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Articles / Campus Life / First Days at College: Good or Bad?

First Days at College: Good or Bad?

Dave Berry
Written by Dave Berry | Oct. 1, 2013

Parents, is this your son’s or daughter’s first year of college? If so, what kinds of reactions have you gotten from them about their new lives, especially their classes? Those first few days (or even weeks) can be a real culture shock for many college first-year students.

Of course, this topic wouldn’t be complete without a nostalgic (for me, anyway) look back to my first days and weeks on campus. Okay. Okay. The earth hadn’t completely cooled by the time I set foot on those hallowed grounds of higher education. (Maybe that was why it was so warm that fall, up here in the Northeast.) Anyway, I distinctly recall my parents helping me carry what little I had brought with me into my prison-cell-like room. Compared to the luxury accommodations of today, my room was little more than a storage closet with a bed and a desk.

We got moved in and waited for my roommate and his parents to arrive, which they did after we had finished setting things up. Of course, getting there first gave me the pole position on bed choice. I chose the bed on the north-wall side of the room. My rationale for that was that at home 89.34% of the time I roll out of bed on that side, which was, amazingly, the north side in my home bedroom. Here, if I rolled north, I would merely bump up against a tasteful, mint-green-painted concrete block wall. Better than side rails!


So, I met my roommate and his parents, and they met my Mom and Dad. Then, there was that awkward, emotional moment when I walked out to the parking lot to say goodbye to my parents. Of course, my mother was fighting back tears and my Dad appeared to be proud of me. I have to admit that I had a lump in my throat too. We all hugged and then they were gone. The cord had been cut. So, my college education had begun. Time to start classes.

I was searching for some first-days-at college threads and found this one on the College Confidential site, about first days of classes. I thought it might be fun to sample some comments about that. So, let’s do it.

You’ll see comments about getting up “early” for that first class at noon (!), hot profs, and hoofing it between buildings that seem miles apart. It’s all part of the fun of adjusting to those first days of college. Although these comments relate, in general, to Tulane University, they are similar to experiences on most every campus.

– All I can get out of my D is that it’s impossible for her to get from Chem in Richardson Building to Spanish in Newcomb Hall in 10 minutes. She’s trying to decide if she wants to change her schedule which would require she get up for a 10am class on MWF. Gasp. Currently her first class is at noon. She also says the Spanish teacher is hot so she doesn’t know if she wants to switch. Hahaha No word on how she actually likes any of her classes.

– Yeah, that is something I should have mentioned before you all went down for move-in. It is moderately common for a student to show up at a classroom only to find a sign on the door (or worse of course, there is no sign but also no people!) that the class has been moved. Not sure why this happens every year, but it does.

5 classes on Mondays! That is really front-loading the schedule. He must have fairly light Tuesdays and Thursdays?

– S2 had four classes today. All I got in response to “how was it?” was “good.” They had to shuffle off to another mandatory thing tonight. Guess homework can wait! A light day tomorrow though thankfully. Maybe I will get more than a monosyllable then.

– My D liked all of her classes and her biggest issue is deciding which one to drop believe it or not. She purposely scheduled more classes than she wanted in case one seemed too hard or she didn’t like the teacher. I haven’t spoken with her since we left. I was lucky to get a text from her. I guess her not calling is a good thing, just a little sad for me. She went to the gym tonight which is a huge shocker because I don’t think she’s ever worked out a day in her life.

– First call came after several unanswered texts and finally the “are you alive?” text. First call consisted of “yeah, I’m fine. Next calls were more informative. He had 4 classes on Monday and already decided that the 9am English was too early, so he switched into the 10am. He is also worried about getting from the 10am class to the 11am class with only 10 minutes in between, so I gave him Fallen’s advice about letting the prof know that he is coming from across campus. He has also decided to drop one of the classes (was originally at 19 credits and will now be at 16). Unfortunately, its a Tues/Thurs class, so MWF will still be heavy. The good news is no classes on Thursdays. (All of this class dropping and switching was the reason for my multiple calls today so I don’t think that three calls in one day will be the norm.) Other than that, he seems happy. Meeting lots of people and says the roomate is “ok.”

– Well D did change to a different time for her Spanish class. The good news is that this teacher is also hot….

She still hasn’t told me much about her classes but I know she has been up late studying because she keeps sending me snapchat pictures of it. For whatever that’s worth. She also keeps sending me pictures of herself sneaking Icee’s out of the dining hall.

– She got off to a GREAT start than reality hit. Hopefully it will get better but it was a rough day yesterday and today is worse…. to make a very long story very short, I had to threaten to cancel the credit because she told me she was buying a ticket home and transferring schools. Just had to vent. I’m not going to bring everyone down, I’m not going to post again until she is at least partially thru this. Very sad!

