Helping First Year Students Adjust



Helping First Year Students Adjust

Here are some common month-to-month adjustments for first-year college students adapted from: Helping your First-Year College Student Succeed, Richard Mullendore and Cathie Hatch, National Resource Center for the First-Year Experience and Students in Transition at the University of South Carolina, Columbia.


  • Feelings of excitement
  • Experimenting with new-found freedoms
  • Frequent calls and visits home
  • Becoming familiar with campus
  • Homesickness and loneliness
  • Anxiety about classes, professors, roommates
  • Students ask, “Do I fit in here?”
  • First assignments/test grades returned
  • Romantic relationships from home often remain strong
  • Experiencing the consequences of decision-making
  • Roommate problems may arise
  • First midterm exams at the end of October


  • Midterm grades returned
  • Excitement/anxiety about going home for Thanksgiving
  • First series of campus-wide illness (colds, flu)
  • Time management issues trying to balance the demands of school, work, family, and social life
  • Roommate challenges may intensify


  • Anxiety over preparations for finals
  • Excitement/anxiety over going home for holiday
  • Sadness about leaving new friendships and/or new romantic relationships for the holidays
  • Financial strain due to lack of budget experience/holiday expenses
    Continuing roommate challenges

January (J-term break)

  • Satisfaction and/or disappointment with last semester’s grades
  • Feelings of exhaustion
  • Adjusting to being back home and adapting to old family rules and routines


  • “Fresh start” mentality sets in with new semester
  • Homesickness after break
  • Relief may be felt at being away from home and being back at school
  • Loneliness for relationships back home
  • Feelings of cabin fever and depression with winter
  • Potential increase in alcohol or other substance abuse
  • Challenges with romantic relationship back home may begin to develop
  • Valentine’s Day may increase feelings of loneliness and isolation


  • Anxiety about Midterm exams
  • Anxiety about finding a roommate for next year
  • Excitement and/or disappointment regarding Spring Break plans
  • Concern over winter weight gain


  • Burned out feeling
  • Spring fever
  • Concern over declaring a major


  • Final exam anxiety
  • Stress over moving when semester ends
  • Ambivalence about returning home for summer
  • Sadness over leaving new friendships and/or new romantic relationships at school
  • Concern about finding summer employment
  • Beginning to realize how college will influence future life decisions