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Monthly Stressors and Issues for First-Year Students

The first year of college involves many changes for your son or daughter. The following is a list of the possible stressors and issues that may occur during the upcoming year, whether your son or daughter commutes or lives on campus. We hope it will give you a month-by-month perspective of the life of a college student.  Whether the student commutes or lives on campus the issues and stressors will still be a factor in the student’s first year.

August/September

  • Time Management – making time for multiple demands: social, academic, recreational, and possible employment.
  • Adjusting to more rigorous academic demands
  • Social Pressure – making new friends and “fitting in”
  • Leaving the security of the known – home, family, friends
  • Dealing with the unknown – new environment, new people, new demands
  • Adjusting to independence – accepting responsibility for making one’s own decisions and dealing with the consequences of choice; exploring values.
  • Indecision about direction of life – pressure to select a major
  • Experimenting with alcohol or other drugs
  • Learning to live in a community – coping with new roles, policies and norms; tolerating differences.

October

  • Midterm Exams – first major experience with college exams
  • Fall Break – first long weekend and perhaps first trip home
  • Midterm advisory grades – may be a “wake up call” to study more
  • Conflicts may surface with roommates, family and friends
  • Class choices – deciding on classes for the spring semester
  • Financial adjustment and budget concerns


November

  • Increasing academic demands and pre-finals anxiety
  • Time management conflicts continue
  • Less contact with family and friends at home
  • Finalizing class schedule for spring
  • Shorter, darker days may bring on “winter blues”
  • For some, dealing with their first holiday away from home

December

  • Preparing for exams and pressure to finish assignments
  • Balancing social and academic demands
  • Preparing for long break with parents, family and friends
  • Anxiety about first semester grades

Some students struggle with major decisions after the first semester.  They may be in “crisis” over their grades and experience conflict because of a fear that they are not suited for or do not like their chosen major. 

January

  • Readjusting to school and returning to a routine
  • Reestablishing relationships with campus friends after separation
  • Dealing with the reality of first semester grades – questioning competence and choice of courses
  • Discussion with advisor about changing major- may be based on overall experience with courses taken first semester, grades, etc. 

February

  • Dealing with the routine – possible boredom
  • Academic pressure increases
  • Coping with bad weather
  • Health issues – cold and flu affect academic performance and create frustration
  • Making plans for spring break

March

  • Preparing for and taking midterm exams
  • Receiving midterm grades and readjusting study efforts
  • Completing projects and papers
  • Running short on money

April/May

  • Facing long weeks until the semester ends – spring fever
  • Increased academic pressure – preparing for finals
  • Year-end social activities
  • Finding a roommate for next year and signing up for housing
  • Registration for fall semester classes
  • Saying goodbye to friends
  • Concerns about finding a summer job
  • Deciding whether to take summer courses
  • Readjusting to living at home for an extended period
  • Receiving grades


Being aware of these cyclical stressors throughout your son or daughter’s first year of college will help you be a more supportive and understanding parent.  Refer your student to campus resources such as the Counseling Center, the Student Health Center, the Academic Resource Center, Campus Ministry, their Academic Advisor, and the Career Development Center as various issues and concerns arise


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