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Author Topic: College Advice:
Member # 11985

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I'm currently a sophomore at a small liberal arts college in the middle of the USA, and I've been struggling with life in general for a while now. I'm hoping that you guys on this forum might have some advice.

College started great. I made a lot of friends, partied, et cetra, but in my second semester things went downhill. A lot of my friendships deteriorated, and I just became generally depressed. After the semester ended, I had to be hospitalized for 2 weeks due to severe depression.

Last semester was very, very hard, and at first I thought I couldn't make it. I did, but only took 3 classes and a far cry from my initial all A record scored all B's. My social life wasn't so great but I was more focused on getting by.

This semester, however, I've started to think how I can rejuvenate my social life. I do have a very close friend, but feel a bit stifled. While I'm feeling a lot better, I still am not nearly at optimal levels. And I'm still "not sure" of myself in that I don't think I could do things like get a job etc... Considering that I did hold a full time job once and performed well this is unlikely, but I'm still not as sure or confident as I used to.

On the plus side, I am seeing a new therapist who seems to be more useful than my old, Freudian one. I'm not sure how to go about revitalizing my life tho when all social groups seem already formed.

Advice please? If any clarification of anything is needed, please ask.

Thanks! [Smile]

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Member # 923

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Had you thought about volunteer work? Generally there are groups oriented toward specific goals at colleges, and they are often open to incoming members at any time. My favorite go-to group has always been Habitat for Humanity because I like having a physical project to work on with other people, side-by-side. For me, it's easier and more fun than something that is all talk. And it's a good way to meet people who share your interests.

Similar university and non-university groups include community gardens, one-time volunteering at alumni association events, the animal shelter (e.g., walking dogs), Special Olympics, and many others. If you wanted help finding a list of volunteering opportunities, you'd probably have to name the college, but it's all usually available online.

You'd have to find something that aligned with your interests, and given that you are feeling a bit tentative, maybe focus on groups where it is clearly okay to just volunteer for short spurts of time without any ongoing commitment.

Or not. [Smile] I hope you find an answer that works for you.


PS: Good on you for dealing with your depression issues and staying on track. That's a big deal, and you should be commended for it.

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Member # 11963

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I had a rough first year too. I was far from home, lonely, and not very good at socializing.
But things came around the second year. What really helped was getting involved in school life. I found clubs and groups I was interested in and went to their events. I also made friends with other people in classes I was taking.
Just give it time and get out there. You`ll do fine :-)

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Flaming Toad on a Stick
Member # 9302

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It is almost scary how much your post reminds me of myself the last few semesters. If your therapist is any good, he or she has probably given you some decent advice already, but I'll try to give you some perspective from my end.

I am a student of environmental engineering. I suffer from type 2 bipolar disorder. I also have problems with anxiety, depression and insomnia. My first year of university didn't go that horribly (mostly because I could coast through the generalized material fairly easily). However, when second year hit, and I was forced to work independantly, I hit a wall. It literally felt like I could do nothing. I suffered some severe panic attacks and spent countless nights lying awake, dreading the next day. I stopped talking to my parents and friends. I failed several courses, even though the material wasn't excessively hard.

Third year, first semester was the worst. I had a breakdown right around midterm time. I had to withdraw fromm all my classes, even though I had an A average up yo that point. I just felt bad.

I finally pushed myself and started communicating with my parents again. I also fell back a little on my friends. They pushed for me to see a psychiatrist, and set me up. The psychiatrist now has me on what appears to be an ideal medical treatment. I'm back in classes, on a part-time basis. I'm sleeping properly, and I've lost some weight.

CT's advice on social interactions and volunteering is excellent. I would also recommend sports or working out, as they are generally healthy and can help you meet many new people. Also, try developping some hobbies.

Your health is your number one priority. Keep up the good work in maintaining it.

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Member # 8376

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I think, and this is true almost every time she posts that Claudia Therese's advice is very good. I've found that nothing but nothing makes life happier and more worthwhile than service freely rendered. It's certainly a sacrifice as you are going out on a limb, giving up your own free time, and the returns are not guaranteed. But I have yet to meet somebody who freely spent serious time providing service and hating it. Also think about the sorts of people who get involved in that sort of thing. From my experience they represent some of the best personalities society has to offer. Having friends like that is always worthwhile. A friend with no qualms regarding service is worth more than their weight in gold.

