College is fun, exciting, and what many people would call “the best four years of your life.” They’re not wrong: college actually is fun and exciting, but they also don’t warn you about how it can often be tiring and overwhelming. Or maybe they do warn you, but you never really listen. After many long sleepless nights and early morning classes, you may start to wonder when the best four years of your life will actually begin.
College can have an interesting way of sneaking up on you that makes you forget how to take care of yourself -- both physically and mentally. Although college inevitably requires hard work, there are some ways that can make your college experience a little easier.
Focus on Doing What You Can
There will be days where you will wonder if you’re smart enough. Strong enough. Resilient enough. During these times, it is important to give yourself realistic and attainable goals. If you are feeling especially disappointed in yourself, maybe you are pushing yourself too hard. This is something worth spending a good amount of time thinking about and reflecting on. Take the necessary time for self-reflection, whether it’s mediation on your dorm room floor or a walk around a park. Make sure to prioritize the most important things, while also always putting your mental health first. Sometimes you need to step out of your mind and take a real look at how you have been processing your experience. As a first generation and/or low income student, you can find yourself trying to prove something to yourself or others. Instead, make sure that you are just focusing on what you can do – not what you think you should. College is new and different, and sometimes you need to tweak and make changes according to what is going on in your head.
Work on Your Schedule and Plan Ahead
If you have always been one of those people who do things when you feel like it, you may want to make some adjustments to your routine. Making small adjustments to your schedule can be life changing. Working on your schedule can improve your health by giving yourself time to take care of yourself! Before you do anything, account for the time it will take to eat, drive to your destination, think, and even breathe. You should carve out time for the serious stuff, but also for yourself – your thoughts, hobbies, and passions.
Make an effort to work before the last minute.If you procrastinate, you may lack a proper amount of free time and end up feeling constantly overwhelmed. Maybe waiting until the last minute has always worked for you, but it’s important to avoid unnecessary stress on your body and mind by planning ahead. Start small by planning out the next time you need to eat or even take a shower. Make sure you are prioritizing what is really important – like eating good meals, keeping yourself clean, and getting fresh air and exercise. Then plan out times when you’ll do schoolwork, keeping other obligations in mind (work, student organizations, etc.). Balance is key.
If you’re planning ahead and working as hard as you can, you will still have time to do fun things without feeling guilty. When it comes to clubs, extracurriculars, or even just a friend asking to hang out, say yes more than you say no! It is easy to feel like you never have enough time to do the things you want to do, but college goes by quickly. Make the best of these opportunities while you can. Years after college, most people remember the friendships and other relationships they developed in college more than anything else.
Lean On Support From Others
On days when you are feeling down, it is key to have healthy relationships to fall back on. Not everyone will understand what you are going through, but that’s okay. You may lean on family members and friends who never went to college and have a hard time understanding what your day-to-day life is actually like, but again, that is okay. Even if your support system doesn’t know what you’re going through, they can still be there for you. They are probably extremely proud of you - even if they don’t express it - and want to support you in any way they can. When it comes to your friends at school, be sure to surround yourself with like-minded people who have similar goals. Having people to suffer through finals week and studying with goes a long way, especially since studying can get lonely.
Lastly, if you start to feel like you need help from a professional - don’t hesitate to reach out for help. See what kind of support your school offers in terms of mental health. Going to see a therapist or counselor is NOT something to be scared of or ashamed about. Instead, it is something a majority of people do. Talking out loud with a therapist can help you become a happier and more productive person. Everyone needs support. You are not an exception.
All in all, if you don’t feel good, nothing you do will feel good either. If you feel healthy, both mentally and physically, everything will feel better. As a first generation or low-income college student, it is normal to feel out of place and alone. But you are not alone. You may feel like you have to work twice as hard, and that kind of pressure can affect how you treat yourself. The truth is, there is a reason you are where you are. You got accepted into your college for a reason, and all odds say that you have the tools within yourself to do it. College is more than just getting the degree you’ve always dreamed of. It’s about becoming the person you’ve always dreamed of becoming. Making a few changes when it comes to taking care of yourself can help you get one step closer!
About the author…
Camryn is a third year Consumer Journalism major and Communication Studies minor at the University of Georgia. She concentrates in Financial Planning and New Media. She is a first-generation college student who loves to write, travel, and converse in her free time. Outside of school, she works closely with the organization, UGA HEROs, by mentoring and fundraising for low-income children that are infected or affected by HIV/AIDS. Her passion is anything related to helping and caring for others.