Six Things to Do If You’ve Got Pre-College Anxiety

I spent half of my senior year being nervous about my college applications. Actually, if we’re being honest, I spent half of my adolescence being nervous about my college applications. I couldn’t wait to get my acceptance letter so I could finally kick back and relax until it was time to move to my new home. Then, I got my acceptance… and somehow my anxiety heightened! Suddenly, everything was real, and everything was about to change.

This pre-college anxiety certainly isn’t unusual. Even though we were all itching to get out of our high school, hometown bubble and explore something new, we simultaneously realized that we would be leaving our comfort zone behind. Think about it: for many, going to college means moving out of your family home, leaving your parents, leaving your childhood friends, and starting classes at a new school… all at once! There aren’t many times in your life that you’ll be bombarded with so many big changes simultaneously. If you’re struggling with a bit of pre-college anxiety, these are six things to do that can ease your nerves, and (hopefully!) turn some of that apprehension into excitement.

Talk to someone you trust who is in or has been to college.

A few weeks before I left for college, I got coffee with a high school classmate who started at the same college a year earlier. I confided in her that I was incredibly nervous to move to campus and start classes. She responded, “I was too! I was terrified!” That shocked me, because this person seemed so confident, cool, and collected. And after months of social media stalking, it seemed like she was living the ultimate college dream. By discovering that she, too, was completely anxious about starting, I realized that a) it was normal and b) it didn’t mean the transition wouldn’t go smoothly.

Not only can talking to an older college student show you that you’re not alone in your fears, it can also give you insight into what exactly to expect. Ask them what they wish they’d known before heading off to college, and you’ll get the inside scoop.

Do something to prepare for college that will make you excited!

Instead of spending your time stressing about making friends or getting As, do something that will get you pumped for the adventure you’re embarking on. For me, that meant crafting décor for my new dorm room or picking out a new daily planner that would keep me organized. For you, that might mean researching the cool clubs or organizations on campus, or learning more about the town or city you’ll be moving to. For every nerve-wracking thing about college, there’s five exciting things… try to dwell on those instead!

Articulate what exactly you’re nervous about.

Sometimes, when you’ve got that nervous pit in your stomach and your mind is starting to race with worst case scenarios, the best thing you can do is write or verbalize the specific thoughts and fears you’re having. Why? Because sometimes, saying it out loud or putting it on paper can help you realize how outlandish or unrealistic those fears are.

I’m afraid I won’t make any friends.” You will be surrounded by diverse and intelligent people from all walks of life at university, and once you pick a major and join clubs, you’ll even be surrounded by other students with your shared interests. What are the odds you won’t make a single friend? I promise, you’ll make plenty.

I’m afraid I’m going to fail all of my classes.” You were accepted, which means the admissions counselors believe you have what it takes to keep up at their school. Are you willing to work hard? You will not fail your classes.

I’m afraid I will miss my family and friends too much.” Well, you will probably miss them. But FaceTime was invented for a reason. I will not lie to you: I was terribly homesick my first semester at college. But over time, campus started to feel like home. And now, years after graduation, I am homesick for college!

Alleviate your fears by getting productive.

I’m a firm believer that the more prepared you are for something, the less you’ll fear it. So, once you’ve figured out what exactly you’re nervous about, devise a way to prepare for it! Nervous about making friends? Introduce yourself to some future classmates via social media, or pick a few clubs you’ll join right off the bat to meet people. Scared you’ll struggle with your courses? Figure out what school supplies you’ll need to stay organized, and make a game plan for studying. The more you can do to alleviate your fears and prevent those negative “what ifs,” the better.

Ask yourself, “What can go right?”

We’re only human, and it’s natural to sometimes get consumed with thinking about what can go wrong. But why not flip the script and imagine everything that can go right? After all, the chance of something positive happening is just as high as the chance of something negative happening – actually, it’s most definitely higher. Every time you catch yourself imagining your fears – ex: not making friends – reverse your train of thought and imagine how great it will be when you instantly hit it off with your new hallmates and classmates. The future isn’t here yet, and the possibilities are endless. Yes, even the good possibilities, I promise!

Give yourself grace, and remember to be patient.

There will be growing pains as you adjust to college. I can look back and honestly say that they were some of the best four years of my life, but I can also honestly say that I shed a lot of tears during that first year. Despite what other people may share online or say in class, everyone has their own struggles. As you prepare to leave the nest, please don’t forget to pack yourself plenty of grace and patience. Things will be bumpy sometimes, and it may take awhile for everything to settle perfectly into place, but always remember that this is 100% normal! Transitions are tough. Starting a new chapter can be scary. But it’s completely worth it.

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