For all the preparing we do before getting into and going to college, there’s one thing we are rarely warned about: the isolation that often accompanies moving away from home for the first time. Despite sharing a room with another person, a bathroom with many other people and a kitchen with your entire campus, living without any familiar faces can lead to really depressing isolation.
Even if you leave your door open all the time, it’s not easy making meaningful relationships in college, especially during your first year. There is a lot of beauty in living in a building with people from all over the world, but there is also a lot of intimidation. Too often, college students resort to staying by themselves to avoid the uncertainty that comes with living away from home. For these students, it’s crucial that they join an organization on or off campus to give them the support and friendships they need.
Surveys and studies from recent years estimate that college students, particularly freshmen, are spending less and less time getting to know people on campus. Instead, they are clinging to social media to feel connected to their lives back home. This is a serious issue. While most college students will return home for winter and summer breaks, they now live somewhere else. They’re starting a new life, whether or not they realize it, and that means focusing on the new rather than dwelling on the past.
Although some people may think loneliness is just another part of moving to the next chapter in life after high school, it can actually have really devastating effects. According to some studies, more than 60 percent college students felt lonely during the 2015-2016 year.
Because humans are inherently a social species, not having frequent, meaningful social interactions leads to depression and feelings of anxiety.
It can be easy to let this loneliness take over and withdraw into yourself when it becomes too much. But when you decide that enough is enough, universities have so many opportunities to put yourself out there and meet people. Although no one will hold your hand like they may have done in high school, if you take the initiative to join any of the countless clubs and activities offered on campus, some of that loneliness may start to go away.
In fact, colleges should make joining a student organization a first-year requirement. They would push students past their comfort zones and show them that it’s not so scary after all.
Just on the USC campus, there are over 500 student organizations, ranging anywhere from Greek organizations to musical interest groups. Most large universities offer a wide range of student groups like this; not only are they a great opportunity, but they are also crucial for students suffering from extreme loneliness.
Apart from being surrounded by people at group meetings and activities, joining a student group of virtually any kind gives students the chance to further their interests and passions. For someone feeling isolated, this can really give them a chance to see joy in life again. Whether it’s service projects aimed at bettering the community, or group bonding trips to see a movie, being part of an organization gives students that extra support they need when they leave home.
Isolating oneself is a choice, and although it sometimes feels easier to do that than put yourself out of your comfort zone, college is so much more enjoyable when you have friends by your side. Joining an on-campus club surrounds you with your fellow students, and you just might meet your lifelong best friends.