How to Be Happy in College (8 Helpful Tips)

How to Be Happy in College

When most people think of the college years, an image of students laughing and having fun comes to mind. While this may be true from some students, many others are fighting off feeling homesick, social anxieties, peer pressures, and academic worries.

According to reports, one in five college students experiences anxiety or depression.

Happiness is important, especially in college. It can lead to being more effective, more productive and even healthier. One study that followed college students for years after graduation found that the students who were happier while in college had higher incomes than those who were unhappy.

If you find yourself unhappy more often than not, you may need to take a step back and identify what happiness means to you.

How to Be Happy in College

In this article, you will discover a few things that may help you understand how to be happy in college. We are all unique as individuals so it's important to explore and figure out what works for you.

We are going to take a closer look at eight possibilities you can explore today, including the following:

– Break bad habits
– Make positive connections
– Implement stress management techniques
– Motivation through healthy competition
– Set realistic expectations
– Address your issues
– Be kind to yourself
– Have fun

Let's get started!

1. Break Bad Habits

By the time you reach your college years, you have likely developed some go-to habits that help you cope with difficult times, even if they are bad habits. For instance, some college students turn to alcohol to relieve stress.

While these habits may help temporarily, the long-term negative effects can lead to higher levels of unhappiness.

Instead, break those bad habits and develop positive ones. When you are feeling stressed, exercise. When you are feeling sad, talk with a counselor. When you are feeling lonely, seek positive social connections.

If you find it difficult to break bad habits, many college campuses offer programs designed to assist you. These programs offer everything from collegiate recovery to substance-free dorms.

2. Make Positive Connections

The people you surround yourself with in college will influence your happiness. If you hang out with other students who constantly complain or behave in negative ways, you will be affected.

On the other hand, if you build positive relationships, ones that are uplifting and make you feel as if you can succeed, your mood will improve. Choose to establish relationships with professors who offer a positive attitude and feedback. Choose roommates that engage in positive behaviors. Choose friends that don’t pressure you into dangerous activities.

Most importantly, seek someone like a professional counselor who can teach you stress management techniques.

You may be interested in joining a peer to peer mentoring program, designed to connect you with a fellow-student who knows what you're going through.

3. Implement Stress Management Techniques

There are many people on campus who can teach you how to manage stress. Learning them is one thing. Implementing them in your daily life is another, much more important step. If you do not implement techniques, your stress can become overwhelming and lead to you feeling unhappy.

Make it a point to practice meditation, go for a walk, get the right amount of sleep, and write in your journal. Make implementing stress management activities a priority.

4. Healthy Competition

In college, you may find yourself comparing yourself to your peers. You may even find yourself competing with fellow students for better grades, student offices, social clubs and even popularity. You may be doing this so much you can’t see that your competitiveness is unhealthy.

Unhealthy competition is when you consider yourself a failure if you are not winning. Or, you put yourself down, or put others down, if you are not in the lead.

Healthy competition, however, is when you can get a lower grade, or lose in some way but still feel capable, worthy and even happy for the winner. Even when the competition is internal, it is important to know how to fail successfully, learn from your mistakes, and grow from those opportunities.

5. Set Realistic Expectations

You cannot do it all. No one can do it all. Once you realize this and begin to balance the important areas of your life, you will feel happier. Setting goals can help you be realistic in your expectations.

Once you set a goal, you can develop steps to help you reach that goal. If the steps are doable, then your expectations are considered realistic. If you set a goal and the steps involved in reaching that goal are not possible, but you think you can still reach it, then you are not being realistic.

Setting realistic expectations means being real with yourself. Be honest about your abilities and constantly evaluate your thoughts on the outcomes you want to achieve.

6. Address Your Issues

Every college student has issues. Every single one. Some are facing failing grades while others are in an abusive relationship. Other issues can include parents divorcing, loss of a loved one, addiction, sexual assaults, learning disabilities, physical disabilities, and the list goes on.

Having issues is okay, if your address them properly. Getting help for your issues is a good thing. It shows you are aware of your problems. It shows you care enough about yourself to fix your issues, and it shows you can overcome your struggles and feel happier.

7. Self-Compassion and Mindfulness

Taking care of yourself and being mindful of your body’s needs is key to being happy in college.

Follow the advice you would give a fellow student who is unhappy. You would likely tell them to do whatever it takes to be happy. Whether that means leaving a bad relationship, changing majors, seeking treatment or having a spa day.

Follow through with activities that can help you address the mental and physical needs of your body. Doing so can lead to happier moods, improved immune systems, and better focus.

8. Have Fun Alone and With Others

Having fun is a must in college. Find ways to have fun all by yourself and with your peers. Having fun does not mean partying or getting wasted. Instead, it means engaging in activities that make you feel good, in the short term and long term.

Think of hobbies, campus events, sober parties, road trips and any other activity that enhances your life and leaves you feeling great.


You can start today in your journey of being happy in college. Start by telling someone else about your goals to become happier. Brainstorm ideas and implement them. Being happy is a choice, followed by positive actions to support your choice.

Making happiness a priority in college can lead to more happiness after graduation.