Students facing isolation are not alone

Charlotte Lang

Along with good grades and enough hours of sleep, making friends is one of the many challenges college presents. The transition to college life can be daunting and isolating for many students.

These feelings of loneliness, however, aren’t uncommon in students starting university. Those working in fields surrounding student experiences and mental health on campus have noted that isolation is a common problem, and community is an important aspect of a healthy life.


“Oftentimes, this is a time where individuals leave their families, friends and communities to begin their academic journey alone,” said Christina Sladkowski, a student assistant for mental health initiatives at the Colorado State University Health Network. “As a result, feelings of isolation and loneliness can be a common and mutually shared experience amongst students.”

Sladkowski said she’s found that a majority of classmates and peers deal with loneliness to some extent.

It’s okay to have that feeling of being lonely. Expressing that you want to feel different is when a difference is made.” -Mitchell Holston, assistant director for inclusion and student engagement

Mitchell Holston, assistant director for inclusion and student engagement, said one of the main factors for these feelings of loneliness is the student’s sense of being away from home for the first time without support structures in their life.

Holston said students have to start over again in order to create new support structures, and, with all the different clubs and activities at CSU, this can be difficult.

“Students can feel overwhelmed without their support group from before,” Holston said.

Other factors students may face are lack of social connections, unsupported identities and dissatisfaction in their life’s direction, Sladkowski said. Students feel they don’t “fit in” and have no one to rely on in times of need.

“Social media and perceived happiness create a belief that everyone but them is happy,” Sladkowski said. “With this in mind, most students feel that they are alone on campus with no one who truly understands them.”

Holston said that seeing established groups and friendships may also create a daunting atmosphere for students to connect with. This perception of pre-established structures can prevent students from reaching out, but Holston said that it’s never too late to start connecting.

“A lot of people feel lonely but exude it in different ways,” Holston said. “You can have friends and be lonely.”

One of Holston’s suggestions for combating feelings of isolation is to tell someone. 


“It’s okay to have that feeling of being lonely,” Holston said. “Expressing that you want to feel different is when a difference is made.”

Sladkowski also encourages students to join a community on campus that resonates with their identities and interests.

According to the University’s admissions page, there are over 500 registered student organizations currently on campus, as well as the option for students to start their own.

“Finding a space where you feel comfortable sharing experiences and having fun can help students create a community of people that are caring and supportive,” Sladkowski said. 

If someone is having trouble finding a well-fitted group or organization, Sladkowski suggested the Student Leadership, Involvement and Community Engagement team as a resource. At SLiCE, students have the option to meet with an involvement adviser who can help connect them with any of the student organizations or help connect them with leadership or engagement opportunities.

The Health Network is another resource Sladkowski suggested for students to find support in combating feelings of loneliness.

“There are various workshops, events and groups offered that can benefit students in need,” Sladkowski said.

Holston said it’s important to have support structures and community because moments with friends and others are the moments students will remember most.

“In my experience, I think of the people there, not grades and classes,” Holston said. “CSU offers more outside the classroom. It offers a place where students can grow, learn and develop.”

Sladkowski also said support systems are critically important to a student’s well-being by playing an essential role in self-care. Having support can help students feel less isolated and less alone in their college experience.

“Support systems can also help students normalize some of their feelings and begin to recognize that their thoughts and emotions are valid, heard and oftentimes shared by others,” Sladkowski said.

Jadon Kankel, a first-year psychology student at CSU, said that creating a community on campus is vital for student life.

“Friends can help through any trouble or accomplishment you might have, so it is better to have friends,” Kankel said. “A support system like that is great.”

Helping others who are feeling isolated can be as simple as including people in conversations or extending an invitation, Sladkowski said. Respecting and supporting identities, cultures and differences can also help create a space that is welcoming to all.

Though these decisions can make positive impacts, Sladkowski said that it’s not realistic or fair to expect that everything can be done by a single individual.

“Providing campus resources can help students get connected with supportive professionals,” Sladkowski said. “Connecting them to SLiCE or Counseling Services at (the) CSU Health Network can be incredibly beneficial to those feeling isolated.”

Charlotte Lang can be reached at or on Twitter @chartrickwrites.