First Year in Five Stages

Your first year can consist of a range of emotional peaks and valleys that often manifest themselves in five stages. These don't play out in a set timetable and are not affected by proximity to home. Some students go through all of these stages before the end of their first semester, while others take longer to adjust. We offer this outline to you with the hope that you will find it interesting and that it will provide you with perspective.


There's lots of positive anticipation and an initial sense of freedom that many students find exhilarating when they leave home for the first time. You may find that your child doesn't touch base because he or she is too busy enjoying their newly found freedom! Count this as normal behavior.


The realities of adjusting sink in: sharing a dorm room with a stranger, finding out where to get a haircut or do banking, navigating a new community, managing a heavy work-load and determining how to budget time and money. Just when you think that your child has successfully adjusted to college, you might get a Stage Two call, sometimes totally out of the blue. This phase will pass. There is not a lot that you can do to make it better except listen and be supportive. Your child will appreciate the fact that you are truly hearing what they are saying. Have some advice? Go ahead, offer it, but judicially and non-judgmentally. Try to offer your perspective as open-endedly as you can. That will help the communication flow stay open. Be more of an ear and less of a voice.


Your child begins to develop a routine as he or she becomes familiar with campus life and new academic and social environments. Their calls home may be full of excitement. You may also find that they call less, which can be a sign that your child is adjusting well to their new life. Still, it's important to keep the lines of communication open via phone or e-mail.


This often occurs right after a vacation. Your child may become a bit insecure and have some misgivings about their new environment as he or she remembers the comforts of home and high school friends they'd known for years but now no longer see. They wonder if college is really all it's supposed to be. Again, be open and encouraging. And take heart that the emotional roller coaster is almost over.


Your child finally feels a part of the college community, often thinking of it as home. You might find this stage the most difficult because it means that your child has really left the nest and is beginning to develop their own sense of independence.


Take comfort in knowing that all of this will turn out just fine, despite the dips and turns along the way. Remind your child to use the student Resident Advisor and the adult Head Resident as a support system for social or non-academic issues if he or she needs them. It's important to remember that your child needs to learn on their own the lessons that life has to teach them. However, if your child seems to really need assistance and isn't getting it on their own initiative, or doesn't know where to go, please refer to our list of contact names and phone numbers.