How to Survive Your First Year of College


Have you ever been on a roller coaster? There is something really thrilling about being able to sail through the air – it really is a marvel of modern mechanics.

One of the best things about being on a roller coaster is the climb. You’re drawn little by little up a huge hill and then come to the top, where you hover for just a few moments before the big drop. That’s when the ride really begins. This, my friends, is a metaphor for our lives. In our case, the climb is growing up, going through high school and graduating from it. Going to college? That’s the drop.

Getting used to college is a huge transition. You’ve become accustomed to being able to rely on your friends, your church and whatever support system held you up through the course of your life so far, but now you’re in a strange place with strange people trying to learn so you can get out into the “real world” and make something of yourself. It’s all intimidating stuff and can become really stressful. Fortunately, you can draw on the experiences of others who have been there to manage the experience. This ride is going to go faster than you think!

Master Your Time

When you get to college, you quickly find you can do whatever you want. This can be a good thing or a really, really bad thing. In your case, things are going to be just fine. Make it a priority to learn how to manage your time, as it is going to be one of the best things you’ll ever do for yourself and will help you all the way through life. There are so many options for time management, but they all come down to one of two things: electronic methods or paper. Choose an app or get a notebook, then get to work.

Get Lots of Rest

People really glorify the all-nighter, but as someone who has been there, I can tell you it isn’t all that great. In fact, it stinks. Pulling an all-nighter may occasionally be necessary, but it shouldn’t be a way of life. As hard as it can be to miss out on some of the late-night fun on campus, you owe it to yourself to get some rest. You’ll be so grateful when you see someone else falling asleep in class during an important lecture, while you’re awake and alert.

Make Time for Movement

Stress can take its toll on your psyche, but great ways to start getting out some of your frustration is to walk, run or swim. Getting a daily dose of exercise will help to raise your spirits. Science tells us that making time for vigorous exercise three days a week has the same positive effects as taking a low level of anti-depressant. This means you’re going to get a boost to help you through the initial blues of being separated from your family and enjoy the added bonus of staving off the “Freshman 15” – the weight gain you commonly experience in your first year of college.

Put Procrastination in Its Place

It’s easy to put off to tomorrow what you can do today, especially once you get to college. You’ve become used to having teachers and parents keep you accountable about how you spend your time and where you go. The newly found freedom will feel wonderful, but if you make procrastination one of your new habits, you’re going to find your stress levels going way up. After all, you have to get the work done at some point and procrastinating will mean you may have to do it all at once!

Develop Real Friendships

Getting away from home is an amazing thing, but you don’t want to end up lonely. This means you have to make an effort to find good people to be with. It’s imperative that you form true connections with new people. Make sure you link up with friends who are going to share your goals and ambitions. Watch their character and habits carefully to ensure you are hanging around with people who are going to be a good influence on you.

Going to college is a big step for everyone and will likely be your first foray into actually being on your own. There will be a lot of ways you grow and, as you do, you’ll find that you may feel a little off balance. College can be a bit stressful at first, but you are going to find your niche. Don’t be afraid!

No one should have to go through a battle alone. If you or someone you know needs help, please see the list of resources we put together just for you.

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Rene Brooks
Rene Brooks

René Brooks is a passionate advocate for women with ADHD and the Mental Health Community. She is the founder of Black Girl, Lost Keys, a lifestyle blog that brings attention to the conversation around race, mental health and womanhood. That project has led to features in Healthline, PBS's Roadtrip Nation, Additude Magazine, and Kaleidoscope Society.

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