The transition from high school to college is an exciting but scary time. All of a sudden, a student’s parents, coaches and supporters are not by their side, directing their steps. The amount of freedom is overwhelming and leads to a lot of responsibility. Often, college students hear the phrase, “You can only have two: good grades, a social life or sleep.” Thus, there is a need for college students to learn how to transition between high school and college in order to find success. In my opinion, there are four critical areas college students need to focus on to achieve well-rounded achievements and development. These include physical success, mental success, social success and academic success.

Physical Success

Remaining physically healthy helps students feel better while also receiving many health benefits. There are many ways for students to stay physically healthy on campus. The most commonly known place is the student gym. Many universities have several gyms located throughout campus. These gyms are equipped to have all the equipment a person may need while also being able to handle hundreds of students at once. Depending on the school, many gyms also have workout classes like spin, HIIT and yoga.

For many people, the gym can be intimidating. To help alleviate this, some students choose to go in groups with friends. Being around people they are already comfortable with can help reduce any anxiety. There are also several locations around campus where students can get some physical exercise. Walking, running or biking through campus or going to any public sports arena is an option. At arenas, students can run stadiums or stairs, or just find a shaded place to work out away from the sun.

Aside from helping you lose weight, working out has many other health benefits. These include a reduced risk of chronic disease, reduced chronic pain and an improvement in brain function and memory. While these might not be things many college students are concerned about, they will thank themselves later for staying active now.

Everyone has heard of the dreaded “freshman fifteen.” This is when new college students who have never lived on their own gain 15 pounds within their first year. To prevent this weight gain, students need to eat right in addition to working out. Eating right means balance — not cutting out all the things one loves to eat and then binge eating. Students can watch what they eat by making a log or meal prepping. Some people like to count calories, while others limit themselves to one cheat day a week. Students should also watch the amount of alcohol they consume. Alcohol has a large amount of calories and will also dehydrate the body, and too much can lead to headaches or muscle aches. Staying physically healthy is vital for keeping up with a hectic college schedule.

Mental Success

College itself is hard, so staying mentally healthy helps all other obligations be successful. Some ways college students can focus on their mental health is by understanding depression and other mental health concerns. Depression affects more students than one would think; in fact, it affects around 20% of all college students. To stay mentally healthy, one should recognize the symptoms of depression, which include anxiety, sadness, lack of focus, social isolation and sleeping problems. By screening for these symptoms, students can find out if they need to consult with a physician or not.

Students should also learn to cope with suicidal thoughts. If a student is having suicidal thoughts, they should seek help immediately. Finding help from a mental health professional is nothing to be ashamed of. Removing any drugs or tools that could be used to injure oneself is also very important. All schools have a mental health counselor to help guide students through difficult times.

Finally, preventing self-injury is extremely important for mental health. Students participating in self-harm need to determine the source of their anxiety. It can be helpful to confide in someone they trust or reach out to the Suicide Prevention Lifeline. Learning how to manage and understand mental disorders can help students become mentally successful in college and remain so throughout the rest of their lives.

Social Success

One of the best parts of the college experience is the social aspect. Finding balance between academic obligations and social connection is important. My freshman year, I was in an introduction to engineering class. This helps set engineering students up for success early on. During the first week, the professor stood at the front of the class and told us that in order to be successful, we need to plan which two parties we could go to that semester. While some students chose to go out or party every weekend, this professor urged us not to follow those footsteps and to use the weekends to catch up or work ahead on schoolwork instead.

By picking two parties to go to a semester, students can plan their academic, physical and mental success. Parties are not the only way to have fun social experiences. Many students will form a study group where everyone will study together. Meals are also a great way to stay connected. Being social isn’t just about having fun. There are several benefits to being social, including forming deep, lasting relationships, developing study habits, reducing stress, sharing interests and developing social skills. By having a little creativity, students can be social and productive.

Academic Success

Being academically successful is crucial for future success and happiness. Academic success doesn’t just mean getting all A’s — it also means finding and developing passions. To do this, students must choose a major they love and can see themselves doing for the rest of their lives. If not, they will find themselves unhappy throughout the rest of their career. My favorite television series, ”Friends,” has a plotline with one of the main characters, Chandler Bing. After several years of working in IT procurement, Chandler finds himself unhappy and wanting to switch to marketing. After quitting his job, he has to take an unpaid internship with college students. Not only was he the odd one out because he was 10 years older than the other interns, but his financial life was also strained.

Picking a field so young can be overwhelming and cause anxiety. Students should take full advantage of their academic advisors to help lead them on the right path. Students should also turn toward their family and friends. Asking the opinion of family and friends can give a student a different perspective. Once the student has determined a major, being successful in that major is key. Good grades are a student’s ticket to their dream job, medical school or graduate school. To get and maintain good grades, students should be organized and focused. This will ensure they get everything done in a timely manner.

Being successful doesn’t come without failures. When a student is struggling with a topic, before failing the homework or exam, they should take advantage of university resources. Many schools have tutoring programs and require that professors hold office hours where students can ask questions. By taking advantage of these before a big exam, students can ensure success.

Academic success isn’t just limited to grades. Academic success also includes being involved in extracurricular activities. As an engineer, I was a member of the Society of Women Engineers and The American Society of Mechanical Engineers. I was also a teacher’s assistant in thermodynamics, engineering design methods and senior design. All these things helped build my resume and land me my dream job. Students who are unsure of what clubs to join can ask their academic advisor, and many schools host an involvement fair every semester.

It’s All Worth It

Going from high school to college is an exciting and fun time, but the new environment, people and experiences can be overwhelming. It’s vital for college students to stay focused on what’s important. Being physically, mentally, socially and academically successful is a lot to ask and requires intense planning and understanding of oneself, one’s situation and long-term impacts. This planning and understanding may be intense, but it brings great success in the short and long term.

Medical Disclaimer: The Recovery Village aims to improve the quality of life for people struggling with a substance use or mental health disorder with fact-based content about the nature of behavioral health conditions, treatment options and their related outcomes. We publish material that is researched, cited, edited and reviewed by licensed medical professionals. The information we provide is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. It should not be used in place of the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare provider.

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