Photo: Andrea Piacquadio via

The Mental Impacts Of Starting University

In September 2022, 425,830 students took up places at UK universities – a record for a single examination year. Many of those taking up places would have felt nervous about starting university, but as with any such significant changes in life, anchors can help us cope. 

The start of anything new can be daunting

It can sometimes feel daunting to start something new. Thoughts whiz around our brains as we contemplate what things will be like. This is normal, especially as we are wired for safety – the thoughts and emotions provoked within to keep us ‘safe.’   

It’s also normal when we embark on something new to feel nervous and excited at the same time. In fact, the emotions are so close that it’s sometimes hard to tell them apart.  

Starting university is like the beginning of a new chapter in life. There is excitement about learning new things, making new friends, and having newfound independence. Equally, there may be worries, such as what if I don’t fit in with my flatmates, find a likeminded friendship group, or simply get overwhelmed by looking after myself daily? After all, that’s what mums are for, eh? 

Don’t get overwhelmed  

Having these thoughts is fine when kept in check, but when you find yourself catastrophizing, it can be helpful to have a mechanism to ground yourself. Finding ‘anchors’ can give you that haven you need to get your nervous system regulated and feel calm again.   

Anchors can come in many shapes and forms – your faith, a hug from a person you love, words of reassurance from a person you can call, a special place where you can go; a song, a comforting meal, or something you can hold like a teddy or a charm or crystal you keep on you for reassurance. 

Newness can bring a sense of uncertainty, but routines can also help us feel a sense of security – watching your favorite TV program, writing in your journal, or revisiting your self-care rituals. These things are there to call upon should we need them. 

The passage of time will help   

Things always settle down, regardless of the circumstances. For those starting university back in September, by now, friends will have been made, daily routines will have been adopted, and after the initial excitement of freshers’ week, everyone is likely to have found time to look after themselves again. This is the main advice given by Student Minds. Their website is full of tips and resources to help new students with the transition to university. 

Whether starting university, a new job, or moving to a new geographical area, any change in our daily routines can result in the sense of being unsettled and possible thoughts of melancholy and loneliness.

Such feelings should pass over time as you settle in and find your place in your new environment. This process might take a little time, but in the meantime, keep your anchors in mind and clutch hold of them when you need to ride the wave.   

Soon and in time, new friends, experiences, and places will become the new anchors that can hold you steady for many years to come or even possibly for the rest of your life! 

Subscribe to our newsletter

Get our latest news in your inbox