Back To School: Health and Wellness for College Students

Back to school season is here, and it’s the perfect opportunity to start the new school year off on the right foot. College is a fun but demanding period of life when essential life skills are developed. Part of this means creating lasting habits that care for both your mental and physical health. In this post, we’ll cover our top recommendations for health and wellness for college students. 

Health tips for college students 

Practicing good health and wellness habits can keep your mind and body functioning in tip-top shape, which makes balancing coursework, extracurriculars, and personal fulfillment easier. Here are some things you can do to make sure you’re college ready for the fall semester and ready to thrive throughout the year!

READ MORE: Back to School Health Checklist

icon vaccine vial

Be aware of college immunization requirements

College immunization requirements may vary by school, so you’ll want to be sure to check your student handbook. In Texas, the minimum state requirement for college immunizations is an initial meningococcal vaccination or booster dose in the past five years before enrollment. The latest students can get this vaccine is 10 days before the semester starts. Healthcare and veterinary students will have special additional requirements. 

icon apple and carrot

Eat healthy

Eating healthy in college isn’t always easy. With endless options available in the dining halls, fast food restaurants dotted all over campus, and kitchen-less dormitories, eating healthy can feel nearly impossible. Below, we’ve broken down some helpful hacks for eating healthy in college dining halls and dorms. 

How to eat healthy in college dining halls

There are healthy eating options in the dining halls — you just have to be able to avoid the temptations of the soft-serve machine and infinite supplies of your favorite childhood cereal. The first place to start for healthy food is the salad bar. Build your own salad as a first course, or grab a protein like chicken breast from the grill area and turn your salad into a meal. When you’re getting hot food, pay attention to the composition of your plate. A well-rounded meal should include a protein, a carbohydrate, a fat, and fruits and vegetables. 

Minimize your trips to the soda machine and dessert station, but don’t completely deprive yourself of sweet cravings. In moderation, these can be a well-deserved treat. 

Pro tip: An often unsung hero of the college dining hall is the hot breakfast bar. Take advantage of this offering in the mornings to start your day with a well-rounded and nutritious meal that will keep you full and energized for hours. 

How to eat healthy in college dorms (and without a kitchen!)

Eating healthy in college dorms can be tricky since you’re usually limited to nothing more than a microwave and mini-fridge. Set yourself up for success by stocking your dorm room and fridge with nutritious snacks that are easy to grab and go, as well as other items that can be easily turned into a good meal. Here are a few ideas for items you can keep on hand:

  • Pre-boiled eggs
  • Oatmeal for overnight oats
  • Microwavable rice
  • Steamer veggies 
  • Peanut butter
  • Fruit
  • Greek yogurt
  • Dried fruit 
  • Mixed nuts and trail mix
  • Granola 
  • Protein bars
icon mental health - head outline with a heart

Take care of your mental health

Being in a new environment with social pressure, work responsibilities, and hefty academic workloads can significantly impact mental health. It’s common, too — there is well-documented research on college and mental health. Survey data shows that 73% of college students experience some sort of mental health crisis, yet only 25% of students struggling with mental health seek help. Here are four ways for college students to improve their mental health:

  1. Start practicing stress management techniques, like recognizing common triggers, taking regular breaks, meditating, and breathing exercises. 
  2. Familiarize yourself with your school’s on-campus and online resources. This likely includes counselors, mental health screenings, free self-help courses, texting services, and more. 
  3. Don’t take on more than you have time for. With interesting classes, clubs galore, intramural sports, and more, it’s easy to overcommit. 
  4. Maintain a healthy diet, drink enough water, and exercise regularly. And of course, don’t miss out on precious sleep! 
icon bed with clock and Z's

Get enough sleep

Sleep deprivation in college students is a real problem. In fact, 70 to 96% of college students get less than eight hours of sleep each night. This matters for a variety of reasons. Sleep deprivation leads to greater risk of depression, impaired cognitive and immune function, irritability, weight gain, and more. So, instead of cramming overnight for an exam or pulling an all-nighter, go to sleep! Research shows that proper sleep is associated with better grades. 

We’re here for any emergencies

If you’re in the Houston area and need emergency care right away, Neighbors Emergency Center is here for you 24 hours a day, seven days a week — even on holidays! We treat all emergencies at our locations in Kingwood, Pearland, Pasadena, Baytown, Crosby, and Porter.  Find your nearest Neighbors for extraordinary emergency care.