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18 Things You Need To Do To Be Happy In College

06/25/2014 06:30 pm ET | Updated Jun 25, 2014
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College students have a lot to deal with. Between balancing academics and social life, searching for summer internships and managing stress, “happiness” tends to fall by the wayside. But being happy should still be a major priority in college.

Here are 18 easy ways to adjust your own college lifestyle and make yourself a happier, healthier person:

1. Do something that scares you.

Whether it's joining a fraternity or sorority or trying out for a play, take healthy risks that draw you out of your schoolwork and let you release creative energy and meet new people.

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2. Fail quickly.

If you try out for the club soccer team and don’t make it, take some time to be upset, but then pick yourself up and join a different club. College is competitive; don’t expect to get every position you apply for (no matter how full your Common App Extracurricular Activities Chart was). Explore alternative avenues to figure out what you really love.

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3. Surround yourself with good friends.

You need a confidante to talk to when things get rough, someone to celebrate with when you have good news, and a person to ground you when college life starts to feel overwhelming. It can be hard to find real friends who love you for you, but they're out there. Just give yourself time.

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4. Take classes that reflect and further your interests.

Especially if your parents are paying for your college education, it’s hard to reject pressure to enroll in the courses they want you to take. But if you’re going to be miserable as a [insert parent desire here] major, talk with your parents and tell them that. At the end of the day, the most important thing is your happiness, not whether you’ll be able to snag a glitzy finance job right out of college.

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5. Go out.

Cooping yourself up in your dorm room isn't fun for anyone. Pull yourself out of bed, away from your books, and go to that party everyone’s been talking about. If partying isn’t your thing, call a friend and go explore the city or town around campus. It doesn’t matter what you do so long as you get out of the academic mindset and let loose.

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6. Stay in.

It’s important to keep the going out in control, so switch it up. Opt for a movie night or a great dinner at that cool new restaurant. College is fast-paced, and sometimes what you really need is to let yourself relax. Balance is key.

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7. Make fun plans.

From apple picking to going to a concert to conquering the Vermonster at Ben & Jerry’s, if you have activities to look forward to, weeks filled with cramming for tests and writing research papers won’t seem so bad.

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8. When you're on break, actually take a break.

Read for pleasure, re-watch all of the "Harry Potter" movies, spend time with your high school friends, bake a seven-layer cake.

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9. Exercise.

Stop making excuses. The paper due next week can wait if it means taking an hour break to go to the gym. Go for a run with a friend or try a yoga class at the local studio. You'll feel good for having done so and the endorphins you release are proven to make you happier.

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10. Sleep.

No passing out at three, waking up at ten, going out to eat, and doing it again, at least not every night. Sometimes you can’t help cramming, but you can stop yourself from watching another episode of "Orange is the New Black." Put your computer away and hit the sack (especially if you have to wake up for that 9 a.m. Bio lab).

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11. Eat.

Remember to fuel your body. When you’re going from class to meeting to study session, you’ll be a lot more productive (and a lot less cranky) if you make sure to eat all three meals and grab snacks in between.

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12. Keep your room clean.

If your space is a mess, chances are your mood will be a mess, too. Organize your shelves, make your bed, and do your laundry. It’s really not that hard, and it’ll make a big difference in your attitude.

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13. Know your weaknesses and actively work to improve them.

Whether you have trouble budgeting your time or take 30 minutes deciding which dining hall to eat at, we all struggle with something. It’s when you help yourself change your bad habits that you begin to change your lifestyle and become a better, happier you.

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14. Treat yourself.

Whether your vice is fro-yo, pizza, or coffee, make sure to give in sometimes. Just do it.

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15. Embrace independence.

One of the best parts about college is the fact that you get a chance to be away from home. Welcome that. Do things on your own to show yourself that you can. College is the bridge from childhood to adulthood, and gaining the confidence in yourself to be by yourself is a crucial component of living a healthy, happy life.

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16. ...but keep in touch with your family and friends.

When things are going well at school, it’s easy to become busy, but you should always make time for Skype dates or phone calls with the people you care about.

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17. Understand that “finding yourself” takes time.

You might hate the first three majors you try, you might not feel passionate about any extracurricular activities, you might want to drastically change your look in an effort to become the new you. Know that although people always say college is the time for self discovery, your self-exploration won’t end the day you receive your diploma. Don't force it.

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18. Live in the moment.

Don’t worry too much about life after college. You only get four years – carpe diem.

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