Our culture idealizes the “college experience.” We see it in movies and TV, read about it in articles, and hear stories through people we know.
While getting an education is important, there are various aspects of college life that too many look at through rose-colored glasses. There's a reason why severe anxiety and depression are on the rise among college students.
The Weight of Social Pressures
The social pressures on young men and women in college are more significant than we realize. Unlimited access to alcohol, drugs, and free sex are marketed as adventuring into personal discovery and promoted by universities with free condoms in dorms and advice from Resident Advisors to keep alcohol and drugs “out of sight” during dorm inspections. It takes very determined and strong individuals to hold on to their virtue under the intense feelings of loneliness and isolation. Young women are constantly measured by their appearance, social standing, and relationship status. The good girls have to battle against cultural measures of “womanly” worth.
It takes very determined and strong individuals to hold onto their virtue under the intense feelings of loneliness and isolation.
Here are four tips to surviving college as a young woman who knows her dignity and wants to hold on to her decency.
1. Find a Mentor
Getting advice from someone who is more mature and more experienced than we are is always a good idea no matter what season of life we're in. Find an older adult to befriend, importantly one who shares your values and particularly one who works at your college. They will know what the climate is like and what you're facing on a day to day basis. College, with all its possibilities, can be a confusing time. Getting mature advice from an outside observer can help you navigate your options and give you clarity in your discernment. There are many opportunities to join faith or service groups who employ adult leaders.
2. Find Strong Female Friends
As women, we want to share our thoughts and feelings with another woman. We seek sisterhood to share the secrets of our hearts. But we have to be careful in those we choose to befriend because some of them are out to seek our demise. Women who measure their own personal worth by comparison are constantly threatened by other women. A strong woman knows who she is. She knows her dignity as a person, and that she should be treated ethically and respected for her own sake. She recognizes the uniqueness of each of her girlfriends and celebrates their differences through support and encouragement.
A strong woman knows her dignity as a person, and that she should be treated ethically and respected for her own sake.
Too many young women caught up in cultural principles of hedonism base a person’s worth on their relationship status or male conquests. The unfortunate reality is that many young men in college just want to party and hookup and are happy to accept what's so freely offered, without any thought of relationship, let alone commitment and fidelity. So if you're holding out for something more lasting and meaningful than a fling, you'll probably be single for a good chunk of the time you're in college unless you're fortunate enough to meet a young man who shares your values.
Don’t allow other girls to discourage you by telling you “you’re single because you don’t know what you’re doing.” Unfriend them; they certainly aren’t considering what’s best for you. Surround yourself with girls who share your perspective. Don’t allow yourself to be measured by parties or hookups. Your sexual encounters don't measure your worth as a human being.
3. Make Male Friends
Making solid friendships with guys will reap similar benefits of dating. Having a male friend who wants to spend time with you will affirm that you have more to offer than just your body. It will help you to see how guys think and operate without going through the pains of heartache. It gives you the experience of learning how they communicate and their needs and wants in a relationship. We have to realize that we want different things out of a relationship. In a lot of ways men are very sentimental, but they don't express love in the same ways we do. Women want a man who will protect her, and men want a woman who will support him.
Women want a man who will protect her, and men want a woman who will support him.
Physical intimacy is easy. Taking sex out of the equation allows you to focus on being a team and working in unison with one another, something many couples can't achieve. Ultimately having close friendships with men will teach you the end goal of a romantic relationship: companionship. Companionship outlasts the passionate flames of young romances, and demands you put the other person before yourself. Remember, if someone can't be a good friend, the they won't be a good romantic partner. What we should gear our sights towards is a partner that can become our best friend.
4. Take a Timeout
The fear of missing out is real in college. There are so many different things to do at any given moment that a lot of times when we slow down, we feel like we're missing out. Continual movement can distract us from important things, wear us down, and make us weaker when it comes to fighting certain temptations. Physical, emotional, and mental fatigue feed depression and anxiety, disorders common among college students.
Continual movement can wear us down and make us weaker when it comes to fighting certain temptations.
We need to take time out. We need to unplug from social media and our devices. We benefit from being in the sun, being outdoors. Go on walks to clear your mind if you're feeling anxious, sit in the warm sun if you're feeling sad. Exercise to burn off stress and generate endorphins. Treat yourself to a nice coffee or dessert as you people watch. Count the wonderful opportunities you’ve been given to grow as an individual, as you discover your passions and develop who you want to be.
College gives us the feeling that we need to rush everywhere and experience everything with urgency, but in reality, things that are genuine take time to grow. Stop, smell the roses, and contemplate without distractions. Put your best into every class, join a club sport, and take advantage of classes at the gym. Join a religious or service group. The real college experience exercises your mind, body, and spirit, and will help launch you into a bright future.