Your New Found Independence


Beginning college is an important milestone in so many ways. If you have moved away from home and are living at or near school, you are more in charge of your own activities, decisions and stuff than you probably have ever been before in your life. Chances are this is something you have really looked forward to – independence!

Independence is of course liberating and can be really exciting – you get to decide what to eat, when to sleep (hopefully not too often during times you should be in class), how to approach your work and what clubs to join and activities to do. But for many young people, having to manage yourself – especially if things have been managed a lot by others in your life before now – can feel challenging.

So it can be helpful to recognize that this increased independence is a process. There are in fact people around campus to help guide you (advisers, RA’s, counselors) and your family and friends are still there and usually pretty reachable. It can be really helpful to think of gaining independence as something that happens over time. Chances are you will want to check in with family and/or friends more in the first few weeks than you might after you’ve settled in more to life at school.

It is also important to realize that this new independence can sometimes be a bit “intoxicating”. The freedom of fewer people (like parents and teachers) managing and observing you can lead you to lose a sense of balance and limits. Sometimes students can push their independence too much and lose sight of good judgement and even safety, and forget that they are in school to learn and get an education. While it is great to have fun and explore your new world and your new freedom, it is important to stay safe and to not lose sight of what is important to you.

As you work this out, there might be bumps in the road – times that you feel you are not sure what to do or maybe you will feel that you’ve made mistakes. Here are some ideas to consider along the way:

  • We all feel uncertain at times and everyone makes mistakes. No one has all the answers about life – actually you should question anyone who tells you they have all the answers.
  • When you think of developing independence as a process, the goal is to get better at handling more things as you move along through life.
  • Independence is not an all or nothing thing. We all balance managing things on our own and depending on others.
  • Use supports and help when you need to. When you find yourself struggling trying to manage an issue or a problem, think about who might be able to provide some guidance or support. Being independent and mature also means knowing when to get support or work as a team.

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