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Transitioning to College


For most young adults, college is a major life change that can affect the body physically, emotionally, and mentally. Moving away from home, living in the dorms, having to manage a rigorous academic schedule, participating in different activities and taking on new responsibility are all life changes that can cause great anxiety. The normal patterns of life during grades K-12 are gone and new challenges arise, such as having to wash your own clothes, finishing homework with no reminders, and making new friends. This huge change can cause a lot of stress and sometimes this stress can feel unmanageable. When the stress of this new life feels overwhelming, it is important to reach out for help right away. Anxiety is a normal part of life, but when it begins to take over our lives it is a sign that we need some extra help to regain our mental and emotional balance.

Here are some ways to manage anxiety as you transition into this new phase of your life:

  1. Take care of yourself. When you start to feel out of balance, it’s important to do activities that are healthy for you and help keep you centered. Even if you have to force yourself to work-out at the gym, eat fruits & vegetables, or take a nap--- basic self-care activities can help to keep ​​​your life in balance.
  2. Use some coping skills. When you feel like things are spinning out of control, keep going back to the coping skills that have worked for you in the past. Try journaling to express your emotions and process your thoughts, take a walk and get some fresh air, go off campus and be in “the real world” for a few hours. If you need other ideas for healthy coping skills, click here.
  3. Get organized. All the responsibilities that go along with being on your own and taking college classes can be overwhelming. There is no one around reminding you what needs to be done. So get into a routine for studying & doing laundry, make lists, get a planner, use a calendar app, prioritize the things you need to get done. Embrace the fact that you have some independence, and learn to manage your time and responsibilities without someone looking over your shoulder!
  4. Talk to people you trust. When life gets stressful, one of the best ways to cope is to talk to your “safe” people. These are people that you can talk to who will listen and support you. Some examples of “safe” people might be your mother, father, siblings, close friends, a pastor or mentor. Sometimes it can help to call a hotline and speak with a trained crisis counselor. Boys Town Hotline/Your Life Your Voice counselors are available 24/7 at no cost and can be reached at 800-448-3000.
  5. Give yourself some time to adjust. Just because the first week or two haven’t been as great as you hoped, things can and will typically get better as you begin to adjust to your new life. Some people tell themselves to get through the first 2 weeks before going home for the weekend. Some suggest that you wait a week before you even call home. You have to know what is going to work for you. But know that calling mom or dad 5-10 times a day for the first 2 weeks probably isn’t going to be in anyone’s best interest. Hang in there, don’t give up!
  6. Know your resources. Knowing where to go for help and reading articles on coping with college stress can be an extra layer of support in your life. Transition Year is a website that offers many articles and additional support specifically for new college students. Visit their website at:
  7. Talk to your school’s counseling center. Most schools offer professional counseling that is free for their students. Talking with a licensed therapist is an excellent way to learn how to manage the challenges of life during college. A lot of students use the counseling center, so do not feel alone!


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