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Topic: Adjusting to the “New Normal” in College

Question: College is such an important life transition for young adults, but the “normal” college experience looks much different now. How can college students cope with all the changes?

Marlys K. Borkhuis, M.S., LPC
Counseling Center
North Dakota State University

Expert's Response

College life does look different since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. Usually, going to college is a time when students develop increased independence - they are able to move out of the house with their parents and start arranging their schedule how they want. However, the new pandemic precautions have changed the way the college experience looks. Some students may have needed to move back home with their parents. Other students are no longer able to participate in classes like they once did, and are instead cooped up inside attending many lectures via the computer. It’s also much more difficult for students to get out, be social, and meet new people.

It's OK to feel frustrated or sad about all the changes to the “typical” college experience. However, there are some things that you can focus on to help you cope with these changes and prevent college “burnout”:

  • Focus on what you can control. It’s easy to let our minds get carried away with thinking about all the things we can’t control – like how long the pandemic is going to last for, what new rules the college is going to put in place, etc. Instead, it’s more helpful to focus on what you can control. For example, what aspects of your day today can you actually decide for yourself? Train your brain to pay attention to the options that you do have instead of the ones you don’t.
  • Think about the memories you are making. Hopefully this will be the only time in your life that you have to deal with a global pandemic, and ideally you want to be able to look back and see this time as memorable and not something horrific. Think about the things you can reach for in your life right now instead of feeling like you’re losing everything.


  • Look online or call your student health center to ask about the options your university offers for mental health counseling.
  • Visit – a peer-led website for college students addressing mental health topics.