[Get 5 tips to avoid depression in college.]
Here are a few other steps newcomers can take to head off transition problems:
1. Get enough sleep: Arrive on campus with a sleep schedule that's realistic, suggests Keith Anderson, a psychologist at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. A Columbia University study of more than 15,000 students found that those who went to sleep at midnight or later were 24 percent more likely to be depressed, and 20 percent more likely to have suicidal thoughts, than those who went to bed before 10 p.m.
2. Make it your mission to "matter": A study published in 2008 in the Journal of College Retention found that mattering, or feeling needed and cared about, was the best predictor of a student's overall psychological and social well-being. The study's author, Andrea Dixon, an associate professor at Georgia State University, recommends reaching out to campus organizations over the summer. Being proactive about "creating bonds with others ahead of moving in can really aid your perception of being connected," she says.
3. Keep an eye on the clock when you're online: A 2007 analysis of an earlier study, known as the College Internet Use Study, by researchers at the University of New Hampshire and the University of Maryland—Baltimore County found that instant messaging is generally good for social ties while gaming isn't.
But there's an opportunity cost of sitting in your room during those first scary weeks to Facebook your high school friends. Students who have been in your place say that it's easiest to meet new people during the first month and a half of school; once groups start gelling, breaking in is harder.
Lindy Kahn, an independent educational consultant in Houston for more than 17 years, suggests that students not eat alone for the first six weeks. "Seek out those people who are sitting by themselves," she says. "You can learn a lot from meeting new people. And you'll definitely feel less lonely."
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