Heading to college can be exciting.
After all, it’s a wonderful opportunity for you to test your independence and meet new people.
But it also means being away from your solid support system, which is made up of everyone you love, as you attend one class after the other, prepare for and take endless exams and attempt to co-exist with individuals from all sorts of backgrounds.
Based on a survey by the American College Health Association (ACHA) – National College Health Assessment (NCHA), around 63.1% of students felt very lonely during the last 12 months of college. It adds that more female college students reported being very lonely than male college students — 67.0% vs. 54.4%.
Is Loneliness Common in College Students?
Among college students, especially those who are beginning their first year of undergraduate studies, loneliness is a common problem. Making matters worse, according to a licensed professional counselor in Illinois, is that a lot of students do not talk about their loneliness because of feeling ashamed or embarrassed about it.
The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine (NASEM) reports that more than a third of all adults aged 45 and older feel lonely. It adds that almost a fourth of adults aged 65 and older are socially isolated.
Needless to say, loneliness is common among adults and older adults.
But according to the Journal of Adolescence, young individuals suffer from loneliness far more than any other age group.
It adds that twice as many adolescents go through loneliness today as they did 10 years ago — loneliness among teens rose sharply, especially among females, between 2012 and 2018 in 36 out of 37 countries surveyed.
On the other hand, Cigna Healthcare surveyed around 20,000 American adults in order to have a much better understanding of the impact of loneliness on people in the country.
Based on its US Loneliness Index, generation Z, or adults aged between 18 and 22, is the loneliest of all generations. It also claims to be in a worse state of health than individuals who are older than them.
Why Do College Students Feel Lonely?
According to a report by Psych Central, it’s about halfway through the first semester of college when many students experience loneliness. It explains that loneliness among college students can be caused by various reasons, including being far away from home and having the wrong expectations about higher education.
College is a completely different world from high school. Many learn about this only when they’re already in college.
While college classes are fewer than in high school, which means more free time, the courses can be more challenging. And college is much bigger than high school, with students coming from different parts of the nation and the world.
As a result of this, there are many things that can cause college students to go through loneliness.
This is especially true during their initial foray into postsecondary education.
Many graduating high schoolers think that college is all fun and games, just like how many Hollywood movies depict it, only to find out later on that it actually requires tons of hard work and sacrifice.
Here are some of the top reasons why it’s not uncommon for college students to feel lonely:
Being far away from home
Many colleges and universities require all first-year students to live on campus. And it goes without saying that it’s where a lot of freshmen feel homesick.
If you are used to having your loved ones close all your life, it’s not unlikely for you to feed forlorn, particularly during the process of adjusting to your college career.
Doubting one’s chosen educational path
Not everyone goes to college after high school — some enter the workforce, while others take a gap year.
Being unsure as to whether or not working on a bachelor’s degree or the major or career path you have in mind is right for you can trigger different feelings, including loneliness. Having your support system miles away can make matters worse.
Busy everyday schedule
While it’s true that there are not as many classes per day or week in college as in high school, undergraduate students tend to be busier than high schoolers, what with all the coursework and adjustments necessary.
Stress can exacerbate existing problems, such as loneliness.
Comparisons with others
As mentioned earlier, a college campus is more diverse than a high school campus.
And because each one is different from one another not only culturally and socioeconomically — among many other points of comparison — but also academically, you might feel out of place and long for where you can fit in without trouble, such as your hometown or high school.
Is It Normal to Have No Friends in College?
Based on a survey published by University World News by the Graduate School of Education at the University of Pennsylvania, around 1 in every 5 college students say that they don’t have real friends on campus.
While it’s common for students to have no friends, college provides them with many opportunities to make some.
A thesis submitted to Northeastern University stated that first-generation college students often experience loneliness and homesickness, among various emotions that negatively impacted their emotional well-being.
Such can be due to things like their friends not going to college or the feeling that they are abandoning responsibilities.
But there’s no need for you to be a first-generation student to have difficulty making friends in college.
For instance, according to Verywell Mind, it can be due to the fact that some individuals experience some anxiety when meeting new people, which can be aggravated by the more diverse studentry at a college campus.
Some deliberately turn down any opportunities to make friends in order to avoid the challenges that come with it, while others may put a lot of pressure on themselves to become popular and have lots and lots of friends.
Fortunately, there are numerous ways to meet new people in college and even win lifelong friends — according to an Elon Center study, around 79% of all college graduates found their closest friends in college.
The following are some ways through which college students can make friends:
- Participate in extracurriculars
- Join campus events
- Attend classes with group projects or labs
- Bond with dorm mates
- Head to the campus gym or student center
- Apply for an internship
- Have a part-time job
Just Before You Give Up Because of Loneliness
It’s completely normal for college students to experience loneliness. This is especially true during the first semester or even the first year of college.
And even though it can make you consider packing your things and heading back home, always remember that things will get better and better as you get accustomed to your college life.
College offers you wonderful opportunities to meet new people, some of whom could be your friends for life!
Will you be happier after college?
Based on a survey that used data provided by the US General Social Surveys, around 94% of individuals with a bachelor’s degree (or more) reported being happy or very happy with their lives all in all. On the other hand, about 89% of people whose highest educational attainment is high school said the same.
Are successful people lonely?
A report by Forbes, which was written by an entrepreneur, investor and software expert, said that the path to success can be very lonely. That’s because their lives are usually different from the lives of most. It’s also not unlikely for them to sacrifice many things as well as encounter difficulties and disappointments.
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent those of the College Reality Check.