Freshman Year Can be Tricky; Here’s What You Need to Know When it Comes to Mental Health

On the drive to college, there's a lot of thoughts flying through your head. It might be your first time away from home, finally getting the chance to experience the world through a lens you haven't before; a lens even better than the new pair of Ray Band aviators you got for your 19th birthday. Finally, you get to see if the college experience you've watched movies about and read in books lives up to the reputation. Love at first sight, quarter-life crisis, wild nights full of memories you'll never live down. It's the start of an adventure that is solely yours, and the most exciting part? You can be whoever you want to be. You have the chance to reinvent yourself completely. On that drive, you’re fluctuating back and forth between the nerves of leaving home and the excitement of knowing you’re possibly going to be living on a floor with your future best friends. Maybe this article has found you on that drive, a fresh adult in the backseat wanting to know how to make their freshman year the best it can be. It’s likely if you’re reading this, that you struggle with mental health, just like me. While college and the endless possibilities it offers are incredibly exciting, it’s also incredibly daunting. It can easily pose a huge obstacle to your mental health if you aren’t ready for the big change of scenery. Have no fear, because even if you struggle from time to time, adapting to college can always be done.

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In the first few days of college, everyone is trying to find their place. They're meeting new friends, finding the dining hall highlights, and buying more books than they could care to check the price tag on. If you're like me, and you know that you need counseling regularly, this is the time to solidify your spot. At many schools, the counseling center is inundated with students at the start of the year who want to start arrangements for therapy or to see a psychiatrist. These waitlists get full fast, and you don't want to end up needing help down the line and having to be referred off-campus. School counseling is usually discounted or included with your university experience while sometimes off-campus treatment can be expensive and may not work with your insurance. With that in mind, be sure to keep your insurance card with you and contact the behavioral health branch of your insurance (if you have it) to make sure you know what your options are. If you don't, it's always a good idea to form a relationship with the counseling center, anyway, so they can help you navigate the process.


It might seem intimidating to ask for help, especially in front of people you don’t know on an unfamiliar campus. But rest assured, your best interest is to focus on the care you need. Additionally, it’s good to remember that college students are generally much less worried about what other people are doing than in high school. Remember that you can be who you want to be here, and that other people are worried more about their struggles and their perception of themselves rather than your struggles and their perception of you. You are free to be yourself and not worry what others might be thinking. It’s more likely than you’d think that the same girl you pass in the hallway on the way out of the counseling center is on her way in.

College is also a huge change in environment, so be prepared to experience a lot of ups and downs. It’s okay to cry in your room the first day if you’re overwhelmed or call your mom at the end of the week to vent your frustration. This is normal. You are not the only person who is upset about sorority rush not going well (cough, me), or about their iced coffee spilling on her lap in her first lecture of the day.

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College is not a replica of its representation in movies all the time. It’s a lot of free time to the point of confusion, and many moments of feeling in over your head. Remember that you’ve faced hardships and lows before, and you have come out of them each time. Give college a chance to prove to you that you deserve to be there. Don’t underestimate the power of other people being around to help you adapt and grow within the first month. Remember, at the end of every hard day, you came to college to learn and advance your success. Despite the bumps along the way, you'll be more interesting and understanding at the end of the next four years. Being away from home can be disorienting and confusing. Give yourself space to take it in and to adjust. Try to venture into your dorm’s common area and meet your hallmates, or take a browse at the involvement fair, if you have time. Make an effort to do anything that will get you out of your room. Joining something bigger will help with feeling like you're on your own, even if it comes with some anxiety at first. Use that nervousness as fuel to do things that push you out of ruts in your mood.


Most importantly, college is about learning and defining who you are. That might mean accepting that you struggle with mental health at times and learning how to help yourself when you aren’t around the people that usually lift you up. This is something to be excited about. You realize that you are your biggest hero and biggest critic. You get to discover a person inside of you that you may not have met before and to help the new ‘you' through your new life away from home. Learning to accept the aspects of life you struggle with and your anchors that weigh you down is okay! We all have them, and those of us who are learning how to deal with our mental health know the battle all too well. This time is crucial in learning that your struggles are not flaws, they are what make you a human being (a good one at that!) Have faith in your fears, don’t run from your tears, and know that people who love you are only a phone call away.


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