Does your college benefit mental health? Look for these 5 campus factors

Although the return to college campuses looks pretty different this year, choosing a school that supports your educational and personal goals is still important, even if classes are online. Fortunately, more and more universities are putting a greater emphasis on student wellbeing and investing in mental health resources. Here are five things to look at when picking a college that supports mental health and five ways colleges can change to better support student wellbeing. 

  1. A quiet sleeping space. Sleep quality and quantity are critical to mental health and the sleeping environment directly impacts rest. Assessing what the dorms look like and evaluating how roommate assignments work is worth looking into at your potential college. Schools can also follow the example of Paloma College and implement sustainable cooling systems like air conditioning that automatically turns off when the windows are opened. 
  2. Places to socialize. The pandemic has changed the social aspects of university life drastically, but it doesn’t mean you can’t find meaningful ways to safely connect with others. Look for a campus that has available areas for a personal time like coffee shops or open green spaces so you can recharge outside of your dorm. Check out the campus clubs and organizations to see if they are meeting virtually or in a socially distanced setting. Universities themselves should consider setting up virtual networks and platforms for campus groups to still hold online meetings.
  3. Green space and natural light. We all know that natural light and time outdoors boosts mental health. One study even found that campus “greenness” was correlated with students’ satisfaction with their college experience, as well as graduation rates. If outdoor space is a priority for you, look at the opportunities on and near campus to get out into nature. 
  4. Services and amenities. How connected is the campus with the outside community? Look at nearby health services and see if mental and physical health resources are readily available. Many schools have counseling services right on campus.
  5. Design. It may sound silly, but aspects of design like architecture, color choices, and even public art can change how we feel about a space. For example, red is energizing while green has been shown to be relaxing. Loyola University Chicago even has art galleries in between classrooms to break up the view. Visit the campus and assess how the physical space makes you feel. 

Rigorous academics and social pressures lead to high rates of depression, anxiety, and other mental health struggles among college students. There’s no way to eliminate all the challenges of university life, but campus culture, layout, and available services make a big difference when it comes to students’ mental health. Schools can use these principles as a basis to better support students and if you or your child is choosing a college in the near future, or even if you already attend one, think about how your school chalks up in these five categories.

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