An Open Letter to College Students…
Dear College Student,
I wanted to share a couple thoughts with you – whether you’re a 1st year or a 4th year – that might help you as you begin another academic year.
- Have courage. It’s the secret sauce that allows you to move forward and accomplish things, even if you’re scared. Believe in yourself and take heart!
- Slow down and breathe deeply. Deep breathing reduces stress, increases confidence, and helps with blood flow throughout our entire body.
- Fake it until you make it when needed. Research indicates that the act of smiling actually puts us in a better mood – if you smile long enough, it actually makes you feel happy. And people respond more positively when you project friendliness and confidence. This is a great technique for interviews, new acquaintances, etc.
- Remember everyone struggles at times. You’re not alone.
- Reach out and ask for help when needed. It’s a sign of strength.
- Challenge negative self-talk. Start by first recognizing the self-defeating talk (e.g., “I’m going to fail”) and then look for alternative statements (e.g., “This is going to be hard”) and a different perspective (e.g., “I’m going to do my best”).
- Practice self-compassion and treat yourself the way you would a close friend. That means acknowledge daily victories, character growth, and things you like about who you are becoming.
- Seek out a mentor. Research shows that a good mentor enhances student success.
- Come visit us (your profs!) during office hours. We want to help.
- Do your reading. Or at least skim what’s been assigned to you.
- Study in the room you’re going to be tested in, if possible. Research indicates that if you study for a test in the same (or even similar) environment that you will be taking the test in, you are more likely to remember the information. [It’s all about context and state dependent learning.]
- Practice kindness. If you wouldn’t say something to someone’s face, don’t say it online.
- Put judgment aside, especially if it’s negative. Don’t make any conclusions about a new situation for at least a week. The more emotional we feel, the less logical our thoughts become, so when we are inundated with “newness” it’s beneficial to wait until the dust settles before making a value judgment.
- Share mealtimes and linger with others at the table after dinner. And put your phones away; Instagram can wait!
- Interact face-to-face whenever possible. Research shows that face-to-face communication establishes more trust, rapport, and credibility – not to mention activates more areas of our brains thanks to mirror neurons!
- Remember your identity is still being formed, so choose your friends wisely. We become more like those we spend time with.
- Ask someone out on a date at least once a semester (if you’re single, that is)! Interacting with someone you’re attracted to builds your social courage, relational skills, and your confidence. Plus, research shows that building relationships face-to-face helps us find balance and promotes academic success! [And yes, we also learn how to deal with rejection at times. I’d argue that’s a good – albeit hard – thing.]
- Avoid hooking up. Research shows that hookups result in feelings of depression and loneliness for those who were otherwise showing no symptoms of depression prior to hooking up.
- Exercise regularly. It’s a natural anti-depressant and endorphin booster!
- Say no when you need to. FOMO is OVER.RATED; setting healthy boundaries is not!
- Don’t share, buy, barter, sell, or steal Adderall — or any medications — from roommates, friends, or anyone. Misusing stimulants can have serious consequences.
- Sleep when it’s dark out for at least 7 consecutive hours. And nap when you need to (but not at the expense of regularly missing class). When we are well-rested we think better!
- Go to the doctor when you are sick. WebMD and your roommate are not adequate tools for diagnosing problems.
- Read local, national, and global news. It helps give you perspective.
- Get outside – daily! – and soak up the sunshine; vitamin D is a brain booster and supports the health of our immune system.
- Explore your new community. Try to find the best places to eat, play, volunteer, and hang out. Not only will you feel more like a local, but you’ll feel a part of the community at large.
- Set goals with incentives. Reward yourself when you’ve worked hard and have put in your best effort. Grades aren’t the only reason to #treatyoself
- Practice gratitude. You’ll have more friends, feel happier, and be less anxious if you find things to be thankful for each day. (Research-backed!!)
- Expect great things.
- And always remember this: YOU BELONG. And, the Creator of the Universe loves you. Wow.
Blessings to you!