A Year of “Firsts”; How to Survive Your First Year of College (or High School)
I remember the day I moved into my college dorm-like it was yesterday. Feelings of excitement and nervousness were present. Yet, overshadowed by a bit of sadness. As I looked around the residence halls full of eager freshmen, I couldn’t help but feel something missing. The loss of my father a year and a half before felt very raw and present at that moment. That’s the thing with life transitions. With positive changes come the bittersweet emotions of remembering those no longer with us. The thought that raced through my mind was: “I’m not ready for this.”
Now, after a year and a half of a global pandemic, teens are experiencing these life transitions. COVID paralyzed many of us with loss and grief. These feelings are even more present now after the trauma many teens faced over the last two years. It might be transitioning from high school to college. Or, from middle school to high school. Regardless, it is embarking on a new stage of life after a period of immense loss.
How do you know when you are ready? You don’t. You just are.
Here are five ways to have a successful transition year:
Take risks! Even if it scares you
This next chapter (school year) may seem scary, but that’s because it’s new. New life transitions can be scary. But also, exciting, and full of hope too. With in-person classes, there are more chances to meet new people in a way that we couldn’t do the last year and a half. We’ve been craving face-to-face human connection. Starting a new school or grade gives you a chance to step out of your comfort zone and challenge yourself.
Grades aren’t everything
We spend YEARS of our lives putting pressure on ourselves to get the best grades and test scores. But, at the end of the day, what matters most are the experiences that you’ve had. Now, I’m not telling you to drop the textbook and don’t study. That’s silly! What I can tell you is that I don’t remember the grade I received in my environmental policy class. Yet, I do remember staying up all night laughing with my roommate. I’ll never forget singing songs from our favorite musicals.
It’s okay to not be okay
I wish someone would have told me this during my freshman year of college. I remember feeling very lonely and feeling like I was on an island by myself. Transitions are HARD!! But you’ve got this! You survived *almost* two years of a pandemic and virtual learning. If this doesn’t build resilience, then I don’t know what will! We all have experienced trauma over the last two years. Our brains have been overloaded trying to process how to live during a global pandemic. Many of us are living day to day, surviving. That’s okay. Take it one day at a time.
You are NOT alone
I recall that feeling of loneliness the first night in my dorm room as a freshman in college. I thought to myself: “does anyone else feel lonely too?” Yes. Yes, they do. This is a year of firsts. For so many, it is their first time living away from home. As a result, it can bring on feelings of loneliness and questioning how you’re going to survive this year. Newsflash: you don’t need to figure out right now how you’re going to make it through the year. Instead, think about today. Being vulnerable about how you actually feel during this time can help break the stigma of seeking support during a transition year.
Reach out for support
I cannot stress this enough. By the time we enter college or high school we think, “I can handle this on my own.” Or, we say something like “I’m fine” (and then go cry in your dorm room at night). In fact, this may be your first time living away from home. We get it. Change can be scary AND exciting at the same time. Ah, the classic principles of DBT. We can’t let our past determine our future. We give way too much power to the brain and the thoughts that hold us back from doing what we want. So much so, we may even sometimes be afraid to feel what we are actually feeling. For that, we can listen to, and feel what we are feeling, in the present moment.
Let me leave you with this:
As a practicing DBT therapist who has worked with many teens and young adults over the last 14 years, these past two years have been the most challenging and difficult to see this generation experience this extreme level of distress. As we navigate this “new normal” we must learn to shift our mindsets to radical acceptance, a term coined by Marsha Linehan, as “the only way to move forward is to grieve the life we once knew, and to shift our mindsets to radical acceptance of our present reality in order to create a new normal that is better than our pre-pandemic life.”
You got this. We’re here for you.
Begin Life Transitions Counseling in Michigan and California
As someone who has experienced this themselves, I understand what you are going through. You deserve support in navigating this transition. Our caring therapists would love to support you with Adulting 101 from our West Bloomfield, MI-based therapy practice. To start your therapy journey, please follow these simple steps:
Other Services Offered at Therapyology
Young adult therapy isn’t the only service offered at our West Bloomfield, MI-based therapy practice. Other mental health services include grief counseling, LGBTQ therapy, therapy for children, trauma-informed therapy, parent coaching, and therapy for teens. We also offer online therapy in Michigan, camp in California, groups, therapy for children of divorce, and Camp Therapyology