I arrived for my freshman year of college with a lot going for me. I was academically prepared. I joined the marching band, so I had an instant social circle. I’d attended summer camp at my new school and learned my way around campus. I even knew a few fellow students who came from my high school. Yet the primary emotion I experienced? Anxiety.
I feared not measuring up academically, and I was concerned my peers on the drumline wouldn’t like me. I was anxious I’d be pressured to drink or use drugs or that I’d be sitting alone in my dorm every Friday night. I worried I’d lose connection with my high school friends.
My anxiety made my transition to college difficult. Here are some truths I wish I could tell my freshman self.
You Are Not Alone
Most other freshmen seemed to immediately find friends and be relaxed in social situations. But after 10 years serving in college ministry, I now know the truth—the majority of college freshmen are lonely and anxious. If they don’t feel that way in the first week, they probably will at some point during the year.
If I’d known I wasn’t alone, I might have been more open about my struggles. I could have used my need as an opportunity to connect with peers, and I might have found relief sooner. Anxiety loves to isolate us. But I can guarantee you, if you’re an anxious freshman, you’re not the only one.
You Can Be Yourself
If you’re an anxious freshman, you’re not the only one.
One of the most challenging aspects of that first year was navigating my relationships with the unbelievers on the drumline. Unlike my college ministry friends, my drumline friends were raw and unpredictable. Few of them were Christians, and they often did or said things that made me uncomfortable.
I thought I stuck out like a sore thumb. I constantly felt as if I didn’t belong in the group. I analyzed every conversation I had with them and every decision I made while I was around them. Yet now I know that no one was scrutinizing me the way I was analyzing myself.
Sure, people noticed me. But they didn’t see my discomfort or remember embarrassing things I said. Most people walk through life thinking more about themselves than about others. And when they encounter awkwardness, they seek to cover over those moments, not to embarrass others. Knowing this would have helped me relax, especially around my non-Christian peers.
You Need Community
Sometimes anxiety kept me from deepening friendships with people I truly enjoyed. My fear of being embarrassed by my struggles, or saying something stupid, kept me back from certain social events. But over time, I’ve learned that the security of being known and loved is far greater than the security of staying home alone.
Of course, anxiety can describe a feeling we all have from time to time, or it can be a clinical medical condition. Sometimes we need the intervention of a doctor or mental health professional to help us manage our anxiety. But our everyday friendships can be a great help as well.
I’ve learned that the security of being known and loved is far greater than the security of staying home alone.
One of the best decisions I made in college was to join a campus ministry. You can find these on your campus’s student organization page or by searching for reputable ministries on social media. Choose one, show up, and share your life—including your fears. Allow yourself to be seen and cared for.
Even more important is getting involved in a local church. I wish I’d done this sooner. Start by asking your new campus ministry friends where they go on Sunday mornings, or see if your hometown pastor has recommendations. But don’t just show up on Sunday mornings: find ways to volunteer, take a membership class, check out small groups, and go to social events. As you invest, you’ll find comfort and security in being united with a local body of believers.
You Are Secure in Christ
Whatever makes you anxious as you transition to college, remember this—God knows you and loves you deeply. If you’re in Christ, he doesn’t look at you and see you as insufficient or embarrassing. He looks at you with delight and joy. You’re more secure in him than in any relationship, student organization, or academic achievement.
Ask the Holy Spirit to help you grasp how known and loved you are in Christ. Seek out Scripture that affirms this truth. The more you meditate on God’s great love for you, the more it’ll work its way into your thoughts and emotions—and calm your college fears.