Think about it seriously.

Beyond that, it sounds like you need a support network and something that excites you when you wake up in the morning. When you don't have many friends and your grades suffer you don't get much satisfaction out of your life. Have you selected a major yet? If it's a tentative one I highly suggest you think carefully about perhaps trying a new program. When I selected Political Science as my major (previously I was a criminal justice major) it felt like a somebody opened all the windows, aired out the room, put on some rocking tunes, and handed me a steak dinner. I felt like I had definitely found a topic my brain readily enjoyed, as well as a purpose I could get behind.

So there you have my two pronged approach, find something that helps somebody else to do in your spare time, and find a major that excites you, I don't care what that major is.

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Member # 7616

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I went through all four years of college without ever forming a social group or connecting with more than a few casual acquaintances. I struggled with depression throughout my time there, and very nearly dropped out in my last semester after an unpleasant breakup with my long-distance boyfriend chopped the only really strong thread out of my support network.

And then I graduated, and moved into the working world, and found that for me, at least, it was about a hundred times easier to meet and socialize with and get to know people outside the college environment. And depression is a whole lot easier to cope with when your support network numbers dozens instead of one.

I'm definitely not saying you should give up on trying to improve your college experience. CT and Mocke's suggestions are all good ones. But I do want to encourage you not to get stuck in the trap--as I've seen some people do--of assuming that if you don't make friends now, you'll never manage it. For some people, college is the best years of their life. For others, it's just something to get through on your way to better things.

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Member # 2199

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I also found that in volenterering I helped myself as much (or more) than I helped outers more often than not. I love dogs, and have done everything to donating my time to clean shelters to actually fostering dogs, but that works for me.

Most service groups even if affiliated with a specific religion (and not all are) are always glad to have volunteers to help, and can always find something for you to do.

Sometimes the things people ask for are very simple, but they aren't able to do it for themselves. Something as simple as taking someone to Wal-Mart can make their day, and really doesn't take a lot out of your day.

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Member # 6776

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Since you seem to easily make good grades when you're able to put forth the effort, let me share a trick with you that helped me get through college. Find a study partner or several study partners in each of your classes. Then you can help them understand the material, figure out the problems, etc. and they can help get you motivated and started by dropping by to study. Studying together also is a great way to make friends.

An alternate idea is to go to all-night study spots (in my college it was a large lounge in the basement of the largest building), and hang out there doing your studying. Most people enjoy any sort of distraction while they're studying, so they tend to chat with those around them.

Once you have a group of friends, it's particularly easy to be a newbie fisher. If you get to chatting with someone who seems interesting, smart, nice, funny you can say, "we're having a party Saturday night at x place. You should come." It's much less threatening to ask someone to drop by somewhere you and your friends will be than it is to ask them to go do something with you by yourself. That helps turn casual acquaintances into friends.

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Member # 6776

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Here's something I wrote that I call Tatiana's twelve tips for making friends. It might be useful to you.

1. Don't let the fact that you're alone stop you from doing anything you'd like to do. Go to restaurants, movies, concerts, art museums, whatever you find interesting and fun. This may take courage at first, but gather your courage to do it a few times, and you will soon find it easy and natural.

2. Enjoy yourself. Whether you're alone or with others, be interested in your surroundings and open to new impressions and experiences.

3. Be interested in people. Lose your fear of strangers and learn to see everyone as a potential friend. Notice things about them. Imagine what it is like to be them right now, what they might be thinking and feeling.

4. Try to look nice when you are out in the world. It's not that you must be beautiful to make friends, but groom yourself enough not to look scary. The Charles Manson look isn't conducive to meeting people.

5. Don't limit yourself. Don't think only people of a certain age, whose clothes are a particular style and whose hair looks right, are potential friends. Look at kids, old people, people of all ethnicities and cultures and in every profession and walk of life, as potential friends. After all, even if you are more interested in people your age, kids have elder siblings and babysitters, old people have dear nephews and grandchildren, etc. All people are connected. And all people are interesting and worthy in their own right, too. If you're a shy person, could it be that it's really you who are snubbing everyone else's overtures?

