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Cycle of the First Year

The first year for most college freshman is one of many changes, discoveries, thoughts, and feelings. It is normal for your student(s) to experience both good and bad stressors, concerns, and pressures during their first academic year, as going to college is a definitive change from what they experienced in elementary, middle, and high school.

To help better understand what a normal cycle looks like, we have outlined some general thoughts, emotions, and concerns freshman feel during their first year in college.


First Semester

September -

  • Sense of excitement, independence, confidence
  • Homesickness/loneliness
  • Testing of limits and boundaries
  • Anxiety about first tests and papers
  • Doubts about choice of school, choice of classes
  • Anxiety about inadequacy or not fitting in

October -

  • Routine develops; campus begins to feel more like home
  • Doubts about social life; concern that "I don't fit in"
  • Sense of academic standing develops; comparison with other students
  • End of month – mid-terms begin

November -

  • Mid-term grades have been returned
  • Pressure builds surrounding coursework and other activities
  • Colds, stress-related illnesses arise
  • Coursework, tests, and papers intensify before Thanksgiving
  • Anxiety about signing up for spring semester classes

December -

  • Anxiety about final papers and exams
  • Insecurity about grades
  • Excitement/anxiety about going home for December holidays (dorm students)

Second Semester

January -

  • Relief at being back at school
  • Disappointment/relief about first semester grades
  • Pleasure at having an opportunity for a new start; enthusiasm about new courses and instructors
  • Sense of security

February -

  • Students are generally comfortable with the College and friendships by now
  • Seasonal depression/lethargy peaks as the cold, darkness of winter continues

March -

  • Anxiety over mid-term results
  • Excitement about spring break plans
  • Summer job hunting begins

April -

  • Frenzy of social activities and celebrations
  • Heightened concern about being in the "right" major

May -

  • Panic about finals and completing class projects


This list was adopted from the University of Minnesota's Parent Program.

First Year Experience