Flourishing in College: Embracing Seligman’s PERMA Model for Student Well-Being

Transitioning to college can be as daunting as it is exhilarating, presenting a unique set of challenges alongside academic and personal growth opportunities. Understanding the keys to well-being is essential for students to not only survive but thrive in this pivotal life chapter. Martin Seligman’s PERMA Model offers a robust framework for understanding and fostering well-being in the college setting.

The Application of PERMA to Enhance Student Well-being

Seligman’s theory of well-being crystallizes into the PERMA Model, which stands for Positive Emotions, Engagement, Relationships, Meaning, and Accomplishment. These elements are believed to be the building blocks of psychological well-being and happiness.

The PERMA Model offers a valuable lens through which college students can understand and enhance their well-being. This multi-dimensional approach acknowledges the varied experiences that contribute to a student’s success and fulfillment.

Positive Emotions

Experiencing positive emotions, such as joy, gratitude, and optimism, can buffer against stress and broaden one’s mindset to build enduring personal resources. Colleges can promote this through activities that foster positivity, including social events, engaging workshops, and mental health days.


Engagement refers to the deep psychological connection and flow one feels when completely absorbed in an activity, class, or project that is both challenging and aligns with personal strengths. Institutions can assist by helping students identify their strengths and passions, and then providing opportunities to engage deeply through clubs, courses, and research projects.


Positive relationships are central to well-being, as they provide support, love, and a sense of belonging — crucial in college when forging new connections is paramount. Campus life should facilitate the building of healthy relationships through mentorship programs, group projects, and community living arrangements.


Meaning comes from belonging to and serving something bigger than oneself. For college students, this could mean aligning with values, contributing to the community, or pursuing a purpose-driven education. Colleges have the opportunity to support a sense of meaning by encouraging civic engagement, service learning, and courses that tackle real-world problems.


A sense of accomplishment, achieved by pursuing and reaching goals, contributes significantly to one’s self-esteem and provides a pathway for students to realize their potential. Acknowledging achievements through awards, showcasing student work, and providing a supportive environment for personal goal-setting can bolster students’ sense of accomplishment.

Embracing Seligman’s PERMA model can significantly contribute to an enriching college experience. By fostering positive emotions, engagement, relationships, meaning, and accomplishment, higher education institutions can design an environment in which students don’t just attend college but flourish within it. As students navigate this transformative stage, understanding and applying the PERMA principles can lead to not only good grades and accolades, but a well-lived, satisfying college journey.

To learn more about PERMA and how we can assist you in helping students enhance their mental and emotional well-being, contact U-Thrive Educational Services today!

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