Ask Deanie: Ups and Downs are Normal the First Year

ask-deanie-sm.jpgFor students across the country at colleges and universities of all sizes, certain times in the academic year tend to be more challenging than others. Parents who understand the “ups and downs” of their student’s first year will be better equipped to help them negotiate the challenges they will face transitioning to SMU. Below are some very typical issues students face during their first year:


• College Orientation (deer in headlights time – students know they must register, but the information is often overwhelming)
• Stress of a summer job
• Excitement about family vacation, but feeling need to “get ready” for fall
• Women connect with their roommate about what to bring; men throw stuff in clothesbasket the night before they depart for school and just show up.
• First week of class – Where am I going?


• Excitement
• Testing newfound freedoms
• Frequent calls and discussions of weekend visits home
• Homesickness
• Value crisis (confronted with challenges to personal value system, social expectations and status in high school versus college)
• Academic performance (may begin to see discrepancy in high school grades and college performance)
• Cultural adjustment (may feel sense of displacement from familiar cultural environment)
• Anxiety about roommate, professors, classes
• First assignments/test grades returned
• Love/friendship relationships from home remain strong
• Roommate problems may arise
• Family Weekend (are parents/family coming?)


• Fall Break – what to do (study, go home, go away with new friends)
• Reality check – is college measuring up to expectations?
• Loneliness if student has not connected with some new peer group
• Midterm grades (academic load and test results may bring low self-esteem)
• Consequences of decision-making experienced
• Students question: Do I fit in here? Are my friends from home having more fun than I am?


• Academic pressure (projects mounting and load difficulty increases and effects of not attending classes realized)
• Depression or anxiety regarding money, relationships, classes, etc.
• Registration for next semester (requirement to see adviser)
• Excitement and/or anxiety about going home for Thanksgiving
• First series of campus-wide illnesses (cold, flu, etc.)
• Time management conflicts between social and school obligations


• Finals anxiety
• Pre-holiday depression, especially those with concerns for family conflicts
• Financial strain (from lack of budget experience, holiday buying with limited resources and facing next semester’s bills)
• Sadness about leaving new friendships and/or love relationships for the holidays
• Weight gain may begin to show
• Pressure felt over first grades on the transcript (eligibility for Greek rush, future major, etc) and parents wanting to know how the semester went


• “Fresh Start” mentality sets in with new semester

Question for Deanie? Ask Deanie at or 214-768-4797.