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The Rhythm of College Life

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 son or daughter negotiate the challenges of transitions. Below are some typical adjustment issues faced throughout the first year:


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


  • Roommate problems begin to arise
  • Students question: "Do I fit in here?"
  • First test grades returned
  • Midterm exams
  • Consequences of decision making experienced


  • Midterm grades returned
  • Roommate challenges become clearer
  • Many exams and papers due before Thanksgiving
  • Excitement and/or anxiety regarding going home for Thanksgiving


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


  • Feelings of cabin fever and depression of winter sets in
  • Challenges with love relationships back home
  • Valentine’s Day could bring about loneliness, isolation


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


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


  • Final exam anxiety
  • Apprehension about returning home for the summer
  • Sadness over leaving new friendships and/or love relationship at school

Adapted from Mullendore, R.H. and Hatch C. (2000). Helping your first-year college student succeed: A guide for parents. Columbia, S.C.: OCM and Texas A&M University