First-Year Students Month-by-Month

First-Year Adjustment Issues 

Certain times during 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 transitioning to college.  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, classes
  • First exams 


  • Roommate problems begin to arise
  • Students begin to question: “Do I fit in here?”
  • First test grades returned
  • Midterm exams
  • Love relationships from home remain strong, or fall apart (this is usually the time high school sweet hearts break up)
  • Consequences of decision-making are 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 preparing for finals
  • Excitement and/or anxiety regarding going home for the holidays
  • Sadness about leaving new friendships and/or love relationships 


  • “Fresh Start” mentality sets in with new term
  • Satisfaction and/or disappointment with fall term 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
  • Potential increase in alcohol and other substance abuse
  • Challenges with love relationship back home
  • Valentine’s Day brings out loneliness and isolation 


  • 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 


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

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
  • Some involvement with family is maintained, but students expect their desire for complete freedom to be respected.

Citation: 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.

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