– Freshmen always think they are prepared for college. It’s a much bigger adjustment than they realize. It does take some time. They are usually on their own for the first time, dealing with a room mate they may not like, classes that are demanding, time management, not having the comfort of their home to escape to and just a sensory overload of a new environment. I advise college freshmen and unless there are serious mental health issues going on I always strongly urge them to stick it out for the 1st semester. Often by Thanksgiving the things that were causing them so much unhappiness will be forgotten. I make them check in with me weekly with 5 positives from the past week, get them set up with tutors, counseling services, encourage them to join clubs and get involved in community service, help them set up a schedule for managing their studies and activities. It’s a process. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t. And sometimes one really bad experience can really sour them on the school/town.

– I know I said I wasn’t going to post until things were better but I have to pass on info. in case anyone else out there is going thru a similar situation. I filled out the form to nominate my d for success coaching. The online form took 5 minutes and hit on every subject ( academic support, social support, time management and even career support) You check off all the areas that apply. FYI, you need your student’s ID number and email address. They will contact the student within 48 hours to set up an apt. My d was fine with me doing it. I also contacted support services ( Thank you KreativeKat and FC) and am waiting to hear back from them. If nothing else, I feel as if I am doing all I can to support her. No matter what happens, I am so thankful for CC and all that Tulane has to offer! It is such a special place. Also, I mean it from the bottom of my heart, I am so happy for all of you whose students are happy and hope it continues!

– As I think I have mentioned, I rarely go on Facebook and virtually never post there. Maybe it is a “guys don’t multitask well” kind of thing, but I like the focus of this site. Even putting aside any tone issues (which I haven’t noticed since I don’t really read the postings there), the Facebook site seems kind of all over the map. Which I am not saying is a bad thing necessarily, it is probably good in theory that there is a place for that. Just not my thing.

I think the significant majority of the time when parents don’t hear much the first week, it means the kids are doing well. Obviously some kids hide issues when they are having them, but my observation has been that is much less common than the reverse. Although the converse does not hold, either. Lots of kids communicate frequently when they are very happy, although that is much more common with the young women. Is that sexist??

– So, here is my report. S is very happy, has met lots of people and likes the classes so far. They even watched the movie Shrek in his English class (I’m not sure exactly why, something about fairy tales??). The room mate is fine, nice, but quiet. I called him yesterday at 11:30 am NOLA time, he was still asleep after staying out to 3am checking out all of the frats. 

But, of course, all can not be right in the world. On night 3, he and his floor mates went to the infamous “Boot” where, he had been assured that underage drinking is no big deal. Well, guess what?? it is! While sitting at a table (his beer on the table in front of him) outside, along with dozens of others, he was approached by an undercover police officer, who presented him with a citation for “underage possession of alcohol in public.” The officer told him that it will require a $100 fine and a court appearance! I’m not even mad at him, just concerned and annoyed.

– S is doing well, but reports not that much work yet (this makes me nervous…I’m worried it will all hit at once or that he is not doing something he should be doing). Socially, hes told me “I am having a great time!” 

He is taking Calc 1150 (long calc) and lets just say that math is not his strongest subject. We have also read not such great reviews of the professor. He knows that the second he doesn’t understand something, he should go for help. So, question?? where would be the best place to go for tutoring? I know it is only a matter of time before he is confused.


So, if you’re a parent reading this and you have a son or daughter who has just started college, let us know what your experience has been. What kinds of things have you heard from your child about those first days on campus? Maybe the better question might be: What kinds of things don’t you want to hear or know about? It’s all part of the fun and excitement of those first days at college.


Be sure to check out all my college-related articles at College Confidential.

Written by

Dave Berry

Dave Berry

Dave is co-founder of College Confidential and College Karma Consulting, co-author of America's Elite Colleges: The Smart Buyer's Guide to the Ivy League and Other Top Schools, and has over 30 years of experience helping high schoolers gain admission to Ivy League and other ultra-selective schools. He is an expert in the areas application strategies, stats evaluation, college matching, student profile marketing, essays, personality and temperament assessments and web-based admissions counseling. Dave is a graduate of The Pennsylvania State University and has won national awards for his writing on higher education issues, marketing campaigns and communications programs. He brings this expertise to the discipline of college admissions and his role as a student advocate. His College Quest newspaper page won the Newspaper Association of America's Program Excellence Award, the Pennsylvania Newspaper Publisher's Association Newspapers in Education Award, the Thomson Newspapers President's Award for Marketing Excellence and the Inland Press Association-University of Kentucky School of Journalism and Mass Communications Inland Innovation Award for the Best New Page. His pioneering journalism program for teenagers, PRO-TEENS, also received national media attention. In addition, Dave won the Newspaper Association of America's Program Excellence Award for Celebrate Diversity!, a program teaching junior high school students about issues of tolerance. His College Knowledge question-and-answer columns have been published in newspapers throughout the United States. Dave loves Corvettes, classical music, computers, and miniature dachshunds. He and his wife Sharon have a daughter, son and four grandchildren.

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