College Stress: How to Navigate The Transition to Life after High School

Simone Koger, MA, LMFTA, CGP



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New to College?

This is a big step! I think the pandemic definitely minimized how impactful going to college is. There are a lot of things that change once you are in college that high school does not prepare you for. Like who told us we suddenly have to make all our own choices? Or that there would be new social pressures we would have to stand up against?

If you are making the transition to college out of high school there are a few things that can be helpful.

  1. Check in with yourself about your boundaries: When you go off to school you are around a new group of people, new place, new spaces, and have a whole new schedule. Check in with yourself about what your boundaries are- maybe one is not going somewhere with a new stranger without another person you trust. Or another might be to have a safety plan if you go partying so there is someone you trust to take you home. There are a lot of boundaries that people don't think about before college and THAT IS OKAY! Sometimes we don't even know a boundary until we come across a situation in the moment. This step is about being true to yourself, at a time when you are working out who YOU ARE!
  2. Be kind to yourself: Just like the metaphor of a dad throwing their kid into a pull to learn how to swim- high school is only preparing you so much for the leap into college. You might make mistakes, you might stay out late, you might need time to figure out who your friends are- whatever you do, be kind to yourself.
  3. Try to set a preliminary schedule for yourself: Going to college is a lot different than high school. High school is generally a lot more rigid with keeping to times and a daily schedule. In college (this can vary) your classes are longer but usually you don't have as much of your day consumed with in-class time. A lot of the time your out-out-class time is where you are doing the most work. Try to think of how you want your schedule to look; Does it include working out? Spending time with friends? A college job? Taco Tuesdays with friends? (Please note Koger Counseling is not promoting underage consumption of alcohol- this article is highlighting the college normative system to support people with the idea of being safe & making safe choices.)
  4. Are you missing home? If you are that is NORMAL! It doesn't matter how much you loved or didn't like your home town, friends, etc CHANGE IS A BIG DEAL. If you are feeling sad or lonely, check in with someone you care about. Maybe think about packing an item from your home that helps you feel connected to it. Or keep a journal on your laptop or in a book format to write out how you are feeling. If you want to, keep a time to check in with your family. This is not goodbye forever if you don't want it to be! This is a stepping stone to you becoming your own person & creating your own life.

You are doing your best.

College is a transition and that can be stressful. Being able to have a foundation of things you can turn to when you are stressed is helpful. This transition is a big deal and you can validate that!

If you are ever feeling SUPER overwhelmed and want to talk to someone- check your college's access to a counseling center. Every school has some form of counseling center or partners with outsourced counseling support services. If you don't feel comfortable talking to a school therapist- you can always search on PsychologyToday, TherapyDen, GoodTherapy, or Google for therapists in your state/local area!