The first year is a time filled with a variety of emotions, for both parents and students. Multiple emotions create numerous internal questions, which are often intermingled with the more immediate, practical questions regarding living and learning on campus. These questions can create a stressful and overwhelming time for first-year students, and their families.

First-year issues

  • Quickly learn the difference between high school and college academic work
  • Pressure to select a major
  • More free timewhich can be used for social time or study time
  • Selection of courses
  • Get to know faculty
  • Self-responsibility for keeping up with studies
  • Exposure to new ideas, information, and debates
  • Fear of losing contact with friends and significant others back home
  • Roommate relationship development
  • Build quick, safe friendships
  • Fitting in
  • Worries of tuition costs
  • Consider the need for a job
  • Learn how to spend moneywants vs. needs
  • Exposure to new kinds of groups and interests
  • Exploring differences in family values, and exposure to new beliefs
  • Confidence being challenged
What can I do to support my student in the first year?
  • Write and call. A care-package or letter from home can make a student's day.
  • Visit. But not too often and never unannounced! Attend campus-sponsored events for families.
  • Expect the best. Trust that your student is now ready to be responsible.
  • Let your student solve their own problems. At some point, you will have the urge to "help" by making a call to campus. Before you pick up the phone, think about how you can help your student without doing it them.
  • Share expectations. Just because your student is now a legal adult, doesn't mean you can't share your expectations.
  • Encourage campus involvement. There is a fine balance here, as some students are prone to get over involved, however research has proven that students who get involved on campus have a higher retention rate, are more academically successful, and are more satisfied with their overall college experience.
Provide these general tips to your first-year student:
  • Attend all classes
  • Get to know professors
  • Make at least two friends in each class
  • Manage time and priorities
  • Get involved in at least one organization
  • Take advantage of campus support and services
  • Keep finances in check
Source:, Start Off Your Freshman Year the Right Way.

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