And now we are going back to college, after everything that the pandemic has brought on us. Although the pandemic is not over, the vaccine rollout makes our prospects of a relatively normal campus life more realistic. Nevertheless, we all share feelings of uncertainty and anxiety. We’re back to school, but not “back to normal” yet, if ever.
Especially for freshmen, this situation is unprecedented — their first expectations of campus experiences collide with the overall novelty of the circumstances, and not much advice or navigation exists. We’ve pieced together some tips that you should definitely look at when going back to college after the pandemic.
Cope with back-to-college anxiety
The pandemic experience has only highlighted the importance of our mental health and coping mechanisms. And such an approach to mental health should endure — on campus, in the whole educational system, at work, and at home.
Let’s face it — it is totally fine to feel awkward and a bit anxious due to all the uncertainties that are not alleviated. Returning on campus and kicking off a new academic year only multiplies them.
If you have clear anxiety signals (like sleep deprivation, lack of concentration, restlessness, or fatigue) that you can’t handle, and they deprive you of leading a normal life — turn to professionals. Your campus surely provides counseling sessions for all college students, and there are also hotlines.
In general, well-known instruments of mindfulness and meditation might be helpful to handle mild back-to-college anxiety. It is also crucial to talk about it — share your feelings with friends and future fellow students. Realizing that you’re not the only one who is living through this state helps. Check out this article: although it was written a year ago, its advice on reducing back-to-college anxiety is as relevant today as it was in 2020.
Another critical issue is to stick to your routines and take breaks when you need them (don’t exhaust yourself in these few first weeks of going back to college). Yes, you’re now in a new environment, but it doesn’t mean you have to give up on your hobbies and things that make you thrive. A helpful strategy is to plan (and actually schedule, in your calendar) breaks and times for hobbies — but always allow for flexibility.
In the meantime, be realistic about what’s ahead of you. Align your expectations with the circumstances we are now in and unveil many myths about college life. The tips below will also help you reduce anxiety induced by going back to college.
Check the updates and guidelines about COVID-19 on campus
Some campuses require all students to get vaccinated if they want to return to campus (except for those who are exempt from vaccination for health reasons). You would likely have to wear a mask at all times and test regularly. Inside Higher Ed accumulates all the updates — it might be a valuable resource for you.
Be aware of these regulations and check your college website and newsletter for the most recent updates because the guidelines vary from school to school. Moreover, the situation is still volatile, and new decisions are made every day. If you have any slight concerns, contact your school coordinators.
Remain technology savvy
Indeed, our online learning experience of the past years will not be forgotten, so don’t forget its lessons. Although we are going back to college and back to campus, many classes will be taught in a blended mode. The curriculum is made in a way that allows for a swift relocation to fully online learning if necessary.
Therefore, make sure you familiarize yourself with platforms used by your school — preferably in advance, to save yourself a shock. Many students shared their online learning experiences and tips on YouTube, so check those out if you’re a freshman!
Finally, consider using the last weeks of this summer break to organize your digital space, try out new note-taking and calendar systems, review your learning tools and apps.
Buy textbooks for the new semester in advance
Getting textbooks, notebooks, flashcards, pens, and so on might turn into a terrible hustle if you leave this for the very last moment. Save yourself time and nerve cells and deal with this in advance. You can already check your curriculum and contact instructors about the required learning materials; clearly, there are a few fundamental textbooks that you’d definitely need.
Make a list of these materials, and get some of the books you know you need in advance before the prices rise. BooksRun is a handy service that will help you buy or rent textbooks for the best price on the market. The books you’ve ordered will be delivered to your doorstep, so no roaming through overcrowded campus bookstores is involved.
BooksRun has a friendly return policy (if you accidentally ordered the wrong book), and you can also rent textbooks! For digital enthusiasts, BooksRun offers eTextbooks — for purchase and for rent. Don’t forget to sell used textbooks that you no longer need back to BooksRun for an attractive buyback! Also, take care of all the stationery that you’d need for the academic year.
Once you get the books (with BooksRun, it won’t take more than a week), start browsing through them. Take note of major concepts, read up things that seem convoluted or you don’t remember from your previous training. Acquiring some background knowledge about the subject you’re going to study will boost your confidence and, quite obviously, prepare you for the material discussed. This little trick will save you energy during the first few weeks on campus.
Stick to your budget
Learning how to deal with your finances is a crucial skill for college students. Create your yearly and monthly budgets, anticipating all the costs of going to college, such as meals, parking, textbooks (don’t forget that BooksRun saves you around $300 on books per semester), subscriptions, and so on.
It’s never too late to explore all the scholarships and internship opportunities available at your college or from other bodies. If you know that you need a job, explore what’s there on offer and anticipate what kind of part-time job would be the most rewarding for you. Or maybe you’d want to get an online side-hustle?
Connect to friends and build networks
Remaining connected with your friends and relatives helps maintain mental balance and minimize this “back to school” anxiety. However, don’t just stick to those folks you’ve left at home — you need to be ready to meet new people and connect to your co-students. You might not become best friends, but nurturing this community feeling among people studying at the same college is crucial. They face exactly the same problems and anxieties, and nobody can understand you better than people you’re studying with who cope with precisely the same issues.
As a freshman, you can start socializing even before you come on campus. Set up a Facebook group for all the newcomers and explore extracurriculars offered at your college. This will make your life on campus — especially its first few weeks — much more manageable.
Plan your moving-in day
This day can turn into a nerve-wracking experience if you don’t plan it properly. Of course, you will look back at it as quite an exciting moment, marking your life’s new chapter, but you might not want to live through it again.
To smoothen your moving-in day, you should prepare in advance and plan ahead. Have a list of all the dorm essentials you might need, read all the guidelines, and decide if you need to ask for help. Get to know your campus (get a proper map with all the buildings marked) and have at hand a few numbers of people who can help you out. And just take it easy, and stay safe.
Extra: A Freshman Checklist
For all those just starting your college life, here is a useful freshman checklist that will navigate the most crucial things you have to deal with. Get it here.
In the end, all you need to do is to be well-prepared and mindful of what’s going on. Take time to make all the necessary preparations, and your future self will thank you for that, really. In your free time, while musing about getting back to college, read a funny book or two about college life!