Rhythm of College

While the college experience is different for every student, there are several patterns that are consistent with the thousands of students who come to Western Michigan University each year. Though each characteristic won’t apply to each student, the following is a list of things to look for as your student progresses through the academic year:

Common characteristics of the first month at college

  • Excitement and willingness to try new things is at its highest level.
  • Small issues may develop as students adjust to living with a roommate.
  • Homesickness and a feeling of being “lost” in a large university may become apparent.
  • Resentment towards policies and regulations of the University; some students expect college to be a “free for all,” but find that is not the case.
  • Peer groups begin to be established.
  • Students without a developing social support system feel lonely.
  • Students enjoy new freedoms that come with creating their own class schedules.
  • Some find it difficult to remain disciplined in regards to studying, healthy living, etc.

Common characteristics of the middle of the first semester

  • Opportunities to meet new people are easy to find; campus organizations start having regular meetings which provide great places to become involved.
  • Academic pressure mounts due to procrastination, difficulty of work and lack of preparation or background for particular classes.
  • Some find it difficult to remain disciplined in regards to studying, health living, etc.
  • Roommate issues develop into bigger problems due to lack of communication.
  • Sexual conflicts and confusion begin to show as a result of first time confrontations with different heterosexual standards and homosexuality.
  • New students realize that college life is not as perfect as their friends, the media or personal expectations may have led them to believe.
  • Old personal problems may continue as new ones develop.
  • Long-distance relationships become increasingly difficult. October or during Thanksgiving break are common times some relationships end.
  • Students sign up for spring semester classes, which often allows more flexibility than in fall schedules created during summer orientation.

Common characteristics of the end of the first semester

  • Students have adjusted from high school classes to college classes.
  • Co-curricular time strain: social events, concerts, dances and class projects.
  • Majors may change as students realize their likes and dislikes, or students may decide not to return to WMU.
  • Anxiety, fear and guilt increase as final examinations approach and papers are due.
  • Financial strain develops because of holiday presents and travel costs.
  • Excitement level rises because of the holidays and vacation.

Common characteristics of the beginning of the second semester

  • Students are excited about seeing friends after the holiday break.
  • There may be some concern for friends who did not return to WMU.
  • Depression increases for those students who have failed to establish positive social relationships or achieve a moderate amount of recognition.
  • New class schedules alter when friends are around and may open the door for new friendships.
  • Social calendar is not as active; winter weather limits outdoor activities.
  • Students may develop seasonal depression due to limited daylight.
  • Students have to decide where they plan to live next year. This can be stressful if friends all have different ideas about where they want to live.
  • Energy level is high and many students experience optimism because the second semester is perceived as going “down hill” as opposed to the struggle of adjusting during the first semester.
  • Students who struggled fall semester seek out academic support resources, and those who “played” fall semester realize they need to buckle down.

Common characteristics of the middle of the second semester

  • Spring break provides a much needed vacation and a chance to energize for the rest of the academic year.
  • Students realize spring semester classes may be harder than fall semester classes.
  • Spring fever sets in; alcohol and drug use increases.
  • Mid-term panic develops as academic pressure increases and papers and exams begin piling up.
  • Planning fall semester classes may be stressful, but students start to develop direction in their classes as their studies become more focused on their majors.
  • Summer course availability triggers questions of what will they do this summer – go home, take classes at Western, a local community college, get an internship, etc.

Common characteristics of the end of the school year

  • Upperlevel students actively attend campus job fairs looking for internships and post-graduation jobs.
  • Close friendships solidify as students face separation over the summer.
  • Weaker friendships fade out over summer.
  • Summer pressures increase: summer job hunting, finding an apartment, deciding whether or not to take summer classes and figuring out how to pay for it all.
  • Co-curricular time strain: lots of end-of-year events cut into free time and studying.
  • Students moving back home may have difficulty giving up some of the independence that they have grown used to over the past year.
  • Feeling of accomplishment is present after completing a full year of college.