The years spent at university are full of life-changing and challenging events. Before we even get there, we are told that it’s going to be the best time of our lives. I, however, disagree—though it is life changing, everyone’s time at university is going to be different, and that’s okay. This period is just a small fraction compared to what we will have to live through the rest of our lives.

For me, the process of finding a university was difficult. I struggled a lot with my mental health amongst other things, and it took me a long time to completely adapt to the new dynamic.

After finishing my sophomore year, I decided to reinvent myself and reflect about what was making me so miserable. I understood that I had entrapped myself in a victim mindset; I wasn’t allowing myself to get out of my comfort zone because of fear and anxiety. I took responsibility for my actions and started to appreciate life.

I quickly saw improvements—I started making more friends, enjoying my classes more, and savoring the wonderful university experience. It was hard, but I believe each person should undergo a similar process to grow and mature emotionally.

That is why I compiled these 5 important pieces of advice that will give students the necessary tools to topple any obstacle that hinders their growth.

1. Find balance between your studies and your mental health.

Stressed student | Tim Gouw

Handling schoolwork while dealing with mental health problems can be a lot to handle. It’s extremely common for college students to suffer from anxiety and depression. That’s why it’s important to look for professional help during troubling times. Go to a mental health center or a college counselor to sort things out. It takes time to heal and get back to a stable mindset, but that doesn’t mean you need to put your studies aside.

Balance is primordial, and as much as you should take care of yourself, you should also put effort towards your future. Staying grounded and having goals will help you concentrate on achieving a more positive outlook on life.

2. Unsure about the future? Don’t feel pressured.

Woman at a crossroads | Pixource

Choosing a major is a very stressful decision for some college students, myself included. It’s vital to understand early in your college career that your major doesn’t define you, your actions, or what you plan to do with it do. Always worrying about the future will hinder you from staying present and enjoying your time.

It’s okay to be unsure about what you’re going to do with your life after college, because believe it or not, most students are lost too, it’s normal. But it’s your responsibility to prepare for that situation by acquiring a lot of professional experience and establishing long lasting professional relationships. Go abroad, find internships, and get yourself out there! Being unsure doesn’t mean that you must stagnate.

3. Allow yourself to take it slow, it’s not a competition.

Your education is a lot more than good grades. It’s about nurturing yourself and becoming the best possible version of you. Don’t focus on what others are doing, as this will just lead to more anxiety. Focus on your day-to-day actions. Find a role model, as looking at how other people you admire got to where they are will guide you to make more productive and impactful decisions.

By concentrating on your daily actions, you will stop trying to look for the next thing to do. Most people fall into the vicious cycle of filling their days with too many responsibilities that they can’t handle just to feel satisfied. It’s an unbalanced way of living, because in the end, by multitasking you end up doing everything poorly. In contrast, when you just focus on one thing each day, you can feel pleased knowing that you gave it your all.

4. Get out, meet new people, and socialize!

Group of friends socializing | Priscilla Du Preez

Leaving your old friend group and family is hard, especially when you go abroad to study. That’s why opening yourself up to new relationships is pivotal for you to acclimate. College is all about getting out of your comfort zone and trying new adventures that will prepare you for your professional life.

You don’t necessarily have to force yourself to form long lasting relationships with everybody. It’s all about creating small connections and understanding a broader number of perspectives.

5. Prioritize your break time.

Student relaxing in a park | Vic Cherubini

Overworking will only lead to extreme exhaustion. Most of the time we feel that doing a lot of things will lead to greater results, when the reality is the opposite. Taking time to rest and do one thing at a time can lead to better results. In fact, it is known that people are more likely to succeed if they plan their agenda around their time off.

Too much college homework? Select a day of the week you wish to relax, then choose the days before that to make sure you get all your work done. It all comes down to time management and creating useful habits.

Follow the advice above and I’m certain that your outlook on life and your goals will drastically change and improve.

Remember that your college experience is yours and yours alone, so don’t let outside forces dictate how to live. There isn’t one concrete definition for success, and it varies depending on the person; it’s your own journey.

Edited by Brianne Recker.