Why is College So Lonely?
College is full of new opportunities that can be exhilarating. That said, college life can also lead to isolation due to several factors, like leaving the comfort of a childhood home, experiencing new or enhanced social anxiety, or being in a new environment for the first time.
Being away from home
Moving away from home is a big life transition. Stepping into unfamiliar territory can be stressful and require an adjustment period. Being far away from family and high school friends and trying to get used to a new environment can lead young students down a path of loneliness.
Leaving behind a romantic relationship
First love is often experienced during the high school years. Leaving for college can be difficult on a romantic relationship, whether it means breaking up or trying to manage a new life, new school, new demands, and a long-distance relationship. Missing a partner (who also might have been a best friend) can be the culprit of near-unbearable loneliness for some students as they try to navigate a new social life and circle of friends.
Challenges of making friends in a new environment
Even the most confident teenager might find it challenging to make new bonds and connections at the beginning of college. Despite an abundance of social opportunities, the rigorous expectations that come with moving from high school coursework to challenging collegiate studies might take away from having the time or energy to go out and make new friends.
Social pressure is inherent in university life. After spending decades watching movies and reading books that make it seem so easy to find new friends in college, the reality can be more painful. Some students might find their social circle quickly, but for those who don’t, the feelings of loneliness can be intense.
Most students find that academic stress ramps up in college. Even extremely bright scholars can discover they’re suddenly more challenged than they were in high school. Stress can lead to anxiety and depression, which can hamper energy or desire to go out and make friends.
Balancing daily responsibilities
It can be challenging for any 18-year-old to figure out how to balance the demands of essential daily duties. Without mom or dad to remind them to start laundry or pack food for a long day, they might struggle to get into a routine that leaves time for socializing and making friends. While these life lessons are necessary, they can be difficult and add to feelings of loneliness.
Lack of support system
It’s not uncommon for students to struggle with not having a support system in college. Feeling alone and unsupported can be hard for some students, especially if they are also experiencing homesickness. Not having the much-needed support they’re used to can lead to lonely days.
College offers newfound independence, but with it comes demanding routines that can be difficult for some students to get used to. Suddenly, students need to find time and learn how to do things like manage their finances, cook or pick up meals, do laundry, get enough sleep, and keep up with their studies. Their new routine can be exhausting and make finding meaningful connections even harder.
Anxiety and depression
Rates of anxiety and depression among college-age students are higher than ever, according to the latest research. A study of nearly 100,000 U.S. college students found that 37% have an anxiety disorder and 44% have symptoms of depression.
Loneliness often accompanies both these mental health conditions. It can be daunting to try to make friends when struggling with the symptoms depression or anxiety can cause.