Welcome to The New Chapter of Your Life: Navigating Freshman Year of College

As a freshman entering university this year, COVID has presented a number of social and health challenges. Add to that the normal transition from high school – it’s a new chapter of your life. Although it may seem overwhelming, it’s also the perfect time to explore your identity, create new goals and meet lifelong friends that share similar interests. Being able to live on your own and having the opportunity to learn in an environment curated to intellectual development are a few of the best parts of the university experience! It’s totally normal to have some hesitation about this new chapter, since everything is foreign and you’re on your own, but fear not, this is your easy guide to successfully transitioning into your new home and lifestyle! 

During this time, a lot of schools are utilizing a mixed approach to the university experience, including a combination of in-person and online instruction, which is a great way to get the full university experience safely! Joining clubs on campus that align with your particular interests are one of the easiest ways to make a community of friends that you connect with, and most clubs on campus are still operating with online meetings, which mean you can safely attend without the stress of COVID. Making the effort to connect and get to know people lets them know that you’re serious about fostering healthy relationships, and people recognize that. 

If you’re living on campus, a great idea to make friends with others on your floor or in your building is to invite them to a movie night either virtually (Netflix party allows you to watch with others) or in person in your common rooms. Putting on a funny movie or a cult classic is a great way to break the ice and get everyone in the room feeling more comfortable. You may not be best friends with everyone you live with, but getting to know them will help you settle in and feel more at ease with your living situation, and who knows, you could meet your new best friend! 

One of the most important things to remember throughout this new chapter is to take care of yourself and your mental health – take it seriously! It’s a stressful time for a lot of people and although it may seem like “the norm” to pull all-nighters and constantly be studying with no downtime, that type of lifestyle isn’t healthy in the long run. Make sure to always carve out time for yourself at least once a week, whether that’s taking yourself out for dinner or staying in and watching a movie, having a dedicated day for just yourself will go a long way when your coursework starts to pile up and it becomes overwhelming. 

If you notice your mental health slipping, take advantage of your campus resources! Most universities offer you insurance, which allows for you to get a discounted rate on therapy, and some even have university-provided therapists that are there to support you throughout your journey. Regardless of your situation, it’s a good idea to take a few minutes and see what mental health resources your university has for the future, should you need it. Seeking out help can be scary, but there are multiple resources there JUST for you to use. 

Staying organized also plays a big part in your mental well-being. If you’re taking a bunch of courses at once, go through your syllabus during your first week and mark out due dates for projects, upcoming tests, and quizzes for each course. Some people like to log this digitally on websites like Notion, or Google Calendar, while others like to use old-fashioned pen and paper. Find a way that works best for you to help stay on track of everything and be accountable. When midterm season hits, you’ll be happy you did!

This new chapter can be daunting at first, but this time is for you to navigate and explore, to find yourself and your tribe. Take advantage of new experiences (safely and within COVID protocol) and optimize your time to get your coursework done and take care of yourself.  Although it may be cliche to say, enjoy your time, as your undergraduate experience goes by in a blink of an eye. Take it from someone on the other side. Welcome new challenges with an open mind and don’t be afraid to ask for help when you need it. This chapter is all about you, so be selfish in how you divide your time and attention, your future self will thank you. 

For more inspiration on getting through your first year at university, check out How to Transition to Life After High School and How to Maintain Close Friendships

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