Rhythm of College Life

Just Like Clockwork:  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
students negotiate the challenges of the transition to college. Below are some typical
adjustment issues faced throughout the first year:

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

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

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 the holidays
Sadness about leaving new friendship and/or love relationships
Roommate challenges continue

"Fresh Start" mentally sets in with new term
Satisfaction and/or disappointment with fall term grades
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, 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, student 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

Adapted from: Hatch, Cathie & Mullendore, Richard H.
Helping your first-year college student succeed: A guide from parents. National Orientation Directors Association, 2000.


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