5 Tips for Students Living Away From Home for the First Time

For some, going away to college or university may be the first time they find themselves navigating the world on their own; away from the support of their parents, expected to be truly independent. While this change can be exciting, it can also be overwhelming. If a student has no prior experience living on their own, it can feel as though they’ve been thrown into the deep end of a pool and told that they must learn to swim while they’re drowning. That being said, there are instructors and lifeguards on duty, available to help if students know where to look.

1. Inform Yourself About Student Services

When starting out in a new environment away from home, it is important to find out about the services and resources available. If a student is feeling sick, there are usually Health Services offered or clinics nearby. If a student is suffering from anxiety, or any type of mental health issues, there are Psychiatric Services or Counsellors ready and willing to help. Career planning, financial aid, and tutoring are also readily available to those who seek them out.

Admin tip: While these services are great means to help students overcome certain issues, sometimes they might feel too formal to students who are shy, or who feel as though they simply need peer support.

2. Create Connections

Creating connections with other students is another great way to form a healthy support system while away from home. Although this can be challenging for students in a completely new social environment. One way to get around this is by joining a club. Colleges and universities have an abundance of choices when it comes to clubs/orgs, making it easy for students to find one that speaks to them and allows them to meet other people with similar interests. Social media groups are also a great means to meet new people and form new connections.

Admin tip: Having an online platform to host these clubs/orgs has the ability to take some of the pressure away in terms of students introducing themselves to one another and would allow more students to get involved.

3. Stay Organized

Time management is the greatest challenge that students face on campus across North America. One way to ease this pressure and in turn reduce stress is by staying organized. Staying on top of classes, assignments, social engagements, personal responsibilities etc., and scheduling the school week accordingly will make campus life so much easier in the long term. The simplest way to do this is by writing things down in a day planner (either physical or digital). The benefit of a digital calendar is being able to set reminders, preventing things from sneaking up on you last minute.

Admin tip: Providing your students with an agenda, or encouraging them to adopt and use a specific digital planner, endorsed by the institution, can be a quick way to help the students who might be too overwhelmed to attain these tools themselves. 

4. Take Responsibility for Yourself

When we talk about taking responsibility or accountability for oneself in college, we often think of no longer making excuses for poor grades or missed appointments. But on a more basic level, taking responsibility for oneself is as simple as eating right, exercising regularly, doing laundry, washing the dishes, etc. These are fundamental life-skills that may have been overlooked if one’s parents previously did these things for him/her. 

Admin tip: By encouraging your students to perform these tasks regularly (think of gentle ‘nudges’ such as posting gym hours or grocery store locations) you would be encouraging them to form a positive routine. By doing this you would be helping your students cross these daily or weekly tasks off of their “to-do” list and minimize their overall stress.

5. Take a Break

While being organized and working hard to do well in school is important, one must not forget that life is about balance. Remember to take a break and recharge. More than 30% of first year students in the U.S. drop out, stress usually being an underlying reason for their leaving. If a student is doing well in school, but struggling with so many mental health issues brought on by stress that they must leave, grades cease to matter. Put simply:

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(Admins: feel free to share this motto with your students)

Do you have a motto or mantra that helped you get over the initial hump of college or university? Let us know by commenting with the hashtag #FirstYearMotto.