First-Year Experience

Students new to Manchester University are likely to have many adjustments to make during their first semester. It doesn't matter whether the student is still living at home or in a residence hall, there will be new experiences. Hopefully, most experiences will be positive; however, some difficulties are likely to be encountered. If your student experiences difficulty with the transition or too much stress, please remember that the Counseling Services is an excellent resource.

Typical First Year Adjustment Issues & How Parents Can be Supportive

August/September

  • Excitement
  • Testing new-found freedom
  • Frequent calls and visits home
  • Homesickness and loneliness
  • Anxiety about roommates, professors, classes
  • First exams
  • Encountering a new and diverse group of people

How can parents help?

  • Listen, encourage and validate feelings.
  • Refrain from rescuing.
  • Encourage the student to stay on campus - ask what activities are going on, are there clubs/organizations to get involved in, attend hall and/or floor activities, assist the student in brainstorming options for adjusting and connecting on campus.
  • Write notes (not just e-mail) and/or send care packages.
  • Remind the student of campus resources: hall directors, RAs, Counseling Services, campus pastor, any faculty or staff with whom the student feels comfortable.
  • Support the learning and exploration process of the college experience which includes meeting people of different backgrounds, with different thoughts, ideas and values.

October

  • Roommate problems begin to arise
  • Students question: “Do I fit in here ?”
  • First test grades returned
  • Midterm exams
  • Love relationships from home remain strong
  • Consequences of decision making experienced

How can parents help?

  • Encourage use of resources: hall directors, RAs, Counseling Services, MURS, Learning Center (study tables, tutors).
  • Refrain from rescuing.
  • Brainstorm options to assist with grades/studying.
  • Acknowledge the increased difficulty of college over high school.
  • Assure that friends and family support the college experience, while missing the student too.
  • Refrain from "I told you so," "I cannot believe you did that," "You know better," etc. or lecturing.
  • Remind the student that mistakes can be learned from - what can be done differently in the future.

November

  • Midterm grades returned
  • Roommate challenges become more clear
  • Many exams and papers due before Thanksgiving
  • Excitement and/or anxiety regarding going home for Thanksgiving
  • First series of campus-wide illlnesses (cold, flu, strep, etc.)

How can parents help?

  • Listen, be supportive, encourage.
  • Encourage the use of campus resources.
  • Convey "it's okay to ask for help."
  • Assist in problem solving, not blaming.
  • Send care packages and notes.
  • Talk openly about the upcoming visit home.
  • Anticipate and express optimism about changes the student has made.

December

  • Anxiety over finals preparation
  • Excitement and/or anxiety regarding going home for the holidays
  • Sadness about leaving new friendships and/or love relationships
  • Roommate challenges continue

How can parents help?

  • Encourage the use of campus resources, including talking to professors.
  • Talk openly about the upcoming visit home.
  • Support open dialogue with the roommate; suggest student involve RA for support/guidance.
  • Praise connections made at the college.

January

  • “Fresh start” mentality sets in with new term
  • Satisfaction and/or disappointment with fall term grades
  • Homesickness
  • Loneliness for love relationships back home
  • Relief being away from home and back at school

How can parents help?

  • Verbalize your trust in them.
  • Affirm that college is difficult (different from high school).
  • Remind them of past successes.

February

  • Feelings of claustrophobia and depression of winter set in
    Potential increase in alcohol and other substance abuse
  • Challenges with love relationships back home
  • Valentine’s Day brings out loneliness, isolation

How can parents help?

  • Encourage use of campus resources, specifically counseling.
  • Don’t panic – listen, assist in identifying support people (individuals and campus staff/faculty).
  • Ask questions.
  • Refrain from rescuing.

March

  • Anxiety regarding finding roommate(s) for next year
  • Excitement and/or disappointment regarding Spring Break plans
  • Midterm exam stress
  • Concern over summer employment
  • Concern over winter weight gain

How can parents help?

  • Accept that there are highs and lows in a student’s college experience.
  • Listen, assure, ask exploratory questions to help the student brainstorm.
  • Affirm the student’s good decision making skills and your faith in them.
  • Be clear about summer expectations.
  • Refrain from judgment, jokes or teasing about weight; affirm it must be difficult.

April

  • Concern over declaring major
  • End of semester pressure
  • Excitement with arrival of spring

How can parents help?

  • Encourage use of campus resources, specifically career services.
  • Send notes of encouragement and care packages.
  • Refrain from constant calls of concern, advice or rescuing.
  • Affirm the student’s good decision-making skills and your faith in them.

May

  • Final exam anxiety
  • Apprehension about returning home for summer
  • Sadness over leaving new friendships and/or love relationships at school
  • Realization of how college influences life decisions

How can parents help?

  • Listen, encourage and acknowledge the stress.
  • Dialogue openly about summer and expectations.
  • Support feeling of sadness (don’t take it as your student not wanting to return home or not loving you).
  • Be aware of your own sense of loss while having the student gone, and now transition of the student’s return home for summer.
  • Accept your student’s changes; try not to second guess or challenge.
  • Ask questions to genuinely learn about the changes/growth, not to correct.

Adapted in part from Mullendore, R.H. and Hatch, C. (2000). Helping your first-year college student succeed: A guide for parents. Columbia, SC: OCM. And Texas A & M University (2000).

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