College tends to be a time that breeds or brings underlying conditions of depression, anxiety, and low self-worth to the surface. For some people, this is a chronic condition that requires medical intervention. For others, their feelings of discontent are circumstantial.
Fortunately, in both cases, there are five measures you can take to start building an environment more conducive to your productivity, drive to succeed, and overall happiness.
1. Study What Interests You
First of all, it's flippin' ridiculous that we expect an 18-year-old freshman (or a graduating 21-year-old, for that matter) to have a precise notion of what they want to do professionally for the next 20, 30, or even 40 years.
When parents protest, "But he has to declare a major!" or, "We don't want our daughter wasting her time!" - I fire back with, "How many of us end up doing the exact job we thought we wanted?"
The truth is, most of us change career paths several times, both during our tenure as students and then as we navigate our way through the professional realm.
And that is a good thing!
So students, you want to be happy during your four years in college? Then do yourself a favor and take classes in the subjects that actually interest you. The skills you acquire from any major - critical thinking, public speaking, research and data analysis, writing - can all later be applied to a variety of careers.
2. Make Time for Play
Happy students do not spend every night in the library, alone in a poorly-lit corner cubicle. They get their assignments done and then they meet a friend for dinner, join an intramural volleyball league, and volunteer at an animal shelter on Monday afternoons.
Happy students go to football games, stay up late talking with their roommates, and buy tickets for the back-to-school concert.
Happy students recognize that college has to be a holistic experience - academic, professional, and social - to truly get the most out of the time, energy, and money your family has invested.
3. Get - And Stay - Organized
Set yourself up for success by starting each new semester with a fresh schedule that factors in your class, work, self-care, and social obligations. If you love running, put yourself down for 30 minutes three times a week before your first class. If you would like to make a little extra money with an off-campus job, show your employer your availability and see if she can accommodate your desired hours.
The point is to stay on top of your schedule, and know when you need to make time for something that is important to you.
4. Ask For Help When You Need It
And what is the very best way to effect change over an undesirable situation? To ask for help, of course, from the appropriate resource(s) at your disposal.
Sometimes this means changing what you are doing, and sometimes, it just means changing how you respond to certain challenging situation. But asking for assistance is the surest way to make sure you actually are capable of changing anything at all.
5. Have Defined Goals
So even if you don't know what you want to do with your life - heck, even if you don't know what you want to major in - it's still important to have defined goals about what you want out of your college experience.
- To study something that lets me practice public speaking
- To take classes with lots of emphasis on literature
- To graduate with a working knowledge of ArcGIS software
- To win a travel grant before graduating
- To score an internship in journalism by my junior year
- To find at least one professor who acts as a mentor
Often, discontent is a symptom of feeling aimless or drifting. Conversely, giving yourself a purpose, an objective, a defined goal helps keep you motivated, even when you aren't sure exactly where you are going to ultimately end up.
Rather, the happiest students are those who recognize the importance in honoring their interests, respecting their needs, and finding ways to take the initiative over their goals, both short and long-term.