Transitioning from high school into university can be daunting at first. A student has to deal with making new friends, learning to survive without their parents, the stress of an education system that demands more from them, the anxiety of the future and much more.
So it isn’t too hard to believe that many students find themselves at least partially depressed for the first year. It is important for students who are preparing to enter university to keep some things in mind while they start their new educational journey.
Below is a list of ten tips that university students have collected to help freshmen keep their sanity.
1. You WILL make friends
I remember spending first year watching other people go out with friends and I simply just went home. It’s easier to make friends if you live in a dorm but I commuted and while also living away from my high school friends. I had never had problems making friends before so it was difficult for me to come to terms with the fact that perhaps I wasn’t as sociable as I had always thought. But with every class you take, you meet new people and talk to a lot of students as well. Eventually you will make friends. There are also hundreds of clubs for you to meet people. If you can bring up the courage to try and meet new people, you definitely will! Even if you are a shy and reserved person, there will be projects or labs where you will get to know other classmates better.
2. Lower your expectations a little
Students at universities are high achievers and top of their class when they leave high school. It can be very depressing to see that isn’t true in university. University is much more competitive and professors mark harder. They expect more from you than your high school teachers. High school teachers had to make sure their classes were passable, even for weaker students in the subject. In university, you have the best of the best, so tests and assignments also became just as difficult. This is why it can be disheartening seeing your first bad grade. You will be much happier if you expect your mark to be lower. Don’t drop all of your expectations however. High goals help you plan and achieve more. Just keep your goals in a reasonable range. This way if you pass with flying marks, you will be ecstatic. If you barely just pass, that’s ok too. A pass is a pass. Just try harder next time. If you keep yourself from getting depressed by marks and positively strategize on how to improve your mark, you will do better in university.
3. Join Clubs
Lots of students make the mistake of not joining a club first year. Many either don’t research about clubs at their university or feel like a club will put too much on their plate for them to handle. I can tell you that joining a club is worth it. You meet new people from all walks of life. This allows you to make friends quicker. The more people you know, the more help or advice you can get. This can also help you network. You never know when someone you met in a club one year can turn into a lead for a new career or future endeavour. Joining clubs is also just good for the overall experience. Having something to do that you are passionate about that isn’t just school work can help you relieve stress and keep your mood happy. A tight, busy schedule in your life can also prevent you from going home feeling lonely and thinking about depressing things. Your mind will be more occupied with the next club meeting, the next school assignment and have no time to dwell on depression.
4. It’s Ok to be Overwhelmed
When starting university, it can be very overwhelming. There are a lot of new problems you have to deal with; living by yourself, the workload and many more. Students can sometimes feel like it is wrong to be overwhelmed. It’s easy to look around you and see everyone else doing so much better than you. Everyone looks like they have friends and all of their stuff together. You have to remember that what you see of everyone else’s life is just the highlight reel. It is perfectly ok to feel like you have no control in your life. In fact, other people are most likely thinking the same thing about you as you are about them. I told my friends countless times that they seemed so much more prepare and put together than I did. I always felt like I was never as prepared as they were. The funny thing was, they would say the same thing to me in a different class or subject. This proves that we all feel this way. We all feel like everyone else has a better handle on life than we do, but evidently they don’t.
5. It’s Ok to Ask for Help
Sometimes students may feel afraid to call their parents when they need some help. Parents of students in university might expect a lot from them and in turn students may feel like calling to ask for help is like letting them down. I know I struggled with this constant fear that my parents would feel let down by my ineptness. It’s important for you to remember that your parents love you and will help you if you need it. It’s ok to call and ask them for some money, when things get a little too tight or simply just to ask them how to properly cook a dish that you want to make. It’s even fine to just call them and talk about your worries. Having somebody to express how you are feeling to can make you feel much more secure. Also they might end up having the best advice for you. You’ll never know until you talk to them.
