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 their life.

  • August
    • 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.
  • September
    • 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.
  • October
    • 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.
  • November
    • 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.
  • December
    • Anxiety increases over finals preparation.
    • Excitement and/or anxiety regarding going home for the holidays to see friends and family.
    • Challenges with balancing finals week programming and study time.
    • Sadness about leaving new friendships and/or romantic relationships
  • January
    • Satisfaction and/or disappointment with fall term grades.
    • Homesickness.
    • Loneliness for friendships and romantic relationships back home.
    • Relief being away from home and back at school.
  • February
    • 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.
  • March
    • 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.
  • April
    • Concern over declaring or changing their major.
    • End of semester pressure.
    • Excitement with the arrival of spring.
    • Registration for fall classes.
  • May
    • 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.