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How to Adapt to College Life

by Ashley Miller, studioD

Going to college is the first real major life transition for many people, and adapting to college life isn't always easy. While you might have been excited about the idea of starting your classes and making new friends, it might be more difficult than you expected. It's not unusual to feel lonely, homesick, stressed, anxious or even depressed while trying to adjust to your new life. If you're feeling down or overwhelmed, take a few steps to help make the adjustment process a bit easier.

Manage Your Time

Without a solid time management system, new college students can feel overwhelmed. Unlike high school, where your classes were probably neatly mapped out, college course schedules vary widely. For example, you might have three classes on one day and none the next, or your classes might be in the evening or even on the weekend. Attending to social responsibilities and engaging in extracurricular activities can make it feel like there's not enough time in the day. Writing out a concrete schedule that includes adequate time for study, sleep and socialization can help you feel more organized and in control of your life.

Cope with Homesickness

If you're living away from home for the first time, it can be difficult to deal with feelings of homesickness. Don't try to push your feelings aside -- almost all college students feel homesick from time to time, especially in the beginning. It's OK to feel sad and to cry about it, but don't let your feelings take over your life. Keep in touch with family and friends from back home regularly, invite loved ones to visit you, display pictures and other memorabilia that remind you of home and stay active to help minimize your feelings of homesickness, according to Columbia University's "Go Ask Alice."

Practice Stress Management

Adapting to college can be pretty stressful at times, especially while you try to find your new rhythm. Practicing stress management techniques, such as deep breathing, yoga or exercise, can help reduce your levels of stress and help you feel more relaxed, according to UC San Diego's Student Health Services. Many college and university health and wellness centers offer free stress management workshops and yoga or exercise classes to students.


It's easier to deal with stress, handle responsibilities and adapt to college life if you're healthy and well-rested. You're not doing yourself any favors if you don't get enough sleep -- and most college students are severely sleep-deprived, according to the University Health Center at the University of Georgia. While everyone slacks on sleep from time to time, regular sleep loss can result in persistent feelings of fatigue and increase your risk of developing serious health problems such as depression, anxiety and obesity. Everyone's sleep needs are different, but you should try to get at least seven or eight hours of sleep each night.

About the Author

Ashley Miller is a licensed social worker, psychotherapist, certified Reiki practitioner, yoga enthusiast and aromatherapist. She has also worked as an employee assistance program counselor and a substance-abuse professional. Miller holds a Master of Social Work and has extensive training in mental health diagnosis, as well as child and adolescent psychotherapy. She also has a bachelor's degree in music.

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