Students experience high levels of stress at the end of the semester, and will be using winter break for “recovery.” They might appear to have low energy and spend a lot of time, especially at the beginning of break, sleeping. Towards the end of break, however, students may find they get bored and anxious to return to their RIT lives.
Winter break will fly by for some students but drag on for others. As their friends from home start back to their own colleges, they will have no one to visit and boredom will set in. Students will find themselves missing RIT and their friends and lives on campus. While many first-year students may feel like campus has become their “real home,” others may be questioning their choice of colleges. Encourage them to finish the academic year, even if they are thinking about transferring to another school. Usually by the end of February, students can see their accomplishments and realize they have adjusted to RIT.
Second-year students will be thinking more about co-ops, or might be preparing for their first co-op this summer or fall. If your student hasn’t mentioned anything about a co-op, use the break to discuss plans and encourage him/her to see a Career Services Coordinator.
Students in their final year who have not decided to attend graduate school will begin to feel the pressure of the job search.
Boredom as winter break continues into January
Changes in relationships with high school friends
Disappointment or relief about first semester grades
Enthusiasm about new courses, professors, and spring activities
For students graduating in the spring, frustration over questions during the break from family and friends about post-graduation plans as well as personal concerns about post-college job and student loan payments
While February starts off with the new semester feel, things pick up quickly throughout the month. The excitement of being back on campus with friends after winter break might start to wear as the days get colder and coursework gets harder.
This is when students who applied for RIT housing will learn about their housing assignments for next year. Students who did not get the assignment they want will be disappointed and will consider other options. Like when they were choosing housing options, remind students to consider the responsibilities required in the different types of housing. If your student is looking at RIT apartments, be sure he or she knows which are furnished and unfurnished, and what that will mean financially. If your student is looking to move into non-RIT housing, have discussions about security, bills, cooking, cleaning, transportation and parking, and other tenant responsibilities.
For first-year students who never quite felt like they belonged here throughout the first semester, this is the time when they usually realize they fit in at RIT after all.
Because of the cold and dark weather this time of year, many students will start thinking about spring break plans. Student should be aware; if a package deal seems too good to be true, it could be a scam.
Although it is the shortest month, February can seem endless, especially for upperclassmen who don’t have the feeling of newness that first-year students have. Students should look for campus activities, such as Freeze Fest, to liven up the dark and cold month. This is also a time of year that a care package, perhaps around Valentine’s Day, will be much appreciated.
Feelings of comfort with RIT and new friendships
Feelings of claustrophobia as winter continues; tempers tend to be short and tensions increase
Valentine’s Day can be a bright spot in the month, or it can bring on feelings of loneliness, disappointment regarding past relationships
Disappointment or excitement regarding housing assignments for next year
Weather-wise, March can be an unpredictable month. Days of sunshine and warmth will send students outdoors to bask in any sunlight they can find. Extended days of snow and cold will cause frustration and depression.
It still feels like there is plenty of time left in the semester, so there is not a great urgency to get work done. Planning for spring break and a week off is a priority. But from now until the end of the semester, each week will get busier with classes, activities, planning for summer, and taking advantage of any signs of spring weather.
Students will be excited for a week off mid-month; especially those who have spring break travel plans. If your student is traveling over break, be sure to have discussions about finances and safety before they go.
Toward the end of the month, students will begin thinking—and worrying—about registration for fall semester. Students may be figuring out how to work a co-op into their schedule, and upperclassmen may be concerned if they have not yet found a co-op.
Anxiety over mid-term results
Excitement about spring break plans
Disappointment among those who can’t afford to travel for spring break
For soon-to-be graduates, realization that this is the last spring break; last chances to be with friends
Discussion of plans for the summer as students plan for co-ops, summer jobs, or taking classes
Frustration over lingering snow and cold temperatures
Even though it’s well into the semester, spring feels like a time for new beginnings. Students may be looking for new involvement opportunities on campus or may get into a new relationship. With the end of the academic year on the horizon, relationships and new friendships can intensify quickly.
The increasingly nice weather will bring a sense of freedom. Between this and the comfort of campus, students may forget to be cautious with their belongings and around campus. Please remind your student to continue to be cautious to avoid the risk of theft and assault; lock residence hall and apartment doors, avoid walking alone at night, and be alert.
Excitement over signs of spring; euphoria with any warm weather
The pace of social activities increases as weather improves
Sense of urgency about plans for summer
Registration for fall courses occurs
Anxiety over grades and final exams; for first-year students, the excuse of “first semester” is gone
For graduating students, either separation anxiety begins to arise or there’s a feeling that “I can’t wait to be done!” Some will start to disengage from campus and college life
This time of year, graduating students continuously hear the question, “What are you going to do next?” While the person asking the question doesn’t mean any harm, it may become very annoying to the graduate, who has been hearing it consistently from family, friends, faculty, and acquaintances. It can be especially frustrating if the graduate does not yet have a job lined up, or is not happy with the available options.
