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What to Expect

Certain times in the academic year tend to be universally challenging to students. Parents who understand the ups and downs of the first college year are better able to help their students negotiate the challenges of transition to college. Here are some of the typical adjustment issues faced throughout the first year:


  • Excitement
  • Welcome Week events commence - College traditions are established
  • Testing new-found freedom
  • Frequent calls and visits home
  • Homesickness and loneliness
  • Anxiety about roommates, professors, classes, new environment


  • Roommate problems begin to arise
  • Student questions: "Do I fit in here?"
  • First set of Midterm exams
  • First test grades returned
  • Love relationships from home remain strong
  • Consequences of decision-making experienced


  • Midterm grades returned
  • Roommate challenges become more clear
  • Many exams and papers due before Thanksgiving
  • Excitement and/or anxiety regarding going home for Thanksgiving
  • First series of campus-wide illness (cold, flu, strep, etc.)


  • Anxiety over preparations for finals
  • Excitement and/or anxiety regarding going home for holidays
  • Sadness about leaving new friendship and/or love relationships
  • Roommate challenges continue


  • "Fresh Start" mentality sets in with new quarter
  • Satisfaction and/or disappointment with Fall Quarter grades
  • Homesickness
  • Loneliness for love relationship back home
  • Relief being away from home and back at school


  • Feelings of claustrophobia and depression set in with winter
  • Change of weather affects motivation; early morning classes become harder to attend
  • Potential increase in alcohol and other substance abuse
  • Challenges with love relationship back home
  • Valentine's Day brings out loneliness, isolation


  • Anxiety regarding finding roommate(s) for next year
  • Excitement or disappointment regarding Spring Break plans
  • Final exam stress
  • Concern over summer employment
  • Concern over winter weight gain


  • Third quarter "new" resolutions
  • Excitement with arrival of spring
  • Concern over declaring major and career options


  • Burn out and low motivation
  • Uncertainty of summer plans
  • Large student events, Sun God (possible alcohol-related activities)
  • Anxiety of returning home for the summer


  • End of quarter pressure
  • Final exam anxiety
  • Apprehension about returning home for summer
  • Sadness over leaving new friendships and/or love relationships at school
  • Realization of how college influences life decisions
  • Sense of accomplishment and new found self-confidence
  • Higher levels of anxiety

In addition to these more predictable stressors, students may experience the following concerns throughout the academic year.

  • Missing family birthday and holiday celebrations
  • Missing participation in family traditions
  • Wanting involvement with family maintained, but expecting their desire for complete freedom to be respected (Blimling, 1999)

Adapted from Hatch, Cathie and Richard H. Mullendore. Helping Your First-Year College Student Succeed: A Guide for Parents. National Orientation Directors Association, 2000.