Challenges of the First Two Months


Students generally adapt to their new surroundings by establishing routines around meals and social activities. They will place a high value on social acceptance, and may react to their new level of freedom by overindulging in alcohol or drugs, staying up too late, or spending too much money on things like decorations or social activities. Many will feel a bit homesick, or frustrated by small problems that they encounter – remember that many of them have never before had to resolve situations fully on their own.

How you can help: It is important that students learn to overcome challenges on their own. You may share their enthusiasm and listen as they complain, but do not try to fix their problems for them. Instead consider asking them questions about where they can go for help, who they should contact next, etc. Reaffirm positive choices, and encourage them to keep their values and priorities in mind as they make decisions.


Some students may begin to feel uneasy or increasingly homesick at this time. They discover that classes may be harder than they thought, or they may have received a lower grade on a first assignment than expected. They may also begin to realize that professors do not take roll, and miss classes here and there. As the newness of college fades, they may begin to miss the comfort of home and “old” friends, and feel frustrated by the lack of good food, habits of their roommate, etc. Many may want to visit home again around this time.

How you can help: Listen to their complaints, but do not try to fix their problems for them; remember that more often than not, they just need a place to vent. If they are feeling lonely or frustrated by their social circles, suggest that they seek out a club or organization. Remind them that you believe in them, and consider sending a care package – it will be much appreciated. Instead of having them come home, suggest that they try to get off campus for a movie or dinner, or focus on getting more sleep for the weekend. Studies have shown that students who go home before Thanksgiving may make going home often a habit – and later feel left out of social relationships at school. Remind them that things will get easier as they settle into their new”home”.


Some students may be settled into the college lifestyle, and enjoying the freedom and openness of their days. Many others may cycle through periods of frustration or disillusionment. They may be feeling the consequences of earlier decisions (missing too many classes, staying up too late, getting behind on reading), and going through a transition as they attempt to drop the bad habits. They have experienced the pressure of midterms, and may need to buckle down to bring up their grades. Some will question whether they are ready for college, and may speak with you about taking a leave of absence or dropping classes.

How you can help: Listen to their frustrations, and encourage their self-reflections. Remind them of the good decisions they’ve made earlier, and let them know how much you believe in them. Keep in mind that many students experience a drop in grades their first quarter in college – where they were once at the top of their high school class, they may be in the middle ground at the selective University. It is also somewhat normal for students to question their ability – but most students rebound out of this slump with flying colors in later quarters. Offer them support and love, and help them experience the joy of overcoming obstacles, rather than running from them.