Commencement - May 3 & 4

Plan for your visit to campus to celebrate your graduate. All event details are located HERE

Written by Anna Meegan '24

By Anna Meegan '24

College can be intimidating for anyone. It’s a big transition that comes with a lot of changes, challenges, and adjustments. Dealing with these things can already feel overwhelming for the average student. Throw anxiety into the mix, and college can seem straight-up unmanageable.

As an incoming freshman with multiple diagnosed anxiety disorders, I know I felt this way. In fact, for most of my middle school and high school careers, I was terrified to go to college. Everything about it just felt so…big. But what I learned during my freshman year was that having anxiety does not make college impossible. In fact, anxious people can have just as much of a positive and successful college experience as anyone else. Here’s my survival guide for the anxious person.

Have a buddy.

As a freshman with social anxiety, the sheer amount of new people at college overwhelmed me. I am not a fan of socializing in general, and being in an unfamiliar environment surrounded by unfamiliar faces can be scary at first. For the first few weeks of school, I didn’t like being anywhere unfamiliar by myself.

Eating alone at the cafeteria? Terrifying.

Walking into Gatliff Chapel alone? No, thank you.

Sitting in the hustle and bustle of the mid-BCC with a table to myself? A nightmare.

Luckily, I had a buddy. My buddy was a fellow freshman who started out as a coworker over the summer but became a friend. He shared much of my aversion to attending social functions alone, so at the beginning of our freshman semester, we went everywhere together. We walked together to get our parking passes. We waited in line together at the campus grill on the daily. We sat together at worship night, Bingo, and the UC Engage event.

Of course, by now, these things no longer scare me. I’m used to them, and they don’t trigger the overwhelm and anxiety they once did. But as a newbie who had no idea what she was doing, having an emotional support buddy was invaluable. I was blessed to know a couple of people already when I got to Cumberlands, but even if you don’t, buddies are usually not hard to find. Most new students feel overwhelmed and alone too, and chances are good that they would appreciate a buddy just as much as you.

Familiarize yourself with campus before classes start.

If you’re coming to Cumberlands in the fall, you’ve probably taken at least one campus tour. But that’s not what I’m talking about doing here. Campus tours are great, but they’re guided. And once you’re really at college, walking around campus for the first time alone, you won’t have a guide. For me, being familiar with an area eases a huge amount of anxiety. It takes away some of that uncertainty and fear of the unknown. One of the best things I did to prepare for college was to take a day before classes started, while campus was still fairly empty, to simply explore and get used to the environment. I visited every room that I had a class in so that I’d know exactly where to go on day one and wouldn’t have to worry about getting lost or being late. This made my first day considerably less stressful. I knew where I was going and how to get there, and the grounds no longer felt unfamiliar and daunting.

Find your safe spaces and utilize them.

When the world feels overwhelming, it’s good to know the locations where you don’t feel overwhelmed. For a lot of people, this could be your dorm room. I was a commuter for my freshman year, so I didn’t have a dorm as an option. What I did find was that places like the library, my friends’ apartment, and places outdoors that made me feel more calm, comfortable, and focused. Try to find places where you feel at peace, then go to those places when you begin to feel the anxiety creeping in.


Cumberlands’ free on-campus counseling is a great resource for everyone, especially students with anxiety. I haven’t utilized the counseling on campus personally yet, but I have been in and out of counseling and therapy before, and it can be a great way to learn new tools for managing anxiety.

Give yourself grace.

Taking care of your mental health is important for everyone. There are times to push through anxiety, and there are also times to acknowledge the feelings and deal with them gently. Take breaks, talk to people you trust, go outside, do things that distract and calm your brain, and get rest when you need it. Don’t beat yourself up for needing care. You’re doing your best, and that’s what really matters.

College can seem big and daunting, especially to people with anxiety. I spent years being nervous about going to college, only to find out that it was much more fun and much less scary than I had imagined. Chances are, it’s not as scary as you may think either. You’re going to be okay. Just follow these tips, take a deep breath, and enjoy your once-in-a-lifetime college experience!