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Navigating loneliness: A guide for freshers

Congratulations on this exciting chapter of your life as a university fresher! You’re finally on your own and can make your own decisions. The road ahead is brimming with possibilities, and while it's a thrilling journey, it's completely okay to feel a mix of emotions, including loneliness.

People often go into the experience thinking that it’ll be nothing but fun, but it’s typically harder than that. Going to uni is huge adjustment and comes with many unexpected changes. This can leave you feeling a little homesick, which can manifest as feelings of sadness, isolation, and disconnection from others.

Attending a college or university in a place other than your hometown often means you may not know anyone else there. You can be surrounded by people and still feel lonely.

Our team have put together some uplifting tips to make meaningful connections during your university adventure.

university loneliness

Is it normal to feel lonely at university?

Most of us will experience loneliness at some point in our lives, regardless of age, circumstance and background. We all experience loneliness differently. It’s a common misconception that loneliness is limited to older people. In fact, it’s now the 16-24-year-olds who are the loneliest age group in the UK.

Data from the ONS suggests as many 26% of students feel lonely, compared to just 8% of the general population.

Why do students feel lonely at university?

  • Moving away from home – Students who move out to live on campus, or in student accommodation can experience loneliness as a result of moving away from their family and friends who live nearby.

  • Finding it difficult to make new friends at university. Making new friends at university is not easy for everyone. Some students begin to feel lonely at university, due to not making new friends that they can study and socialise with.

  • Being a mature or international student. Some students who come from abroad or mature students may feel out of step with their peers and therefore, find it more difficult to make new friends, resulting in them feeling lonely at university.

university loneliness

How to cope with loneliness at university

Reach out and talk to someone

Starting university opens doors to new friendships and experiences, but it's natural to feel a bit overwhelmed, especially if you're away from home for the first time. Remember, many others around you are experiencing similar emotions.

If you’re feeling lonely it can be easy to bottle it up and withdraw from other people, but this is one of the worst things you can do. Try reaching out and speaking to someone about your troubles, like a flat mate or someone on your course. Chances are, they've felt the same way at some point.

If loneliness persists and affects your mental well-being, don't hesitate to seek help. You could talk to your GP, or find out if your university offers mental health services for students. There are many mental health helplines which are available at all times of the day and night, including Mind and the Samaritans, or text services like The Mix.

Set yourself realistic goals

Begin with small steps. Challenge yourself to talk to a new person each time you attend a lecture or arrange a coffee date with a flatmate. Setting achievable goals, like attending social events or joining clubs, can gradually expand your circle of friends. Remember, the opposite of loneliness is connection, and it can only take a few meaningful connections to ease feelings of loneliness. So, we don't need to aim for a large group of close friends right away!

feeling lonely at university or college

Discover societies and clubs

Universities are treasure troves of activities and societies waiting to be explored. Whether you're a sports enthusiast, a music lover, or a language aficionado, there's likely a society that aligns with your interests.

You can usually find out about your uni’s clubs and societies on their website or at the ‘Fresher’s Fair’ which normally happens in the first few weeks. Joining a society is a great way to meet people with similar interests, become part of a community, and broaden your social circle.

Stay connected with home

While it's important to immerse yourself in university life, don't forget the comfort of home. Regularly reaching out to family and friends can uplift your spirits and provide a sense of stability amid new surroundings.

feeling lonely at university or college

Craft a routine

Building a routine helps establish a sense of normalcy in your university life. Whether it's going to the gym, attending a weekly club meeting, or dedicating time for self-care, routines create anchors amidst the whirlwind of change.

Believe in yourself

Trust in your ability to adapt and thrive. Understand that periods of loneliness are usually temporary and part of everyone's journey. Positivity and kindness toward yourself encourages a positive outlook and better interactions with others.

Show up

Make an effort to attend classes and lectures. Consistent attendance not only keeps you on track academically but also presents opportunities to connect with your peers. You and your classmates are all there for the same reason, so try starting up a conversation about a particular topic that interests you. You could also ask to see if they want to study together.

If you feel up to it, you could explore communal areas instead of isolating yourself in your room. Cafes, libraries, and common spaces offer chances to interact with others - even if it's just a friendly smile across the study table.

feeling lonely at university or college

Expand your circle

The relationships you build at the beginning can often feel a bit forced. Do not feel you have to stick with one group of friends just because you live with them. If you feel like you do not quite fit in, then try to meet new people, whether they are classmates or people in a society. Try changing your seat occasionally in lectures - this simple step can lead to conversations with different classmates and expand your social network.

Embrace part-time jobs

A part-time job at university can be a great idea! You will earn money to help with the costs of university life and you will meet new people. This will help you feel less isolated and might lead to meaningful relationships with your colleagues.

If you get a sociable job like working in a restaurant, you will have the chance to chat with different people every day. Here you can read more about tips for working part-time at university.

As you navigate your way through university life, remember that feeling lonely is a normal part of the journey, but it doesn't define your experience. By embracing new opportunities, engaging with others, and practicing self-care, you'll forge connections that enrich your time at university.


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