Alternative questions to show support of graduates and reduce the pressure are, “Are you planning to stay in Rochester, or will you be moving somewhere else?” “What’s the most important thing you learned in college?” or “If you had it to do all over, would you change anything about your college experience?”
Similar to breaks, the whole family will have to negotiate the living situation when students return home for the summer. Unlike breaks, this stay will last several months, so concerns need to be addressed quickly. Parents and siblings have made changes during the year that the student doesn’t fully understand. Old family patterns will be tested, and some may no longer work. Talk to your student about expectations around curfews, meals, chores, and other household contributions.
Students completing their first year may experience issues or concerns about relationships—their RIT friends are likely not in the area and their high school friends have changed, just as they have.
Panic about finals and completing class projects at the beginning of May
Emotions about leaving friends and moving out of the residence hall or apartment
Frustration and anxiety about sorting, packing, and cleaning in preparation for moving out
For graduates, ambivalent feelings. Joy and pride about graduating; sadness that college is done; excitement about finally reaching adulthood; anxiety about finding or beginning a job; concern about “what’s next?”
For graduates who do not already have jobs, this can be a trying time. They may question their choice of majors and worry about beginning to pay back student loans
Students who go home for the summer may seem bored and anxious to get back to RIT. The boxes they brought home could sit unopened for weeks, or perhaps for the entire summer. Students change significantly during their first year at college, and this will become apparent in their relationships with high school friends. The initial excitement about having a summer to spend with old friends may fade. On the other hand, former classmates who were not friends in high school may now seem more interesting.
Your student may be taking summer classes at RIT and will find life on campus to be much more quiet and laid back than during the academic year. The pace of classes, however, can be quite intense. Your student may also be on co-op during the summer. If this is your student’s first co-op experience, they will likely have many questions for you, as well as concerns and excitement similar to a first big job or internship.
Summer is a time when students might consider a change of major. Parents should be open to exploring this option with their students. Advisers in University Exploration are available to help students gather information; parents can offer support and listen to students as they make this decision.
Particularly towards the end of the summer, students will look forward to going back to RIT and being back with friends and in class.
Initial excitement about summer that will wane throughout the summer
A new summer job, internship, or co-op
Discovering changing relationships with old friends
Missing campus and RIT friendships
The end of August and into September will mark one of the biggest changes many first-year students have ever experienced as they transition into life as an RIT student. They will be adjusting to new surroundings, a new lifestyle, new people, and new responsibilities. This much change at one time can create mixed emotions in students; their feelings may fluctuate quickly between loving everything about RIT and hating it. These strong emotions are normal; if your student is unhappy about something, give it time before you react, as the issue may be quickly resolved on its own.
The first couple weeks on campus will be exciting for most first-year students. They will become familiar with campus and their class schedules and will begin to make friends; the newness of everything will lead to daily discoveries and excitements. Many students will be anxious to participate in as many campus events and activities as they can, and may get so wrapped up in the social activities that they initially neglect to focus on classes.
On the other hand, some first-year students will have a difficult time knowing how to make friends and how to get involved. It will be discouraging to see other students having an easy time with it, and may focus on studies to avoid uncomfortable social situations.
Within a few weeks, students will find balance, and the extreme feelings will moderate. The outgoing students will return focus to academics, and the shy students will learn that there are many ways to make friends at RIT. Your students will begin to fall into their campus routine.
First-year students will also struggle to find balance between maintaining connections with friends from home and building relationships on campus. This transition will occur throughout the first year and will fluctuate at different times, particularly around breaks.
Returning students will see the beginning of the academic year as a fresh start, and perhaps an opportunity to recommit to academics or an organization. There is still newness, however, in new classes and perhaps a new living space. Students will be reunited with friends who have been out on co-op, or will be missing those who are away for the semester. The excitement of being back on campus and with RIT friends may drive students to have a socially active September, but similar to the extremes of the first year, returning students will find balance as the semester wears on.
Sense of excitement, independence, and confidence
Testing of limits and boundaries
Experimentation in personal life (food; spirituality; friendships; activities)
Feelings of homesickness
Insecurity about coursework; feeling overwhelmed
Anxiety about first tests and papers
Doubts about choice of school, choice of classes
In October, students have settled into a routine. The newness of the beginning of the semester has worn off a bit, and some realities will set in. After the first few weeks of a new class, students will begin to realize how much work they have and how challenging their courses are. Academics will more frequently take precedence over social activities. The academic pressure will escalate later in the month when midterms and big assignments draw closer, and students begin to think about registering for second semester courses.
