When you leave high school, they say the worst years are behind you. While it isn’t necessarily smooth sailing from here on out, it is generally accepted by most that the teenage years are the most difficult in terms of negative influences on one’s mental health. Going away to college means leaving behind everything that held you back in your younger years.
You can leave the state and never speak to your peers again if that is your purgative, or you can stay at home and either go to community college or trade school. You can join the workforce right away. You can join the military. You can even marry your high school sweetheart and start having children right away. No matter what you choose to do, the choice is yours. At age 18, an individual is given the responsibility of choosing their own life path and making decisions that will deeply affect their future.
Mental health in college students
The time period that falls between the ages of 18-25 can be extremely stressful and overbearing for many. At this stage of life, a person has entered what is referred to as emerging adulthood. This is the period between being a child and being an adult. The law says that once you are 18, you are legally an adult. In society, this is not how it is.
Before one reaches the age of 25, they are often still considered to be more childish and less responsible than an actual ‘full-blown’ adult. Some hotel rooms and rental car services will not cater to anyone under the age of 25. The government still keeps a person on their parent’s healthcare up until the age of 25, because until then, they are generally not seen as being responsible enough to provide their own healthcare.
5 features of emerging adulthood
There are five key features that distinguish emerging adulthood from the other various life stages. These are identity exploration, instability, an ‘in-between’ feeling, self-focus, and endless possibility. I identify especially with the one having to do with endless possibilities. In just two short months, I will be graduating from college and I will be starting on a fresh clean slate.
This means a lot of things. For one, I have begun to start saving my money so that I do not get stuck living with my parents at the time of graduation. I recently participated in an activity in one of my classes where we were told to make three five-year plans for after we graduate. I was shocked to realize that I actually have tons of options. I could leave the country and do humanitarian work in a third world country. I could stay in Maryland and live with my parents. I could move to the other side of the country and start a family.
Like I stated before, my possibilities are endless, and I never have had to deal with that before. Before I entered the emerging adulthood stage of life, I was used to most decisions in my life being made for me. This was done either by other people, or as a result of procrastination and being left with fewer options. Now the choice is up to me, and that scares me a lot.
When I first entered college, I thought that I wanted to be a journalist. I had taken the class all throughout high school, and I was often praised for my creativity and ability to work fast. My first semester I was put into an into-level women’s studies class, and it was there that I learned what my true purpose in life was. I finally found something that I could relate to and be passionate about, and it felt amazing. It made me feel accomplished to finally have set out a well-grounded identity for myself to forge and a clear path began to emerge.
When it comes to instability, my life is full of it. Over the past four years I have lived at my parent’s house at home, a freshman dormitory, a two-bedroom apartment with three girls, in a small apartment in Tallahassee with my boyfriend and his three roommates, a beach house in Rehoboth, my parent’s new home in Annapolis, and a three-story row home in Baltimore. I’m constantly packing up and leaving the place I call home and starting new.
I often see myself as being in between two stages of life. I no longer live with my parents, but I’m not completely on my own. My family pays for my rent, my food, my car, and so much more. When I think of the future and the past, I group it into what my life is going to be in college, and what is was like in high school. The past four years of my life have not been connected by much besides the fact that I am going to college. I’ve had different jobs, different friends, and different lifestyles over these years.
It took me a while to really understand what self-focus entailed, but I realize that my level of this has become extremely prevalent in my stages of emerging adulthood. In high school I often worries about what other people thought of me and how they saw me. I wanted to be liked so much. When I came to college, I was able to realize just how much more you can learn to love yourself if you stop worrying about other people. Instead of thinking about what other people might see me as, I became the person that I was proud of.
College mental health resources
This period of life can be met with a lot of unwanted feelings and even mental health issues in some individuals. If you ever are feeling as though you need professional help, don’t be afraid to reach out to the various forms of college mental health resources right at your fingertips.