March 16, 2022 9:17 am

Loneliness is a common problem among college students, especially those who are beginning their freshman year. In fact, many would say that it is to be expected. But that does not make it any easier to cope with. Not only is it a difficult experience to weather, but many college students do not feel comfortable talking about or even admitting to their feelings.

Plus homesickness, anxiety, and depression can all be a part of the experience as well. So, it is not surprising that mental health issues are among the top concerns that college students face each day.

The Scope of the Problem

Loneliness is a huge issue on campuses across the country. In fact, in one survey conducted by the American College Health Association of nearly 48,000 college students found that a whopping 67% of females and 54% of males had felt “very lonely” in the past 12 months. Meanwhile, only 20% of students say they had never felt lonely at college.

Causes of Loneliness

While loneliness is a common issue among college students, the causes are not what you might expect. For instance, it is not always the lack of people that makes a student feel lonely, but the lack of quality interactions. In fact, it is not uncommon for college students to report that they feel lonely at college despite being in a crowd of people they know and with whom they spend time.

Social media is a huge contributor to this experience despite the “connectedness” that it promises. In fact, technology is making it increasingly difficult for some students to adjust to college. For instance, social media is very useful in making plans when a student already has connections in place, but when they do not have many, or any, connections, it just amplifies their loneliness.

It can be very hard for a young adult to watch the “highlight reels” of her peers on social media and assume everything is going well for others while she is sitting alone in her dorm room. Additionally, retreating into online gaming, Netflix, and other online escapes also hinders the chances of connecting with others.

Other factors contributing to the loneliness that students feel are their expectations. Students are often shocked when they recognize how overwhelmed they feel by their emotions. They also start to realize that the visions they had for their college experience do not match with the feelings they are experiencing.

Combatting Loneliness

One of the best ways to cope with college loneliness is to recognize that it is a very real possibility and then take steps to keep it at bay. The first way to do that is to get involved on campus. A number of students who report loneliness also have not taken steps to get involved. Believe it or not, staying busy is one of the best ways to beat the loneliness blues.

For shy or introverted students, getting involved or striking up conversations can seem like a daunting task and one that they want to avoid at all costs. For these students, it is important that they set small goals for themselves.

For instance, they can set a goal to say hello to at least one person in each class or to sit with a new person at lunch at least once or twice a week.

It also helps to remind students that a lot of other students are feeling exactly how they are feeling. So, putting themselves out there not only will help them but could be a huge help to someone else as well. Unlike in high school, there are very few pre-formed friend groups in college. So, the opportunity to meet new people and make friends may be much greater in college.

Addressing Loneliness

Even though it is common for students to assume that they are the only ones feeling lonely, students need to remember that there are a lot of other students on campus feeling lonely and disconnected. For this reason, it often helps to open up and be honest about how they are feeling.

It is important to remember that colleges are often equipped with resources and services to address these types of issues. From group sessions and counseling to workshops on everything from mindfulness to coping skills, colleges typically have a plethora of options for students. The key is simply doing a little research and then following through on getting the help that they need.

Group settings often help students normalize their feelings as well as help them develop connections with others. What’s more, group settings also may help prevent any emotional setbacks while at college.

Another way to address loneliness at college is to limit the amount of technology being used and instead focus on leaving the dorm and getting involved. Whether that means joining a club or a sport, the key is to put the emphasis on face-to-face interactions and reduce the amount of social media, gaming, and Netflix that are used.

It also helps to stay connected with family and friends from home, but not at the expense of becoming immersed in the college environment.


It’s important to remember that feeling lonely in college is normal and okay. Firstly, it is a sign of a healthy relationship at home – both with friends and with family. Secondly, the fact that students recognize loneliness and do not like it also indicates not only their desire for friendship and relationships, but also their ability to create new ones.

And although the situation seems unbearable, there are always opportunities and resources not only to cope with it, but also to learn from it. Use the resources on campus, get involved and don’t let yourself be isolated.

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