As you know, certain times of the year are more difficult than others. During these times, additional support for your student is helpful and encouraging. Please remember that this is only a guide designed to help you understand the types of pressures encountered by college students. These stress periods affect each student in different ways.


Initial adjustment to the academic environment, homesickness, and stress of long-distance relationships, financial adjustments and roommate conflicts.

September and October

First years begin to realize that life at college is not as perfect as they were led to believe by family members, teachers, and counselors. Old problems seem to continue, and new ones are added. Midterm workload pressures are followed by feelings of failure or a sense of accomplishment. Problems with study skills, concern over fitting in and possible illnesses due to changes in weather can also occur.

November and December

Academic pressure is beginning to mount because of procrastination, difficulty of work and lack of needed study skills. Economic anxiety can be caused due to decreasing funds from parents and diminishing summer savings. Financial strain can be caused by Christmas gifts and travel costs. Anxiety increases as final examinations approach and papers are due.

January and February

A second wave of homesickness can occur. Depression can increase as students get tired of winter and being inside. Students begin to have relationship anxieties as they weaken ties with others or change friendships. Students begin thinking about changing majors or transferring schools

March and April

Stress over midterm exams and plans for spring break starts. Students often experience limited finances. Papers and exams pile up and students start worrying about summer jobs.


Worry over choosing a major, disenchantment with college life, academic pressure leading to increased changes in dietary habits such as excessive coffee consumption, sleep loss and anxiety about saying goodbye to friends and seeking summer employment. Sometimes students are upset because they have not done as well academically as they would like.

The above guide is not to alarm parents, but should serve as a guide in determining the issues your child may be experiencing throughout the year.

How Families Can Help

Here are some helpful hints that may provide additional support for your student during these stressful periods.

  • Send "care" packages. Include cookies and candy, small personal items, seasonal items, and a little extra money. A bit of home in the mail makes the student feel closer to home.
  • Keep the letters and phone calls coming, even if your student is a little lax in returning them. It keeps them from feeling forgotten.
  • Teach your student laundry techniques, especially hints on how much soap to use and never to wash new jeans with white shirts.
  • Encourage your student to get involved. It is a great way to meet new people.
  • Be aware that a large amount of learning takes place outside the classroom.
  • Visit your student during the year. A quick tour of campus enhances a student's school spirit and a quick visit with friends enhances his/her pride in you. Take an online virtual tour of campus!
  • Allow plenty of room to grow and experiment as your student tests his/her independence.
  • Be patient; college life requires adjustments for your student.
  • Relax and pray that they have learned what you have spent 18 years teaching them.
  • Stay calm. Relax. Enjoy them for who they are.
Source: Adapted from University of North Carolina Parent Orientation Guide