Transitioning from High School to College

Whether you move across the country for college or are just a few hours from home, transitioning from high school to campus life can be a challenge and have implications for mental wellness. For many college students, moving away from home is the first time they’ve experienced many aspects of “adulting” and suddenly they have to manage much of their lives independently. From laundry to planning a healthy diet every week and getting class assignments done on time, the to-do list can seem endless. The newfound independence, demanding coursework and change in environment are exciting aspects of college, but they can also contribute to stress, anxiety and other potential mental health issues. Fortunately, there are strategies and resources available to support students as they navigate this important life transition.

Utilize your support system: Make an effort to be grounded where you are physically by connecting with your new classmates, or students in your dorm helps to remind you that you’re not going through this change alone. Joining or creating study groups for the classes you’re taking connects you to your peers and alleviates some of the stress associated with challenging classes. Additionally, most college campuses today offer some range of mental health services to students. They are equipped to refer you to services that can help you to navigate your new routine.

Don’t be afraid to call home: When you’re new to campus, it can be especially hard to be away from the support system you’re used to, including family, or friends from your hometown. There is no shame in calling friends or family at home when you’re feeling overwhelmed or anxious, plus your parents will be happy to hear from you and can give advice if they’ve had a similar experience. Your high school friends are probably experiencing the same fears and challenges, even if it looks like they’re having a blast on social media.

Look inward: When feeling overwhelmed, ask yourself the hard questions. This can help you to determine how much you can handle, what commitments are your highest priorities and how you’re structuring your time. Are you taking on too much at once? Do you really need to take five courses and be on the executive board of four campus clubs, while also balancing an internship and a part-time job with social commitments and time for self-care? Do you want to? While being well-rounded is important and you may have a range of interests, it’s important to ensure that you’re dedicating time to checking in with yourself and your priorities.

The most important thing is to remember that you are not alone. Many students experience challenges, including mental health, as they adjust to college and there are people and organizations who are ready and able to help on campus and beyond. National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) has tools to help you find mental health resources to support you in your transition to campus life. Learn more.


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