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Tips to Help College Freshmen Develop Healthy Habits on Their Own

Tips to Help College Freshmen Develop Healthy Habits on Their Own

Being in charge of their own life can be overwhelming for kids–this checklist will help them figure it all out.

When your kids head off to college after Labor Day, it will probably be the first time they've ever been truly on their own. Suddenly, they need to make all physical and mental health decisions themselves, get into a good academic schedule on their own, and set up a daily routine with more free time than they experienced in high school. All of this freedom can be overwhelming–so Bernadette Melnyk, chief wellness officer at The Ohio State University, has set up a checklist to help new students do their best in college and beyond.

“When students step on campus they really should find out where resources are that they might need–assistance with teaching and learning, the student health center and mental wellness resources,” Melnyk said. “Knowing when to ask for help is critical, whether you’re having trouble with your classes or are facing a physical or mental health issue.” 

Here are Melnyk's essential tips:

Establish healthy habits. Your student should schedule time for at least 30 minutes of physical activity each day, but also consciously schedule time to eat healthily, relieve stress in different ways, and get at least seven hours of sleep a night. Knowing where the gym, healthy eating options, and the student health center are located on campus is just as important as mapping out his class schedule for the semester. 

Find healthcare close by. Students who come to school with a chronic health condition might do this automatically, but it's essential for all students to connect with primary care nurse practitioner or physician and the nearest pharmacy. You never know when they're going to need a doctor. Students should understand their insurance policy, too.

Make mental health a priority. Stress, anxiety, and depression are growing issues on campuses all over the country. Getting involved with campus organizations that help your student make friends can go a long way. If she starts feeling overwhelmed to the point where it interferes with functioning, she shouldn't wait to seek professional help. Mental health is just as important as physical health.

Find a system that works. Whether it's scheduling workouts and appointments on a physical calendar or using an app, students should figure out what best helps them stay organized and proactive about their health.

With these tips, your new college student will be armed with tools to help him prioritize his health even when meeting new people, learning new things, and being part of a whole new world. Download Melnyk's checklist for your new college student before the car is packed up.

Main Image: College freshman India Carter fills in the whiteboard calendar in her dorm room at The Ohio State University. Credit The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center.

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Jacqueline Neber

Author: Jacqueline Neber is a social journalism MA candidate at the Craig Newmark Graduate School of Journalism at CUNY. When she’s not reporting, you can find her petting someone else’s dog. See More