First Year Experiences
The first year of college brings a lot of growth and change—and with that often comes
growing pains. Knowing a bit about what many college students experience in their
first year can help you support your student in this exciting (and scary!) time in
- Excitement and energy about the new environment and activities.
- Feeling overwhelmed with change, responsibility, and social interactions.
- Navigating new freedoms and balancing tasks.
- Anxiety about roommates, professors, and classes.
- Frequent calls and visits home.
- Integrating into a new set of friends.
- Homesickness and loneliness.
- Challenges interacting with new and different people.
- First exams, papers, and homework.
- Roommate problems begin to arise as students get more comfortable.
- Students begin to really question: “Do I fit in at UNC?”
- First test grades returned and students prepare for major midterm exams.
- Students maintain close connections to their friends and partners from home.
- Consequences of behavior and decision making arise.
- Midterm papers and exams are returned, giving students a good idea of their progress
in some classes.
- Roommate friendships could strengthen, or challenges could become clearer and intensify.
- Many exams and papers are due before Thanksgiving break.
- Excitement and/or anxiety regarding going home for Thanksgiving break.
- First series of campus-wide illnesses (cold, flu, strep, etc.) hit; visits to the
Health Center increase.
- Anxiety increases over finals preparation.
- Excitement and/or anxiety regarding going home for the holidays to see friends and
- Challenges with balancing finals week programming and study time.
- Sadness about leaving new friendships and/or romantic relationships
- Satisfaction and/or disappointment with fall term grades.
- Loneliness for friendships and romantic relationships back home.
- Relief being away from home and back at school.
- Potential increase in alcohol and other substance abuse.
- Exciting options for fall housing begin to surface.
- Challenges upholding relationships from back home may arise.
- Valentine’s Day may bring out loneliness and isolation.
- Anxiety regarding finding roommate(s) for next year.
- Excitement and/or disappointment regarding Spring Break plans.
- Midterm exam stress.
- Excitement about summer employment and leadership opportunities.
- Concern over declaring or changing their major.
- End of semester pressure.
- Excitement with the arrival of spring.
- Registration for fall classes.
- Final exam anxiety.
- Spring semester grades.
- Apprehension and eagerness about returning home for summer.
- Balancing the sadness over leaving new friendships and/or romantic relationships at
school and the excitement of seeing old friends from home.
- Realization of how college will influence life decisions.