On the College Scoops Podcast Episode 89: Healthy Mind, Healthy Body, Moira McCullough is joined by Guest Dale Troy, a college and certified health coach, to discuss tips and tricks on how students can successfully navigate college. For many students, college is the first time that they will live alone and be away from their parents for a long period of time. With new environments, people, and routines, it becomes more important than ever to manage one’s physical and mental health, while also knowing how to manage stress and navigate a new social scene.
As a freshman, one main source of stress is the fear of being alone and how they are going to make friends. A college campus typically includes students from all over the country and even the world where it is difficult for a student to know where to “find their people”. When this happens, it is important to ask probing and leading questions that can help a student fit in and make friends. What are the student’s interests? Are there clubs or organizations on campus where students of the same interest can meet? Does the student’s RA hold social events for their dorm? If so, these can be great starting points and opportunities to meet people around campus.
Balancing Your Diet
Another integral part of staying healthy in college includes nutrition and choosing food that will fuel your body. In college, parents can no longer help students choose what their next meal will be. As a result, students have to understand what makes for a balanced meal. Troy’s recommendation is for students to look at their plate and notice how many colors there are. A colorful plate indicates a variety of nutrients that a student is putting into their body. Also, consider going to the salad bar first before the hot food bar in the dining hall. Reach for a healthy snack, such as a piece of fruit, a handful of nuts, or hummus and carrots. While it is okay for students to treat themselves once in a while, they should strive for an overall healthy lifestyle to feel their best.
Practicing Time Management
Troy also shares tips on how students can better manage their everyday lives in college. One strategy is to learn how to practice effective time management. In college, a student is entirely responsible for how they spend their day. Therefore, a student needs to learn how to manage their day to have enough time and energy to socialize, study, and eat. Also, try to make tangible goals for yourself. Whether this includes making one good friend each semester or being able to walk into the dining hall without feeling nervous, it can help students manage daunting tasks by breaking them down into reasonable goals. Using a physical planner can also help students with time management and goal-setting. Research shows that writing things down helps people remember tasks more easily and people feel more in control of their day.
In terms of academics, implementing good study habits is important to do well in classes. The first step is to recognize that studying in high school vs. college is very different. Classes are not held every day and college professors won’t constantly remind you of upcoming assignments. Therefore, students have to stay on top of their own schedule and take note of when exams and papers are due. Asking for help can also be the key to acing their classes. There’s no shame in asking for help and students can do this by going to a professor’s office hours or knowing where the tutoring center is on campus.
Advocating for Yourself
Self-advocacy can also apply to other areas of campus life. In general, Troy notes that “if you feel off in any way, whether it’s academically, mentally, physically, you need to do something about it”. If you are struggling, check in with yourself by figuring out what are the hurdles that prevent you from having a good day or succeeding in a particular class. Find resources or turn to mentors on campus that can help you navigate challenges. This also includes taking care of one’s mental health by finding a college or private counselor and knowing how to manage stress.
Everyone deals with stress and it is normal to experience it. Some levels of stress can actually be positive because it can motivate you to study and do well on an exam. However, if you experience stress at such a high level where it prevents you from functioning and performing your daily tasks, it can become an issue. In order to relieve stress, find remedies or activities that will help you relax. Some ideas include taking deep breaths and sitting quietly, writing in a gratitude journal, enrolling in a yoga class, or going on a walk to observe nature. Most students don’t realize that a lot of their stress is manageable. Oftentimes, there are also signs that can lead up to a stressful point, so it is important to recognize them and know how to rein it in. Getting enough sleep can also help someone reset and feel better the next day. Most people need around 8 hours of sleep. You can help yourself get better sleep by making the room dark, cooling the temperature, and wearing an eye mask, if needed.
Finally, parents need to recognize that once their student is in college, the nature of their role will change where you are no longer involved in the student’s life 24/7. Parents need to let their student live their life, make mistakes, and learn from them. If the student encounters challenges, listen to them and ask if they want your help. In non-emergencies, it can also be helpful to let them solve problems on their own so that they learn how to grow up and become more independent.
At the end of the day, going to college is a new chapter in a student’s life. Knowing how to maintain a healthy lifestyle, use basic life skills, and manage one’s academic and social life is integral for making the transition from high school to college be as smooth as possible.
Key Takeaway Scoop: Entering college as a freshman is scary for everyone. For many students, this is their first taste of independence and freedom, and with this comes responsibility and, often, anxiety. It is important to remember that all freshmen feel nervous, and that there are mechanisms that can be used to combat the uneasiness. Maintaining a balanced diet, scheduling out time for schoolwork and for recreation, and utilizing different stress techniques can make a huge difference.