How to cope with student life

Explains how having a mental health problem can impact upon being a student, and suggests ways of coping and where to go for support.

Your stories

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Becoming a student - changes and choices

*Video, courtesy of Leeds University Students Union, discussing students’ experiences of studying while having mental health problems. Student unions provide a range of welfare support to students as well as providing services and running campaigns on issues affecting them.

What changes can I expect on becoming a student?

Studying is likely to bring a number of changes to your life. Hopefully it should be enjoyable and interesting, but it can also be challenging – especially if you are experiencing a mental health problem. Some changes or new experiences that many people experience are:

  • meeting and working with new people
  • new demands such as deadlines for written work or presentations
  • exams
  • balancing the demands of studying with work or caring commitments
  • maintaining relationships with family and old friends
  • leaving home or moving house.

What type of course should I take?

Apart from choosing something you want to do for your personal development or pleasure, or to improve your work prospects, it is important to try to choose a way of learning that fits with your lifestyle and preferences. There are many different forms of course available. They may vary in length, when and where you can do them, and whether they have exams or assessments. Some things you might like to consider when thinking about your mental health might be:

  • Full or part-time – part-time courses allow you to have more free time for work or other responsibilities; they usually have lower fees; and they may give you more flexibility for medical appointments, for example. Full-time courses are completed more quickly, and you may find it easier to fully concentrate on your studies without having to juggle a lot of priorities, which may cause stress.
  • Online or at college – online courses mean not having to live near or travel to the college or university very often. It is more flexible and often allows you to complete work at your own pace, so could be less pressurised. Support is usually provided, but you may need to consider if you would feel isolated. Attending a course at a college or university campus gives you the opportunity of more immediate support from other students and tutors.
  • When you want to study – many colleges and some universities offer evening-only or weekend courses. These can be combined more easily with a full-time job or childcare responsibilities. Evenings may also be useful if you take any medication that makes mornings difficult. Or you may prefer day courses that give you a sense of a more regular routine.
  • Exams and assessments – if there is a choice, you may want to think about how you deal with pressure and if you want ongoing assessment and/or exams. If you are studying just for personal interest, you may be able to do a course that doesn’t require exams or assessments, or where they are optional.

Most colleges and many universities will have courses that suit you whichever choices you make. Their admissions department will usually be able to help you consider your options and will be happy to provide more detailed guidance. Most will have a website with information and contact details you can use.

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