Back to school rush: Easing anxiety about the school year

Outdoor classes are one of many things to look forward to this year. Photo courtesy of Butler University.


Well, folks, it’s that time of year again! The summer has come and gone, and now we are forced to face the academic year that awaits us. How exciting … right?

While many of us are returning this year, there are plenty of new students who are joining campus for the first time. I remember my move-in day like it was yesterday — only, it was a year ago. I remember the mixed feelings and thoughts that ran through my head: the contrast between excitement and dread, confidence and insecurity, nervousness and calm. 

My worry was not that I regretted my choice of coming to Butler — this campus had felt like home since my first visit. My concern was rooted in questions like, “Will I find my place at Butler?”, “Will I find my people?”,“What if I do not succeed?” I remember having these insecurities so vividly, and, in a way, I still have them. I realized, though, that just because I feel  a certain way doesn’t mean those feelings are true. In fact, these doubts are common to have, especially in the first year. 

This week, Butler welcomed the class of 2026: which means there are many students who are leaving home for the first time, saying goodbye to family and battling anxiety — or curiosity — about what this year will look like for them. 

Cassidy McGann, a first-year music industry studies major expressed her worries about going into freshman year.

“I know no one going into this — no one from my high school or anything,” McGann said. “So I’m starting out very, very fresh. That was kind of a worry, not necessarily being able to make friends. My roommate has been really helpful with that because she likes to do the things that I like to do, so we kind of have conquered things together.”

Like McGann, I also came to Butler knowing nobody. I met a majority of my friend group within the first week, and the funny thing is, I didn’t even have to try to find them. Something I learned my freshman year is that, if you stay true to who you are, your people will find you. 

Another lesson I learned in my first year is that this campus is full of people who want to get to know each other. Everyone wants to make new friends. Learning this helped me to release the  worry about talking to new people and opening up to new friendships. McGann agreed and said that she has been pleasantly surprised by the inviting culture on campus.

“Everyone is super duper welcoming,” McGann said. “Not even just the [student orientation guides], but everyone that I see — the freshmen, the upperclassmen … They’re very, very welcoming. I didn’t think that it was going to be like that; I thought people were going to be more standoffish. That eased my mind a little bit.”

Returning for my sophomore year, I was not expecting to have any qualms about the year ahead of me. I thought that, since I was familiar with campus and had already made friends, it would be smooth sailing for me after moving in. I was wrong. 

After my first night, I started to worry about seeing everyone on campus again, I began missing home and I started to dread the year ahead of me. This may be because I moved in early this year, and campus was practically dead, which did not give me much distraction. Since having everyone back on campus I have felt much better.

Dr. Casiana Warfield is a psychologist at Butler’s Counseling and Consultation services. Warfield shared how anxiety may present itself for different students at the beginning of the year. 

“For all the first years coming in, it’s a lot of anxiety about the unknown,” Warfield said. “[There are] a lot of adjustment concerns for the first years. And then, if you’re returning, you might be feeling anxious about things that didn’t go well the year before happening again, but every year is different. You might be anxious about things getting harder, or things just being different.”

There is a lot of pressure that comes with being a college student right now. There are social expectations we feel the need to live up to, new experiences being offered left and right, having to look a certain way or be a certain way and having to balance it all with doing well academically. It is a lot to deal with and difficult to navigate. 

Unfortunately, there is not an easy answer for how to figure those things out. It really does come down to personal experience and preference. Trusting yourself will help a lot in deciding what is right for you, what people to spend time with and what you want your college experience to be. 

Something that may be beneficial is to find ways of coping with anxiety or preventing stressful situations before they occur. Warfield said that making your worry concrete is key in coping and prevention.

“If you’re anxious about your living situation, how can you get ahead of that and talk to your new roommates about what your expectations are?” Warfield said. “Anxiety is a physical response. So ultimately, if you’re really, really anxious, you need to calm yourself physically … You might have to have a ‘Swiss Army knife’ of tools to use. Then, connection is really important. Can you share your anxiety, your thoughts and your feelings with somebody else that you trust and hear how they’re feeling? I think distraction is a big one, and connection to the community is really important, especially in those first years.”

Although there is no guidebook to give you step-by-step instructions, Butler does offer a lot of resources for students to take advantage of when it comes to matters like these. Resident assistants — also known as RAs — are there to aid students with questions or conversations about subjects ranging from “what I can put on my walls,” to “I am having trouble with my roommate.” 

Blake Hall, a sophomore psychology and race, gender and sexuality studies double major, is an RA this year. Hall talked about how students can utilize their RA. 

“RAs are always here to talk,” Hall said. “We’ve gone through training about empathy in specific … The whole role as an RA is to make sure that [students] feel safe. We want them to have their experience but feel supported.”

Resident assistants are just one of many great resources for students. Butler’s Counseling and Consultation Services are another great resource the university provides. CCS offers a range of services from brief individual therapy to assisting the search for a long-term therapist. Students can schedule a phone call consultation online to get connected. 

Back to school season is a whirlwind and affects everyone differently. What I hope new students know is that, while it may seem so intimidating, everything will work out. It always does. Butler is a fantastic choice and it will not be long before it starts feeling like home. Whatever you feel right now is valid. Give it time and try to enjoy it. I know it’s nerve-wracking, but, remember, you will never get these college days back. In a year you may look back and wonder why you were so worried to begin with, just like I am now. 


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