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Like Clockwork: The Rhythm of College Life Certain times in the academic year tend to be universally challenging for students. Parents who understand the ups and downs of the first college year are better able to help their students negotiate the challenges of transition to college life. Below are some typical examples of what they will face throughout the first year. August/September February • Excitement • Feelings of claustrophobia and depression • Testing newfound freedom set in with winter • Frequent calls and visits home • Potential increase in alcohol and other • Homesickness and loneliness substance abuse • Anxiety about roommates, professors, • Challenges with love relationship back classes home • First exams • Valentine’s Day brings out loneliness, isolation October • Roommate problems begin to arise March • Students question: “Do I fit in here?” • Anxiety regarding finding roommate(s) for • First test grades returned next year • Midterm exams • Excitement and/or disappointment • Love relationships from home remain regarding spring break plans strong • Midterm exam stress • Consequences of decision-making • Concern over summer employment experienced • Concern over winter weight gain November April • Midterm grades returned • Excitement with arrival of spring • Roommate challenges become clearer • Concern over declaring major • Many exams and papers due before • End-of-semester pressure Thanksgiving • Final exam anxiety • Excitement and/or anxiety regarding going home for Thanksgiving May • First series of campus-wide illnesses (cold, • Apprehension about returning home for flu, strep, etc.) summer • Sadness over leaving new friends and/or December love relationships at school • Anxiety over preparation for finals • Realization of how college influences life • Excitement and/or anxiety regarding going decisions home for holidays • Sadness about leaving new friendship and/or love relationships In addition to these more predictable • Roommate challenges continue stressors, students may experience the following concerns throughout the January academic year: • “Fresh Start” mentality sets in with new term • Missing family birthday and holiday • Satisfaction and/or disappointment with celebrations fall term grades • Missing participation in family traditions • Homesickness • Wanting involvement with family • Loneliness for love relationship back home maintained, but expecting their desire • Relief at being away from home and back for complete freedom to be respected at school (Blimling, 1999) Reprinted with permission. Mullendore, R.H., and Hatch, C. Helping Your First-Year College Student Succeed: A Guide for Parents. Columbia, S.C.: University of South Carolina, National Resource Center for The First-Year Experience & Students in Transition, 2000.
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