Staying healthy on campus

They’re gone. All summer long you worried about their dorm room, what classes they’d take, how they’d adjust socially, if they will run out of money, if they will be homesick, etc. Guess what? They’re fine!

The one thing that most parents forget to talk to their children, about as they take their first steps as freshmen on their college campus, is how to stay healthy. Being sick at college is no fun because it means missing classes and social events and then catching up on work. Maintaining their physical as well as their mental health is more likely to determine their happiness and success than anything else.

Here are a few tips on how students can stay healthy at college. There aren’t likely to be any huge surprises here, it’s common sense, but unfortunately, that is often in short supply for 18-22 year olds.

  1. Wash your hands. Yes, the easiest way to prevent catching colds from roommates and friends is to be vigilant about hand-washing. There is no need to be a germa-phobe, but it does make sense to wash before eating and to carry a small container of hand sanitizer.
  2. Drink water. Coffee may wake you up, but water will keep you going. Substitute at least one glass of water for a cup of coffee each day. Or better yet, drink a cup of water for every cup of coffee you consume daily. You will feel better. Just carry a water bottle in your backpack and fill it up regularly.
  3. Refuel with healthy snacks. Sometimes students’ schedules prevent them from having “normal” meals at “normal” times. Carry some healthy snacks (granola bars, dried fruit, etc.) that will tide you over until your next meal.
  4. Don’t fill up on fried foods. It’s so easy, and tasty, to take advantage of fast-food offerings in the dining hall or in the area surrounding the college campus. Focus instead on a few healthy items that you like and make sure you have at least three fresh/non-processed foods each day.
  5. Track your sleep. Staying up late and then getting up early for class the next day works for about one night in a row. The quickest way to run down your body is to not provide sufficient nourishment through food, water and sleep. There’s so much to do, so many people to hang with, but you’ll miss out on all of it if you get sick. Sleep is the single greatest under-rated commodity on college campuses.
  6. Be social. Don’t hibernate. Strike a balance between your academic life and your social life.
  7. Plain and simple, you’ll feel better.
  8. Check out student services. Every campus offers academic support as well as mental health services. Thankfully, much of the stigma of seeing a counselor/therapist has dissipated and students are more willing to get help sooner. That said, unfortunately many students wait until they are very unhappy and then the road to recovery is longer.

Bierer is an independent college adviser based in Charlotte. Send questions to:;