Adjusting to College Life: Take your Time and Breathe

“These are the best days of your life.” How many times have you heard this statement in reference to your college days? If you are like most new students (and even of you aren’t!) you have heard it too many times. Adjusting to college life can be a serious challenge that doesn’t exactly feel like the “best days…” In fact, most first-year students struggle adjusting to new friends, a new environment, and a new workload. And all of these new things have to be negotiated within the context of more personal freedom and more responsibility. Add unrealistically high expectations (your own and those of your family) and the pressure many of us feel to succeed in college, and you’ve got a formula for increased anxiety.

Let’s break it down.

First of all, know that you are not alone and take some comfort in this shared, if often unspoken, experience. It is normal to be nervous about such a huge change. While some students may appear to have it all together, most of your peers are also grappling with the adjustment to college and living away from home. The only difference among them is their response to the challenge.  

By learning to control the things you can control, you’ll be better equipped for it. The top two aspects of college life that are completely under your control are your time and how you take care of yourself.


You are in charge of how you schedule your time. Your schedule is the foundation of what you can accomplish and enjoy during your day. Your Focus Collegiate Collegiate Life Coordinator will work with you to build your schedule. We start with your goals and work backward, adding static activities (such as class attendance and regular meetings and appointments), your work schedule, and your extracurricular activities to make a framework for a daily calendar.


You are in control over what you eat, how much you sleep, and how active you are. All three are essential to your well-being in college.

  • Diet. One of the many daunting aspects of so much personal freedom is making choices about food. Make good ones! Your food is your fuel. Start to notice how your mind and body run on the foods you choose.
  • Sleep. Recent studies show that sufficient sleep is a significant predictor of academic performance in college students.[1] The American Sleep Association and Medical News Daily recommend sleep apps and smart alarms. Your Collegiate Life Coordinator can help you choose the app that works best for you.
  • Stay Active. According to the CDC “…physical activity can have an impact on cognitive skills and attitudes and academic behavior, all of which are important components of improved academic performance. These include enhanced concentration and attention as well as improved classroom behavior.”[2] Physical activity also has the added benefit of reducing anxiety.
  • Breathe. The breath is the most overlooked aspect of self-care, and yet it is the easiest to control. Your breath is always with you; you need only bring your attention to it. Slow deep breathing functionally resets the autonomic nervous system. Science now supports what your grandmother and ancient yogis have always known: take a deep breath to regain composure. “The breath modulates the limbic oscillations, the cognitive and motor functions of the cortex…Breath has patterns. Schemes create behavior. Breath is a behavior. Behavior represents the person. Breath reveals the person.”[3]

By controlling the two important things you actually can control — time and self-care — you’ll be better prepared to embrace the opportunities college presents. You may even start to enjoy the “best years of your life.”

Photo by Štefan Štefančík on Unsplash




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