Starting college is a very exciting time, full of possibilities and “firsts.” However, learning to live far from your family and high school friends, all while balancing a busy schedule, can become taxing on both your physical and mental health. Although your college experience will come with its own unique set of challenges, these tips can help you feel at home on your campus, and avoid excess stress.
1. Whatever problem you’re having, you don’t have to deal with it alone
If you feel unsafe for any reason, you can reach out to campus police. If your roommate takes your things without asking, you can talk to your resident adviser (RA). One of the best things about living on a college campus is that there are resources readily available to help you — take advantage of them. This is why it’s a good idea to keep important numbers in your phone.
2. Always protect your belongings
Unfortunately, theft is common on college campuses. Make sure to lock your dorm room when you leave, and to use a secure locker at the gym or dining hall. As for your technology, secure it with strong passwords and activate the “find my phone” function on your smartphone and linked devices.
3. Come equipped
When packing for college, consider including a lockbox and laptop lock. To ensure your safety, it’s also a good idea to carry pepper spray with you whenever you’re walking alone, especially at night.
4. Understand the definition of consent
Sadly, college women are at high risk of experiencing sexual assault. In order to avoid it, it’s important that you understand the definition of consent: it is a clear, unambiguous “yes” from both parties, whether verbal or otherwise. This will provide you with a basis for what it means to be assaulted — read on to find out more about how to avoid this situation.
5. During a night out, stick with people you trust
In many cases, sexual assault is perpetrated by an acquaintance of the victim. When going out, especially if you are drinking, always keep track of your friends. Additionally, make sure your phone is charged in case you do lose them and feel lost or unsafe.
6. Date in public until you know you can trust someone
When going on a date with someone, it is always safer to go to a public place (e.g. a coffee shop), rather than hanging out in their dorm room. Whatever your plans with this person, always tell two or three friends where you are going and with whom, so they can intervene in case of an emergency.
7. If you experience trauma, seek professional help
Your campus counselling center is an incredible resource for you if you are a victim of assault, or if you are suffering from mental health issues such as depression, anxiety or disordered eating. It is crucial that you seek out help in those cases, but you also shouldn’t be afraid of speaking to a counsellor if you are having problems that seem more “minor.”
8. College will be an emotional time
College is challenging for everyone. Stress, lack of sleep and conflict (with friends or roommates) are virtually sure to happen, but there are some things you can do to avoid straining yourself further, such as drinking in moderation, exercising regularly (but not excessively) and proceeding with caution when navigating hookups and relationships.
9. Create healthy habits that you can maintain in the long run
Staying healthy in college requires a lot of effort, but you will find that it will benefit you both physically and mentally. From the get-go, focus on creating diet and exercise habits that you feel good about, and that you can keep up even with your full class schedule and social life. Eat foods that are packed with fiber, protein and healthy fats to help you stay full longer, and keep healthy snacks in your dorm and backpack for those inevitable late-night study sessions.
Stephanie Kaplan Lewis, Co-Founder, CEO and Editor-in-Chief, Her Campus Media, [email protected]