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First-year university students: how to look after your wellbeing during COVID-19

Restrictions caused by COVID-19 have made this year’s student experience very different.

Typically, a person’s first year at university involves nights out, meeting people and exploring a new city. But with COVID-19 restrictions resulting in universities moving to online learning, limits to the number of people you can socialise with and self-isolation following coronavirus outbreaks, it is likely that many first-year students are feeling disappointed, anxious and isolated. 

If you have gone to university for the first time this year, it is so important for you to take good care of yourself. We have put together tips to help you adjust to student living during COVID-19:

Get to know your new household

Try to get out of your room and spend some time in safe student common areas where allowed, so that you can talk more to the people you are living with. Many students will feel like you do, and this is a good way to start interacting.

While current restrictions will make it hard for you to meet a lot of new people, try to view it as a good opportunity to get to know the people that you are living with better.

If you aren’t self-isolating, organise games, movie nights or other activities that your flat can get involved in. You may also want to plan days out with your housemates, while sticking to current restrictions. And, if you have access to social media platforms like Zoom, you can still link up with other flats online to socialise.

Get involved in university-hosted activities

Sports, music and drama activities may have changed to comply with social distancing rules or may have moved online, but not cancelled entirely, so see what is available.

Get involved in as much as you can alongside your studies, particularly if you are feeling bored, lonely and isolated. This can be a great way to meet new people who are interested in some of the same hobbies or activities as you.

Explore your new city

If you aren’t self-isolating, get outside as much as possible and meet with one or two fellow students for a regular catch up, if this aligns with your local guidelines. You may want to go for a stroll, have a coffee outdoors or visit your new local park.

Keep strong mentally and physically by maintaining a regular exercise regime, whether it’s running, yoga or team sports, where allowed.

Establish a strong new routine

While this may be difficult in the first few weeks of university, establishing a healthy pattern will help you to start feeling settled in your new university life.

Eat three meals, study, video call your family or friends, chat to your new housemates, organise an activity for the flat and meet up with someone outdoors if you are able to.

If you feel like there are any gaps in your days, think about how you could fill them. Could you organise a virtual catch up with your college friends, is there a society that you want to join or is there a fellow student from a class discussion who you could study with in a suitable setting?

Be kind to yourself

It’s perfectly normal for you to feel sad, annoyed or worried about your first year at university taking place during the coronavirus pandemic.

Try not to get annoyed at yourself for feeling this way. You are living through a strange and difficult time, so experiencing strong emotions is completely natural.

Remind yourself that it is okay to feel how you do. At the same time, remind yourself that this won’t be permanent. Life will always be full of ups and downs. Although it’s tough, focus on making university life as good as you possibly can.

Stay in touch with your family and friends

Speaking with people from back home can be a good mood-booster, so organise catch-ups and call your parents, siblings and old friends.

Do access support and counselling if you need it

If you are feeling anxious, low or stressed, many universities offer wellbeing and counselling services. You can also talk to your GP or make use of a confidential support and counselling line such as The Samaritans. Whatever you do, don’t suffer in silence. There is always someone who you can talk to and who can help you to feel better.


Blog reviewed by Dr Niall Campbell (MBBS, MRCPsych), Consultant Psychiatrist at Priory Hospital Roehampton

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