Feeling Lonely in College

By Kelly Burch

Building a new social life in college can be harder than you may expect. First-year students usually find themselves surrounded by hundreds—or even thousands—of other people their age, but nearly two out of three college students say they’ve felt very lonely during the past year. 

It can feel like everyone else has it all figured out and you are the only one struggling, but most students experience at least some awkwardness building their new social life when they go to college. There’s nothing weird or wrong about feeling unsettled or lonely in the first few weeks or months at school. It’s actually perfectly normal.

Here’s what may help when those feelings of loneliness strike. 

Name Your Feelings

Research suggests there’s power in putting a name to the emotion you’re experiencing. If you’re able to turn things around from “what’s wrong with me today?” to “I’m feeling lonely today,” you may be able to better manage the feeling. Practicing that kind of emotional awareness can help you make choices about effective ways to deal with it.

Get Outside

Feelings of loneliness can grow when you’re holed up in your room, so gently push yourself to get outside. You can try taking a walk, napping on the quad, or going for a bike ride. 

Research suggests that being in green spaces—even in a city—may reduce feelings of loneliness. In general, spending time in nature may have a positive impact on social interactions and help you feel happier, which can help ease loneliness.

Practice Gratitude

Taking a moment to acknowledge the people and things you’re grateful for can have a positive impact on your emotions and social relationships. Practicing gratitude can even be a form of self-care because it boosts your sense of overall well-being. Here’s how to get started

Build Yourself Up

Sometimes loneliness feels like a failure or rejection from other people. Remind yourself why you’re so wonderful. Remember you deserve rich, loving relationships, and that the closest friendships can take time to develop. If you put yourself out there in ways that are meaningful to you and make you feel good about yourself, friendship usually finds you.

Join an Activity

Join a new club on campus, introduce yourself to a classmate, or volunteer for an organization you care about. All of these things may feel awkward at first—and that’s OK—but eventually, they can lead to the connections you’re craving. 

Call Your Friends or Family

When you’re feeling lonely on campus, a quick call with your friends or family back home can perk you up. Be honest with them about how you’re doing. They’ve probably felt the same before, and they would understand. 

Over time, loneliness can impact your mental health. If you’re really struggling, speak with your RA, friends, family, or campus mental health services

If you want to reach out to someone right now you can text home to 741-741 for a confidential conversation with a trained counselor any time of day 

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If you or someone you know needs to talk to someone right now, text, call, or chat 988 for a free confidential conversation with a trained counselor 24/7. 

You can also contact the Crisis Text Line by texting HOME to 741-741.

If this is a medical emergency or if there is immediate danger of harm, call 911 and explain that you need support for a mental health crisis.