stress and anxiety. There’s a lot coming at you in college between academics, your social life, and new situations that you might not be certain about how to handle. It’s a good idea to find some ways to work through your negative emotions, so you know what your options are when the time comes.
Exercise is a great way to deal with worry and anxiety, as it uses up the cortisol in your body. Consider talking your worries through with someone—maybe your roommate is a great listener or you have a new friend you could go on a walk with. Consider journaling or getting involved with something new. Does your college campus have a counseling center? This is about the only time in life you’ll be able to receive free professional counseling as an adult, so don’t be afraid to take advantage of it.
4. Try new things
College is a really unique time in life because it’s a great opportunity to try a bunch of things you might not normally have given the time of day. Is there a sport you’ve always wanted to try? Try out for an intermural sports team! Curious about trying a new hobby or extracurricular activity? There’s probably a club for that. Get involved at a new church. Go to social events or parties, even if you feel a little intimidated. If you’re not sure where to start, host something yourself and be the first one to take initiative. There’s probably a lot of people who are looking for a friend or to try something new—just like you.