The college experience is truly just one experience in your life. You will have so many other experiences, like your first job, your dream career, marriage, and starting a family, that will be more impactful than how many social gatherings you attended in college. Don’t feel discouraged if the social side of college hasn’t been as exciting and fun as you hoped thus far.
As a recent college graduate who struggled socially in college (thanks, pandemic), I can empathize with these feelings of loneliness and frustration. I personally love my post-college life so much more than the college experience, which would have given me great hope as a student solely focused on graduation.
Hopefully, these tips and personal reflections are helpful to you as you work through college friendships, academics, and heavy feelings of loneliness. Even if you don’t like the college experience, there are still so many ways to seek out joy and connection with those around you!
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College throws you into a unique spot when it comes to maintaining old friendships and navigating new ones. If you knew your roommate prior to move-in day, the daily routine of living with someone can reveal cracks in the relationship. Or if you never met your roommate before you shared the same space, there is a marked sense of awkwardness that lingers in the air at the beginning of the school year.
Roommate relationships can be complicated, but the most important lesson I learned as a college student is this: Decide what really bothers you and then let the smaller stuff go. There is likely a creative solution that benefits everyone (a second minifridge, a quieter alarm, an agreed-upon room temperature) without causing chaos in your safe space. Be each other’s home support system, and don’t sweat the small stuff!
The most important thing to remember is that friendships are important, and you build up female friendships through encouragement, support, kindness, and generosity. Avoid gossip like the plague, and work on valuing people for exactly who they already are, not who you want them to be. Whether you’re struggling with your roommate relationship or maintaining a previous bestie, kindness throughout difficulty will carry you through major changes and help you to build stronger girl best friends.
Don’t put so much pressure on yourself to be “that girl” whom everyone knows and everyone wants to hang out with. Finding your friend group might take a little time, but you will be much happier with people you enjoy than you would be trying to constantly fit into the wrong group. There are tons of opportunities to meet new people, so take advantage of those activities, and don’t forget to smile!
Dating in College
In addition to friendships, you may also have romantic relationships during your college years. If you have a boyfriend already or are looking forward to dating casually in college, try your best to date without it being a detriment to your other social possibilities. Don’t skip every event or dorm floor activity to spend time with your boyfriend or go on a first date – you need to prioritize your friendships as well.
One mistake I made in college was developing my friend group around my boyfriend, which immediately fell apart when the relationship got rocky. Find your own friends and build deep, meaningful connections with other women and peers before adding your boyfriend into the equation. This will protect your heart from complete loneliness if the relationship doesn’t end on great terms.
Tips for Class
Despite the way the “college experience” is depicted on TV, you do actually need to go to class. Remember your purpose as a college student; study hard in your field and take the time to absorb as much as possible from your professors and peers.
Stay organized. Yes, I know this is the most common advice you’ve heard so far, but the importance of organization cannot be stressed enough. Find a planner that fits the way your brain works (not just the cutest one) and utilize it to help you stay on top of coursework, social engagements, and scheduled me-time. A cute planner has no purpose if you never open it. I love this one, but an online planner might work just as well!
Don’t rush around. If I could give my freshman self a piece of advice, I would remind her that running around doesn’t mean you’re on top of things. Stay after class to chat with your professor about your essay, make office hour appointments to gain insight and connection, and walk out of class with your peers. These moments are so important to your academic and personal development, so don’t run away from these opportunities!
Find little ways to make class enjoyable. Once you’ve been in college for a semester, you can schedule classes with your friends or favorite peers to maximize the joy you absorb from your studies. Grab a coffee on the way to class, pack a healthy snack, or dress up cute for your lecture. Whatever you need to do to make your most difficult class feel less like a chore, do it!
Coping with the Loneliness
Loneliness may have already set in, as separation from close friends and family can hurt us in ways we might not have expected. Stress can do a lot of damage to our bodies, and the heavy feeling of loneliness is often a by-product of stress. Don’t dwell on these feelings of FOMO or isolation, though. You have the power to make tiny changes that will compound over time to help you adjust better to your new living situation.
College is a major adjustment, and you won’t do everything right the first time around (regardless of how much you plan ahead). Give yourself grace in figuring out all the aspects of college, and pivot as you go. You don't need to have it all figured out on day one. You can grow into the woman you want to be without subscribing to every aspect of college life, but it’s important to know what elements are important to you so you don’t feel as if you've missed out entirely.
Seek out advice from mentors on how to deal with your situation or even visit a college therapist for tips on how to stay connected with your peers. There is no right answer, but you aren’t alone in these feelings, and there are ways to walk through this season with support.
And girl, don’t forget to eat! When you’re feeling down, you need to prioritize your health, especially your eating habits. Make a list of easy, healthy meals you can make when you’re having a rough day, and use the therapeutic element of cooking to calm your mind and your body. Turn on an upbeat playlist or your favorite podcast and allow yourself to get lost in the joy of cooking a great meal. My comfort dinner was stir-fry (easy to prepare and so delicious), and it never failed to instantly boost my energy once devoured.
I also recommend studying outside, if the weather permits. Sunshine is not necessarily a cure for loneliness, but it can definitely help lift your spirits, and it feels less isolating to study in a space around other people. Find a pretty spot on campus where you can be productive, or search for a cute coffee shop in the area and invite a friend to join you!
Get an On-Campus Job
As busy as you may be, I’d highly recommend getting a campus job! Choosing something that interests you, connects to your major, or fits within your schedule will provide you with opportunities to meet new people and get out of your dorm room. Most of my friends in college were people I met through work, and shared experiences add a unique bond to a group of people you might not have interacted with through your classes.
Buy the Little Treat
As silly as it sounds, little treats got me through college, especially at my most miserable times. Sometimes, I would save my major purchases for a day when I knew I would need a little serotonin boost (hello, Abercrombie), and other days, I would treat myself to an iced chai latte, just because I wanted to. A little joy-filled reminder of life is important for pushing through your hardest seasons, so don't hesitate to treat yourself to something small when you need a boost!
At the end of the day, college is just one of many major life experiences. It doesn't need to be the best time of your life. There are so many opportunities after college that will bring you joy, so don’t feel stressed if the college experience isn’t everything you thought it would be. Manage your expectations, romanticize the small moments in your day, and study hard – you got this, girl!
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