When people are in high school, they usually separate into groups like nerds, freaks, preps, stoners, band geeks, partiers, etc., and don't often make friends from other groups. In college, most people abandon those categories and realize that there are interesting cool wonderful people under all classifications. The people who are the least like you are the ones from whom you have the most to learn. Be a xenophile. There are whole worlds of interest out there of which you may be unaware.

6. If you're shy, then make friends with someone who makes friends easily, and you will likely find other friends among their friends and acquaintances.

7. Be helpful. If you see someone struggling with something, be willing to offer your help. Don't be pushy, of course, but be willing offhand to assist people if they seem to need it. "You look lost, can I help you find something?" "Let me help you pick those up," (if someone drops something.) Hold the door for someone who has their arms full. (Here in the south we hold the door for everyone who comes behind us, but I know that's not the custom in other parts of the country.)

8. Smile. (In an offhand way.) If you take too much sudden interest in a stranger, you will put them off, but if you seem friendly, but not particularly eager, you will put them at their ease. The smile you want is one in which you smile with your mouth, but not so much your eyes. The eyes should show benign friendliness only.

9. Ask questions or comment offhand about things of immediate mutual interest. If you are waiting for your plane you might ask someone if they've heard if it will be late. If you are at a concert ask who is the opening band. If you are in line you can ask how long the person in front of you has been there, how fast the line is moving. If you can make a funny remark about something happening in the vicinity, that's even better. You can't launch instantly into talking about things that matter. You have to talk about inconsequentia first. Anything that's minor, and of immediate passing interest will do. There's a reason why the weather is such a perennial topic of conversation.

10. Be friendly to all who serve you. Appreciate the people who wait on you at restaurants, check you out at stores, and so on. Particularly when you're traveling, they can be very kind and helpful.

11. It's not about you. Don't ever be offended, or hurt, or put upon in any way, if a person ever snubs your friendliness. They are a stranger. They don't know you. Whatever their reaction, it most likely has a lot more to do with how they are feeling today, and what they have going on in their life, than it does anything at all about you. Be blase about rejection. After all, with strangers, you have no expectation that they are good people, or kind, or polite. They could be afraid of strangers, or too busy, or in a bad mood. They could be anything at all. Accept that and don't be worried or put off by it, but respond according to how they act. I've found that almost everyone is decent, kind and good.

12. Don't get discouraged. It takes a lot of tries to get one hit. Don't expect instant complete success. Cultivate friendliness as an attitude, an overall approach to people, and you will begin to make more and more friends. It's a snowball thing. Give it time and be persistent. With practice and consistent effort, you will eventually get results.

I just want to add that I'm a painfully shy person by nature. Because of my job, traveling a lot, and other things that have happened in my life, (mother's insistence, for one) I just happened to learn this skill. Anyone can learn it. Like anything, you try and then screw up sometimes, and then you try some more, and get better at it. The most important thing, rule zero, I guess it should be, is just to have courage to try and keep trying until you figure it out.

Good luck!

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Member # 11985

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Some really good advice; thanks!

A problem with taking a volunteer job is that I don't feel like I could do it. It's not rational, considering that I have held multiple volunteer jobs before and performed excellently, but that feeling is still there. And hard to shake.

The thing is that I'm not really that shy. I am, however, kinda distractable and a lot of the group bonding that took place freshman year didn't apply to me simply because I'd get bored and go do something else. Like 1am the group would be like "let's watch a movie" and I'd just wander off. This led to a lot of casual social activity but a relative lack of forming deep roots.

I was once diagnosed with ADHD based on some evaluation tests that pointed to some strange discrepancy - exceptional scores in a few areas, with scores in the 4th percentile for others. Balanced out, my IQ was still significantly higher than average. But as for being able to sit and work et cetra I'm able to do so - at least when I feel like I want to.

Just in general I don't feel like I'm performing at an optimal level. Hopefully therapy will help me regain or at least work to regain that spark which indeed makes waking up in the morning exciting, as was mentioned earlier.

The thing is that for the most part I don't feel miserable. I just feel like there's a lot I could do to improve my life, and want to do so.