6. Try University counselling and Support
There is a lot of stigma that comes with having a mental illness. This makes students hesitant to get help. It is important to remember that it’s ok to be depressed. There are high levels of depression at every post-secondary education establishment. Statistics show that 1 out of every 4 college student has some form of mental illness but 75% of these students will never seek help. You can seek help secretly too if you are worried about what other people think. You shouldn’t be though, because most students will be able to relate to you. They understand how stressful life is. Plus, they may even respect you more for being brave enough to face social norms and get help. Real friends won’t judge you for getting the help you need. So do some research on the support from your school and go get help when you need it. Even one session, talking to somebody can be very useful. If you talk to a counselor about your anxieties, they may be able to advise and direct you to people who can help you strategize ways to lessen your fears and turn them into tools that help you advance in university.
7. Don’t let other people’s successes belittle your success
In this age of social media it is easy to look at someone’s life and feel envy. Seeing another person get a higher mark, a better job and generally being more successful than you can make you feel under par. This is a life lesson, not just simply something to keep in mind at university. In life there will always be people who are better than you, and there will people who are worse than you. But most people don’t look at those who are worse off and appreciate what they have. Instead they will look at what they don’t have, what could have been and feel jealous. That is fine and perfectly normal. It is human nature to want what we don’t have. That’s why it is good to take a step back and remember that you did your best and be happy with your own successes instead of dwelling on other people’s successes. Remember there are people who are just as jealous of you as you might be of someone else. This is why, also, I suggest not discussing exact marks with other people. Don’t compare your mark with others and you won’t feel this disappointment.
8. Reward yourself for your hard work
Students lead a very busy life and it can be hard for them to find time to slow down and take a break. It’s important not only to take a breather sometimes but also to celebrate your successes. Don’t treat yourself too much though, or else the reward becomes too frequent and less like a reward. Treat yourself when you have finished your exams, after midterms or completing a huge assignment that you have been working on all year. Treat yourself when you achieve a goal you’ve set for yourself. This lets you have something to look forward to and keeps you motivated to keep moving forward.
9. Get enough sleep
This is a piece advice that I have to, as they say, practice what I preach. I have to admit that I also don’t always get enough sleep. University students also probably stay up late as well. whether to finish an assignment, or simply because they are night owls, sometimes it’s easy to get by in life with only a couple of hours of sleep. However, sleep is not only important to make sure you are focused in class but also helps you from being depressed. When you don’t have enough sleep it is easier to become depressed and disappointed. You get depressed when you don’t perform as well as others because of your exhaustion but you also simply get depressed from being tired. Many students solve their sleepiness by drinking some form of caffeine. Remember that caffeine is still technically a drug. Using it to keep yourself awake and active is not actually the best thing to do everyday. Remember that when you intake caffeine you will eventually crash, and sometimes you can crash hard. This period of crashing can also lead to more depression. So instead of drinking a cup of coffee every morning, try and get enough sleep and wean yourself off of the caffeine.
10. Eat Healthier Foods
Yes, I know that it’s difficult to eat healthy especially when you might be cooking for yourself for the first time in your life. It’s much easier to go to the supermarket and buy prepackaged, frozen meals then it is to try and figure out how to cook. Eating healthier, however, can contribute to having a better mood. If your body is deficient in a nutrient, it will not work as well and this can lead you to be tired. Being tired, as stated above, can lead you to not perform as well and even lead you to be depressed. Researchers have also found that having a deficiency of vitamin D can cause depression. This is found in people with seasonal depression, those who are depressed in the winter when there is less sun but their moods improve in the summer. So eat foods with vitamin D like beef, egg yolk, cheese, tuna or yogurt, especially in the winter when you go out less. Do some research and find some easy, high nutrient recipes. Make it fun to cook, it is something to learn and do besides your schoolwork.
Yes, post-secondary education is scary. Yes, you definitely will become overwhelmed or even depressed at some point during your college career. Try all of these tips before you start feeling like the world is going to end. But most importantly, know that everything will be ok. Remember that, life won’t let you down if you don’t let it down.
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