Attending to Freshman Year Anxiety


Adjusting to a new home is difficult.

By Kelly Christ

The beginning of a new school year brings both excitement and anxiety. Each year of college undoubtedly has its own challenges, but freshman year is a particularly difficult one. From attending orientation to meeting your roommate to choosing your courses, the first semester is a whirlwind of changes and decisions. Amidst this transition, many freshmen struggle with their mental health, often for the first time.

It is important to remember that anxiety is a symptom often caused by many normal life occurrences. Even if you are not diagnosed with an anxiety disorder or even someone who has never been particularly nervous, beginning college is challenging for everyone. Leaving home for the first time, learning to live with strangers, dealing with peer pressure, managing the rigor of college academics and so much more can overwhelm anyone.

A study by the American Psychological Association shows that around one third of college freshmen struggle with their mental health; symptoms of major depressive disorder and generalized anxiety disorder are the most common. Often what makes freshman year particularly troublesome is the lack of a support system. After years of growing up in the same town with familiar faces, a big university in a new place makes it easy to feel alone.

Perhaps the biggest problem students face is meeting their own expectations. They want to have “enough” friends and perform well “enough” in their classes to make their families proud. With college being such a large financial investment, many students face anxiety about making that investment worth it, as well as keeping in mind their future need to pay off student debts.

When it comes to the social atmosphere, most freshmen arrive wanting to make good and memorable impressions while also fitting in with the crowd. Social media aggravate these worries, as students are constantly watching the highlight reels of both their new classmates and friends from home who all seem to have adjusted better than they have.

Having transferred to Fordham in my sophomore year, I know the difficulties of this transition very well. Transferring brings its own anxieties similar to those of most incoming freshmen. I felt behind socially because of missing a year in which many people had already formed bonds with each other.

Worst of all, I constantly blamed myself for having imagined the wrong “dream” school. I desperately wanted to be a normal sophomore — to know my way around the campus, to feel at home.

What turned out to be the biggest aid in my Fordham transition was awareness. Simply being aware of my own concerns and fears gave me a clearer mind and better expectations for my current stage. Our biggest enemy in this process is often unrealistic expectations. We constantly compare ourselves to everyone else, feeling that we do not have as many friends, have not adjusted as well or are not academically performing as well as everyone else.

Due to the prominence of mental health issues among college students, many universities have consolidated resources in strengthening their counseling and psychological services in order to support the community better. Many schools, including Fordham, look to provide resources in helping students have healthy relationships with social media.

When I began my freshman year of college, I went through many of the stereotypical dilemmas. I struggled to find good friends, to maintain a long-distance relationship and to feel at home at my new school. The difficult process is an important one, shaping us as we continue to grow as individuals. The challenges are necessary, but it is imperative that students know they are not alone. Seeking help is never cowardly. It is a sign of strength, self-awareness and emotional maturity. Asking for help at the end of my freshman year turned out to be one of the best decisions I made.

Seeking help does not have to mean going to a counselor or therapist. Often the first step is  simply a conversation with friends or family. Engaging in an open dialogue with peers who are likely struggling with so many of the same things can lessen both of your worries and help us take our peers off idealized pedestals.

The road may be bumpy, but you will always find your way eventually. And when you are lost, there is nothing wrong with asking for directions.