Socially, initial friendships may wane as students meet more and more people and find peers who are a better match for their personalities and interests. Students will meet many people who are much different from relatives and classmates from home, and will be exposed to new ideas, values, and belief systems. This may cause students, particularly first- and second-year students, to question and explore their own beliefs. This is a growing process throughout the academic experience. The experimentation and discovery wanes over time and students settle in with values they will rely on long into the future.
By the end of October, students will have to make decisions about housing for the following year. This can be a lot of pressure for first-year students, who just moved to campus and are still getting to know RIT. When your student is making decisions about housing, you should have conversations about the responsibilities that come with each option. If your student is looking at RIT apartments, be sure he or she knows which are furnished and unfurnished, and what that will mean financially. If your student is looking to move into non-RIT housing, have discussions about security, bills, cooking, cleaning, transportation and parking, and other tenant responsibilities.
This is also the time of the year when students will begin to realize that their current roommate, who may have seemed like the perfect match, has flaws. Roommate agreements, both formal and informal, will need to be discussed and reassessed. These relationships will tend to even out soon.
Finding a routine; feeling like campus is home
Questions and concerns about roommates
Getting their feet on the ground in classes; understanding how much work is required
Stretching boundaries and seeking new challenges, such as involvement in organizations, leadership opportunities, and co-ops
For students in their final year, focus on deadlines for graduate school exams and applications
The weather in Rochester begins to get cold and dark in November. Health is at risk as weather, anxieties, and late-night studying challenge students' immune systems. Flus and colds spread on campus. Parents can help by reminding students to take care of themselves (sleep is important, no matter how demanding college life can get).
At this point of the semester, it is not uncommon for students to say they want to transfer to a different university. While students may have genuine concerns about RIT, it is important for both parents and students to stay calm and give this consideration and time. As a parent, you can tell your students that you are open to discussions and will support exploration of this plan, but it is best to wait until the end of the term. Often by that point, students have settled in to RIT and abandon the idea of transferring.
In early November, students new to financial management may realize that their bank accounts are scraping bottom. Summer job savings may dwindle, and the reality of financial responsibility becomes clear.
The trip home for Thanksgiving is an event to look forward to, but also a time when academic schedules are stressful. While at home, students may express concerns about how their coursework is going. This is also a time when students reconnect with friends from home and may realize what a difference a few months away can make.
For some students and families, particularly those returning home for the first time since beginning college, Thanksgiving can raise issues about personal independences versus family responsibilities. There will have to be family conversations about expectations for meals, chores, curfews, use of the family car, and time spent with friends. Thanksgiving, as well as other trips home, is a reminder to many students that they are now guests in their family home, and the RIT community is becoming their "real" home.
Students who don't go home for Thanksgiving are likely to undergo some lonliness, even if staying on campus was their choice.
A better understanding of where they stand academically
Resolution of roommate problems and apartment issues
Building pressure around coursework and other commitments
Increasing support from and closeness to campus friendships
Excitement about going home for Thanksgiving
Intense coursework as Thanksgiving nears
Registration for spring courses occurs
December brings a mix of anxiety about finals and excitement about holidays and break. The combination of finals and upcoming holidays can induce stress as well, however. Students are torn between making plans for the break, preparing gifts for family and friends, and spending needed time to finish coursework and prepare for exams.
When exams are completed and students return home, they are likely to be exhausted. Many of you will find that your student spends a lot of time sleeping, particularly at the beginning of the break. All of this sleeping might conflict with family holiday schedules. Similar to a Thanksgiving visit, families should discuss expectations about winter break, but remember that students need time to relax and decompress after the semester.
Students are happy to be back home, but might find that they have slipped out of the family routine. Parents might not have noticed the subtle changes around the house and daily life, but your student will. Similarly, your student had a different routine at RIT, perhaps staying out late and eating at odd hours. Have discussions with your student about your expectations around household tasks, curfews, use of the car, and participation at meals and family activities.
Throughout the year, students miss the traditions and comforts of home. It might be difficult for your student to arrive home and find the entire house decorated and all holiday preparations complete. While you will want to get a head start, consider saving some of your student’s favorite traditions for when they complete finals and are home.
Concerns about final exams and final grades
Anxiety about balancing finals and preparations for break
Excitement for their family’s traditional celebrations
Looking forward to seeing high school friends during break
Concern about not seeing campus friends over break