Before attending college, you may have envisioned a lively environment packed with opportunities for social interactions. However, college can be a lonely place, even though you’re often surrounded by people. In fact, more than half of college students report feeling “very lonely” in the last 12 months. Feeling lonely can contribute to anxiety, depression, and feelings of hopelessness, yet many students tend to suffer in silence. Despite the prevalence of loneliness on college campuses, students often feel embarrassed or ashamed, so they hesitate to seek help from peers, educators, and mental health professionals.
What contributes to loneliness in college?
Leaving for college is an exciting transition in life, but after the excitement wears off, you may feel isolated and alone. Here’s a closer look at why many college students tend to feel lonely at some point in their higher education journeys.
New Routines and Challenges
College life presents a wide variety of new challenges with the unfamiliarity of a new routine and the question of where you’re headed with your degree and your future. Facing these challenges without the support of the friends and family you’re used to having nearby can be difficult. Additionally, because other students are so busy facing similar hurdles, it may feel like you’re lacking support from the new friends you’ve made on campus.
Limited Depth in Social Interactions
You may find yourself surrounded by other people often—in the classroom, at the library, at sports events, and even at parties. However, these situations may leave something to be desired in terms of the depth of your social connections. You may also find that much of your socializing takes place in the digital space on social media sites, which don’t offer the close connections they tend to promise. Seeing your friends and family through the scope of social media can even amplify feelings of loneliness. You may see old friends building new friendships or entering romantic relationships, which can have you feeling left behind.
The competitive atmosphere that higher education fosters can have you constantly comparing yourself to others and feeling like you cannot reach out to peers for help or support.
What can you do to combat loneliness?
If you are feeling lonely, it’s important to remember that many other students feel the same way. There are also several steps you can take to cope.
Seek Out Peer Activities
You’ll likely find no shortage of campus activities to explore, including clubs, volunteer opportunities, study groups, honor societies, and sororities/fraternities. These groups and activities are the perfect places to meet new people and build deeper relationships with people on campus with whom you might share common values and interests.
It can be easy to get caught up in your busy schedule and lose touch with your family and friends at home. Set aside sometime each week to call those you love at home, which can give you a boost.
Attend Office Hours
Most professors offer office hours during which you can seek extra help in their classes, and many students do not take advantage of this opportunity. Face time with professors outside of the classroom can help you feel more connected in your classes and spark mentor relationships that help you feel more valued as you continue your educational career.
Technology is a mainstay on college campuses and in daily life but overusing social media and getting too much screen time will only amplify feelings of loneliness. It’s important to remember that the pictures that individuals paint of their lives on social media are not entirely accurate—people only show the best moments of their lives on social media, so comparing yourself to those images can leave you feeling unsatisfied in your own life.
Talk to a Professional
There’s a common misconception that professional help should only be reserved for those who are significantly struggling with mental illness. However, you don’t need to wait until you’re facing a full-blown personal crisis to seek help. You may start your search for help at the student health center on campus, or you can attend talk therapy through virtual appointments with qualified professionals.
MeMD can help you tackle the stress of college with affordable virtual therapy services with appointments available in as little as 24 hours.