The loneliness plague in college students


Giselle Barajas

Once you reach adolescence, life appears to be all about fitting into the perfect clique and climbing the social hierarchy to gain social status among your peers. Essentially, you’re on a constant alert, avoiding the social suicide associated with ever being seen as that “weird loner nerd” who sits alone. Contrary to popular belief, you don’t have to be that “weird loner nerd” to feel lonely. In fact, loneliness is an epidemic plaguing all of society. Especially, college students.
Although, once you begin college, people no longer care about climbing the social hierarchy, there still is some truth to our need to avoid isolation. Now, instead of collecting as many friends as you can, it’s about trying to make those few, or even one, close connection.
All the lonely students on campus aren’t that “weird loner nerd.” The lonely students can be that one girl who you see at the bars every weekend with her friends, your roommate who’s always out until 4 am on weekends, or that one friend who acts as the social glue for the friend group. The lonely students are not always going to appear alone.
In fact, a study done by Cigna, a global health service company, found that 46% of people in the US feel lonely, with students being the most lonely. Meaning, that almost half of students on campus feel lonely or have felt lonely before.
A sophomore, who asked to remain anonymous, said, “Freshmen year, I never had experiences that gave me good friend opportunities” they then further explained why saying, “I feel like we’re [both her and her roommate] part of a minority part of the population that doesn’t enjoy partying all the time, so we felt it was harder to find activities to do that we liked.”
With college being the first time for students to experience the real-world without supervision many are into the party scene. While, there’s nothing wrong with partying, colleges could do a lot more to hold more inclusive campus events and clubs for the non-party students to socialize with new people. However, these events should encourage people to go alone to meet new people. It’s counterintuitive if clubs and campus events are filled with established friend groups and cliques.  
Another commonality many lonely students have is the idea of “school friends.” In other words, the friends you only talk to in class but never see outside of class.
The sophomore student felt the same way saying, “I had friends in classes, but I wasn’t really friends with them” “Now it’s better with my major, I have better friends in my major.”
Many students also groan about the dreadful winter term, and the struggle to go out more when its cold and gloomy. When asked about loneliness during winter term the sophomore said, “It’s more common for winter term since some people have seasonal depression.”
Seasonal depression is an issue that is constantly brushed aside but the reality is, according to the American Psychological Association, seasonal depression can affect social relationships as well.
Now, one way colleges attempt to combat loneliness is through holding a welcome week for incoming freshmen.  Particularly, Augustana is known for having peer mentor groups during welcome week. However, there’s flaws with welcome week as well.
When asked about the effectiveness of peer mentor groups, Peer Mentor and sophomore Nadia Ayensah said, “For the most part it is [effective], but then it depends on the mentees a lot, in every peer group you have different personalities.”
In my experience many freshmen aren’t friends with their original peer mentor group. Isolating random people with no common interests in a group isn’t effective. If peer mentor groups were assembled by common interests and personality traits, it’d be easier for students to form bonds with their group.
All things considered, there’s still countless reasons college students are lonely including but not limited to: the toxic work culture isolating students from socializing, lack of club variety, the extrovertive US culture putting introverts in the shadows, etc.  
Loneliness stems from many different reasons, but it isn’t an indicator of your social skills, or who you are as a person. A study from Knowles provided evidence that lonely people have better social skills than non-lonely people.
Loneliness is an issue on college campuses that needs to be addressed. College campuses can start by allocating more funding to counseling services, or simply even encouraging inclusiveness beyond a superficial level. However, if anyone on campus ever feels lonely, just know – you’re not alone in feeling lonely.
Graphic by Noah Robey.