When we get to college, it’s easy to assume that everything will go smoothly. We’ve heard so much about the “college experience” in movies, we hear about our parents’ “good old days” and we look on social media and see people seemingly having the time of their lives. But what we don’t hear about so often is that college is truly a huge transition. It requires a new sense of independence — whether it be doing your laundry weekly or making sure to set a reminder in your phone for that student org meeting.
It’s overwhelming, and you may feel like you’re supposed to have it all figured out so quickly. You may compare yourself to others and their experiences, wondering why you can’t have it like them. But the bottom line is that everyone has their own unique day-to-day struggles and experiences. College is amazing, but it’s also tough. Here are some of the top stressors of college life and how to handle them.
1. Academic stress
Classes here at the University of Wisconsin-Madison are no joke. The work piles up quickly, and if you’re not keeping up with those readings, you’ll most likely fall behind. You may just feel like a number in those huge lecture halls, and it can be scary to speak up and ask your TA a question about an assignment. You may have never taken a college test before, and you don’t know what to expect for that Chem 103 midterm.
My main piece of advice is that time management is key. Feeling like you’re on track or even ahead on your work is helpful in not feeling so overwhelmed. However, it’s not possible to always be so “on track” when life gets in the way. One of the best ways to do that is to find that perfect study spot. Personally, I find the den of the dorm to be the perfect place to get a change in scenery and some guaranteed quietness. If your den isn’t quiet, go to one of the libraries. Make it work for you, take breaks when needed and remind yourself that you’re doing great!
2. Doing everything on your own
Many of us are used to getting help from our parents or close friends when doing mundane tasks like laundry, having a good eating schedule or remembering to get a package. The transition can be isolating, as we are used to having the helping hand of someone always reminding us to do something. You may forget the hours of when the dining hall is open. You may have missed that meeting of the organization you really wanted to join. No one is perfect, but it’s no easy task to do everything on your own.
I think what’s firstly important is forgiving yourself if you forget something. More practically, make yourself love organization! Find a method of keeping notes and dates somewhere. It can be a planner, your phone or the bulletin board on your dorm desk. Check your emails often, and try to get yourself into a routine that is both enjoyable and practical. Find a dining hall buddy, whether it be your roommate or a friend you just made in class. It’s crucial to understand that we’re all just really trying our best. Everyone has off days, or ones that don’t go as planned. That’s how life works.
3. A not-so-social social life
Once you get to college, you may think that everything should fall into place quickly. But in reality, it is sort of unnatural to make genuine “best friends” within a few weeks. It takes time. It is not perfect. But it’s important to always keep an open mind. Reach out to people who uplift and support you. Join that club; go to that event. I’ve found that it is best to accept that it won’t always flow so easily.
Although college is full of twists and turns, it is what you make of it. It is a time full of opportunity, a time to explore what you are passionate about and a time to find friends that will last a lifetime.