8 Ways to Deal with College Commitment Stress

January 4, 2020

By Elise C. Gioia

As if we teens don’t have enough stress already, college decision season is here. 

You know the routine: hitting refresh on the application status page, repeating telling family and friends you haven’t gotten a reply from your dream college yet, and spending way too many sleepless nights obsessing over what to do if you don’t get in, or what to do if you do!

Visiting colleges, writing essays and submitting college applications is challenging enough and can often times produce mass amounts of anxiety. The fear of not getting into the college of your dreams, or into college at all, can feel like a never-ending uphill battle.

Once college decisions come out, the anxiety should finally come to an end, right?

Well, not always.

Committing to a college is the next level of stress for university-bound students.

Once you’re accepted at the school of your dreams, you may start to question if it IS the school of your dreams.

Or if you have several choices, which one is the absolute perfect right one for you?

That’s where you need to stop, breathe, and put your hand in front of you.

Yep, your hand.  Hold it out, fingers spread wide.

Think of each of your fingers as a path.  There is no right or wrong one…all fingers are connected to the hand that leads to your heart.

Meaning, there are really no wrong decisions…nothing you do is irreversible.

Think of your choice as written in pencil, with a big eraser.  You can always erase, modify, switch gears and change your life.

This is committing to college, people, nothing is written in stone.

Whatever you do, you can undo, revise, modify and adjust.

Whew, that’s a relief.

I’ve known so many people who have switched schools, majors, gone from commuter to resident, to online student and back.

College visits are just a small snapshot of a school. Sometimes it takes being somewhere to know if it works for you.

Think of choosing a college like getting dressed…you need to find the school, program and people that fit you perfectly.

It’s your life…you do you.

Okay…now you’ve got your school selected.  The next stressor is:  Moving In, or Thinking About Moving In.

Moving into a dorm can be absolutely terrifying. From anticipatory anxiety to agoraphobia, dorming is a major source of anxiety for college bound teens.

And sadly, social media, which pretty much dominates teens’ lives creates a set of false narrative of what dorming should actually feel like.

Overly saturated Instagram pictures, perfectly curated Pinterest boards and annoyingly happy tweets dominate social media during college decision season. These over dramatized and highly edited facades of what college living should feel like can perpetuate the feeling of anxiety and dread in students.

So, what do you do when you’re already feeling the anxiety surrounding college move in day?

Here are eight easy ways to cope with college move-in stress.

  • Reduce anticipatory anxiety by visiting your college as much as possible. If your college is far away, check out virtual tours provided by your college online. Familiarizing yourself with the college and dorm will help you feel as comfortable as possible during move-in day.


  • Begin communicating with your roommate(s) as soon as possible. Getting to know your future roomie can reduce social anxiety and develop friendships. When you feel comfortable with them, let them know that you’re feeling anxious about moving in. Be authentic and be yourself. Chances are, they are feeling just as anxious as you are.


  • Develop an exercise plan- and actually stick to it! Burning nervous energy and anxiety is a major source of reducing anxiety, but here’s the catch- you have to actually like your exercise plan. If the thought of running a mile makes you want to gag, don’t put it in your plan! Jumping rope, following along to a YouTube workout video or walking laps around your house are equally beneficial. You don’t have to train for an Ironman to reap the benefits of reducing anxiety through exercise.


  • Plan to bring comforts from home, so that your dorm can feel as cozy as possible. Plan to bring your favorite tea mug, a beloved stuffed animal or a photobook to remind you of home. Small mementos can go a long way.


  • Plan in-person and online video calls from friends and family in advanced. Frequent video calls and communicating with your family is key in reducing separation anxiety.


  • Develop alternative ideas to dorming, so you never feel trapped. Remember, you aren’t going to be held in your dorm like a prisoner. There are always more options than you think.


  • Create plans for ways to travel back home. This could include, finding the local airport, bus transportation, ride-sharing services or locating the quickest route home.


  • Living at college is a different experience for everyone. At the end of the day, if dorming isn’t for you- that’s totally okay. Commuting to college, taking online classes or living off campus are viable options to keep in mind.

Committing to a college and deciding whether or not to live there are big decisions.

But not life or death ones.

Relax, breathe, and realize, what’s right for you today may change tomorrow, and that’s okay.

One step at a time.

You got this, Elise

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