One important — and often understated — part of your job as a student is looking after your mental health. Yes, college is work, it’s not meant to be a joy ride, you’re here to learn and prove yourself and there is often a certain level of struggle associated with both of those things. But getting through graduation and potentially even more learning after you’re done, requires that you be able to stay motivated and productive in the long term. And for that to happen, you need to be able to look after your mental health and well-being during the graduation process.

Mental health and dropping out

If you have never looked at the college dropout rates before, you should, because the statistics are eye-opening. According to data from Admissionsly.com, 57% of students enrolled in college take more than 6 years to graduate, and the overall college dropout rate for undergraduate students in the US is 40%. The number goes up to 50% for students who attend public universities.

Are these numbers acceptable? That’s a complicated question. There are a variety of factors that lead students to drop out, and they are not all bad. Some people drop out because they have found career opportunities elsewhere or have decided to take a different route with their professional lives (i.e. trade school, usually). But more often than not students drop due to personal and financial stress brought upon them by trying to balance the responsibilities of daily life alongside trying to get through a tough undergraduate program.

Remember: it will more likely than not take you around six years to finish college, and a lot can change in that time. You might find yourself having to look after elderly relatives at that time, find yourself about to become a parent or find yourself affected by a major economic downturn or a global pandemic. These are all issues that can have a very practical impact on your life. Having to look after a relative, for example, will leave you less time to study and rest.

That said, how well you can take care of your mental health will play a big role in how you will be able to adapt to these issues. Major life changes are much more likely to overwhelm you if you were already stressed and burned out, to begin with. This is why if you are determined to finish your graduation, you should place self-care at the top of your list of priorities. Don’t ignore stress, sleep issues, and bad habits like procrastination when things are going well in your life, because these issues will greatly limit your ability to adapt when your living situation takes a turn.

Dealing with stress

A big part of dealing with stress is making sure you’re dealing with pointless sources of toxicity. Bad friends, drama-driven relatives, and toxic employers can all drain your mental health and wear you out over time, which will make your college harder than it has to be. So be ready to distance yourself from these and other sources of toxicity, especially when exam season comes around.

If the source of problems is an authority figure you can’t get away with, sit down with an adult abuse lawyer to talk. Even if the person in question hasn’t crossed the line into illegal behavior yet, it’ll still be useful for you to know where the line is, and what resources you have available to protect yourself from that person.