Rhythm of the Academic Year

First year is universally challenging to students. Understanding what your student may be experiencing can help you be an effective support system. While no two students will experience first year in exactly the same way, there are predictable ups and downs:

Fall Semester


  • Homesickness, loneliness
  • Excitement
  • Doubts about choice of school
  • Tendency to test new limits and boundaries
  • Frequent calls or visits home
  • Anxiety about roommates and professors
  • First rounds of tests possibly at the end of the month


  • Roommate problems begin to arise
  • Concerns about social climate (Do I fit in here?)
  • First grades may be returned
  • Midterm exams
  • Romantic relationships from home still going strong


  • Midterm grades returned
  • Roommate problems getting more serious
  • Lots of exams and papers due before Thanksgiving
  • Pressure building regarding coursework
  • First wave of apartment-wide homesickness


  • Anxiety about going home for the holidays
  • Anxiety and sleeplessness because of finals
  • Sadness about leaving new romantic relationship
  • Anxiety about putting class schedules together for the next semester
  • Feeling of missing out on holiday fun due to studying for exams; sense of being cheated

Spring Semester


  • Homesickness
  • Loneliness for romantic relationship from home
  • Disappointment or excitement about first semester grades
  • Plans to make a fresh start


  • Relief at being away from home or back at school
  • Feelings of claustrophobia due to the weather; short tempers, high tension level
  • Increase in alcohol and substance abuse
  • Breakup of romantic relationships back home
  • For Valentine's Day: feelings of loneliness, alienation (lack of purpose or identity... everyone has someone but me)


  • Anxiety over choosing roommate(s) for the following academic year
  • Disappointment for students who can't afford to travel over spring break
  • Anxiety about midterm exams
  • Beginning to worry about summer employment
  • Depression over winter weight gain (especially women)


  • Excitement about arrival of good weather
  • Anxiety about choosing roommate(s) for next year
  • Panic about not finding a roommate
  • Nervousness about registering for courses
  • End-of-semester pressure begins


  • Anxiety about final exams
  • Apprehension about returning home for the summer
  • Sadness over losing touch with new friends
  • Sadness over losing contact with romantic relationship