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student mental health

Going to university or college is a big life change with many challenges that can affect your mental wellbeing. We have tips on how you can cope with student stress, during and after you graduate.

Going to university or college is a big change which can entail a lot of mixed emotions. You could feel excited and nervous, relieved to finally be away from school yet sad to be leaving friends and family, all at the same time. Becoming a student can be a great thing, with lots of new and interesting opportunities but it also has challenges which may affect your mental wellbeing.

It can become a balancing act at times between managing coursework, socialising with friends and family, and maintaining a healthy lifestyle. In addition, the course content itself can be an extra stressor. Here are some tips on how you can cope with university stress, during and after you graduate and how you can look after your mental health during term time.

During university

Understand how you learn best
Understanding your learning style can alleviate additional stressors and make studying more efficient.

When do you study best? Knowing this will aid you in dividing your time for when you can most efficiently study.

Create a schedule

  • Keep a diary of important due dates and start your coursework early
  • Create realistic schedules and study goals to help you cope with heavy course loads
  • Make a to-do list with small, management goals

Set aside time to engage in non-academic related activities
It is vital to carve out recreational time and to take breaks to avoid burnout

  • Go for a walk
  • Join a society in your university
  • Connect with your community
  • Spend time with friends
  • Join a club for your hobby to meet new people
  • Volunteer and connect with your community

Look after yourself

  • Decorate your room with things from home
  • Have a balanced diet
  • Exercise regularly
  • Prioritise your wellbeing and take time for yourself
  • Reach out if stress is taking its toll

Breathing Space is a free and confidential phone service for anyone in Scotland over the age of 16 feeling low, depressed or anxious. Phone Breathing Space on 0800 83 85 87 (6pm to 2am, weekdays and 24 hours at the weekend).

Be mindful of content consumed
The same way we need to be mindful of the content we consume online and how this impacts out mental health, it’s important we bring the same attention to academic content and make sure we set time for self-care when topics can become heavy on us emotionally. Our resource on current affairs and your mental health when looking through websites and social media helps you engage with these mediums in a way that looks after your mental health.

After graduation

Graduating from university or college and going out into the world of work is a big step in anyone’s life. Many of us remain in education from a time when lessons consist of learning the alphabet, finger painting, and eating choc ices, all the way to achieving a degree in early adulthood. It can be exciting to finally leave behind studying and exams but this can also be a time of uncertainty.

Don’t panic
Unless you are super relaxed, graduating, and the uncertainty of what comes after, can make you panic. It might suddenly seem like all that time you spent studying was a waste because you can’t seem to get a job anyway.

Stay calm. Think through your options. If you really want a particular job, for instance, in the field you studied in, then don’t give up on this.

Take your time
There is often a cultural pressure to achieve instant results, whether this comes from our own thoughts or from friends and family. You might begin to consider giving up on the work you really want to do, and instead begin considering other jobs that you really don’t want to do, all because you feel pressured into it. In reality, very few people will achieve their dream job instantly or without setbacks. It can therefore be useful to see your chosen career as a long-term goal. Looking long-term can relieve some of the pressure and help you to not give up on the work you really want to do.

Work on yourself in the meantime
Whilst we are studying, there isn’t a lot of time to work on our habits. If you have just graduated and you have a bit more time, think about how you can improve the little things you do every day. Achieving what you want to achieve isn’t just about how you do academically. If you can make small improvements in all departments of your life this will feed into your overall career goals.

There are many self-development tools out there in books and channels like YouTube which can help us build small positive habits like exercise, mindfulness, and reading. There are also lots of great tools to help track habits in apps or on paper diaries, if this is something you struggle with.

Don’t compare yourself to others
We’ve all compared ourselves to other people that may seem to be in a better position than us in their career. This can result in negative thoughts and make you think you aren’t good enough. Again, take things at your own pace, everyone is different.

If you see someone who was on your course or someone you know who has the job that you want, consider reaching out to them. You might find that they offer help with applications and give you advice on what experience you should try to gain. You might even find that their experience isn’t much different to yours. Sometimes it is just luck!


Our Advice and Support Service is open Monday to Friday, 10 am to 4 pm, where advisers can signpost you to local support that most fits your needs, including our Change Mental Health services. We offer initial advice on money worries and help to deal with emergencies.

Contact 0808 8010 515, email us at or fill out the enquiry form on the Advice and Support Service page.

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