First-Year Adjustment Issues

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

August/September

  • Excitement
  • Testing new-found freedom
  • Frequent calls and visits home
  • Homesickness and loneliness
  • Anxiety about roommates, professors, classes
  • First exams

October

  • Roommate problems begin to arise
  • Students question: “Do I fit in here?”
  • First test grades returned
  • Midterm exams
  • Love relationships from home remain strong
  • Consequences of decision-making experienced

November

  • 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.)

December

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

January

  • “Fresh Start” mentality sets in with new term
  • Satisfaction and/or disappointment with fall term grades
  • Homesickness
  • Loneliness for love relationships back home
  • Relief being away from home and back at school

February

  • Feelings of claustrophobia and depression set in with winter
  • Potential increase in alcohol and other substance abuse
  • Challenges with love relationship back home
  • Valentine’s Day bring out loneliness, isolation

March

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

April

  • Excitement with arrival of spring
  • Concern over declaring major
  • End of semester pressure

May

  • 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

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.

Reprinted with permission. Mullendore, R.H., & Hatch, C. (2000). Helping Your First-Year College Student Succeed: A Guide for Parents. Columbia, SC: University of South Carolina, National Resource Center for The First-Year Experience and Students in Transition.