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The White Whale
Member # 6594

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Join a club that has nothing to do with your major or professional interests, but is something you've always been somewhat interested in.

For example, I just joined the local Birdwatching club. I've always loved birds, but know almost nothing about them, have never studied them, or taken a class on them. The people I've met are great and it gives me some break from my regular pattern, and I'm learning a lot!

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Member # 923

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Originally posted by Random122:
Just in general I don't feel like I'm performing at an optimal level. Hopefully therapy will help me regain or at least work to regain that spark which indeed makes waking up in the morning exciting, as was mentioned earlier.

The thing is that for the most part I don't feel miserable. I just feel like there's a lot I could do to improve my life, and want to do so.

Sounds like a great issue to explore with that therapist.

I don't know what you are looking for, but I hope you find it. Best of luck.

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Member # 7039

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I don't really have any advice, but I know how it feels.

I'm a 6th year junior due to a combination of self destructive implosion and a lack of money. I skipped almost two years of college mostly because of apathy and depression, some of which I just didn't register for, and some of which I registered for and then stopped going to classes. I had a harsh wake up call this past Summer when I was put on academic probation and at the same time saw all my best friends graduating college and going on to do all these amazing things. I was (and to a degree still am) a mess of jealousy, self-loathing, and determination.

I started the 08-09 academic year with a 1.89 GPA, no direction in what I wanted to do after having dropped Secondary Ed cert, and a list of I think 7 or 8 classes that I had to retake that were zeroes. Last semester I made honors with a 3.8, and bumped my overall GPA to a 2.49. This semester I'm on course to make dean's list (two semesters in a row that average out to 3.6 or higher), hopefully getting my GPA above a 3.0 so I can join the History honors society and apply for departmental honors (my overall GPA is low, buy my History GPA is just shy of a 4.0). And instead of having no direction, I'm leaning towards applying to law school, but considering continuing with history to try and become a professor.

My overall point being, don't get discouraged by the lows that come your way, because you can work yourself out of them just like you worked yourself into them. Also I agree with what ambyr said about college sometimes being the best time ever and sometimes being a gateway to other things. I'm on the outside a bit in that I go to a university that's really more of a commuter school, but I make a lot of temporary friends in classes and then move on to the next class. I have friends that have made a lot of friends from their college experience, and I have some that don't really talk to anyone from college. It's different for everyone.

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Member # 8572

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If you have a major, or some idea of what you want to do, make sure to go to the gatherings for people in that department whenever possible. You are not only likely to meet people with at least one common interest but networking with people with similar career paths, which can be helpful for your future.

I don't recall seeing it here, but if you don't know what you want to do, or if you are doubting that you made the correct choice, don't give up! I recently took a career aptitude test to see what careers would work for me. After years with the same company, I was depressed and frustrated with what I want to do. If you take this type of test make sure you are taking a Career Aptitude Test, and not a career interests inventory. The interest inventories are helpful, once you know what area you want your degree in, because you can kind of match your skills to something you would enjoy. A career aptitude test will solely look at the skills that you have and would be best able to develop. I found out that my aptitudes are in areas that I really hadn't considered before.

As for a social life, don't feel like you have to do everything that your circle of friends is doing. My group of friends in college regularly did things that I didn't participate in, (bar hopping and certain out of town trips come to mind). It didn't stop me from being their friends, hanging out with them, discussing my life etc. I found other things that I could do with them, and I made it work. They also knew not to ask me to participate in certain things, because I wasn't going. Occasionally, I wondered if they wanted me along, but mostly I knew that they knew I wouldn't go, even if I was asked.

Also, if you are ADHD then talk to your counselor about coping mechanisms. I don't necessarily mean drugs either. Many people with ADHD learn other techniques to help them focus when they need or want to. If you are unsure about the diagnosis, then ask if there may be a need to get re-tested.

I like to be isolated much of the time (especially when studying) so designate times to be social as well as times to be alone. Make time for the meeting of the astronomy club or the new play, and make time to hide in the least travelled corner of the library to study. I found those all night study spots to be highly distracting. They were great if you didn't really want to study, but not if you were trying to get your work done.

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