two young women sit facing each other and talking on the Quad

Adjusting to College Life: Tips for the First Semester

Welcome to the start of a new academic year! This is an exciting time as thousands of students return to campus, many of whom are here for the first time. Along with the excitement of being a new member of the Alabama family can come new stresses and challenges. This article explores some common experiences for students adjusting to college life and some tips to help them successfully navigate this transition.  

Being in a New Place 

For new students, it is not uncommon to feel homesick. This happens when we miss what is comfortable and is often more common when we are exposed to a new environment or new expectations.  

Students can experience homesickness in a variety of ways. Some may feel this way at the beginning of the semester, others may not feel this way until later in the semester or after their first visit home. It may feel like loneliness, nostalgia, grief, sadness, nervousness or a desire to withdraw from the people and expectations around you.  

It is important to know that these feelings are common and that they will most likely go away as you become more familiar with college. Recognizing that it doesn’t mean something is drastically wrong can help reduce anxiety and reduce the impact these feelings have on your ability to function well. 

There are some great ways to help promote healthy adjustment and combat potential homesickness. 

Tips to Navigating Your First Semester

Get involved.

Getting plugged into something on campus that sparks interest and brings meaning is a great way to help new things feel more comfortable. Involvement can breed positive thoughts and feelings and is related to good self-esteem and academic success. There are so many ways to get involved on campus. The Source is a great resource to help you find a student organization that is right for you. 

Stay positive.

Work toward maintaining an optimistic attitude and interacting with others in productive ways. Be accepting and tolerant of yourself and others. 

Go to class.

Attendance in class should be one of your top priorities. Your academic success and successful stress management are dependent upon good attendance. 

Socialize safely and smartly.

If you choose to drink alcohol, do so responsibly and in moderation. Binge drinking is extremely dangerous and can hinder your academic performance. 

Stay on campus when you can.

The college years are a time to develop independence and autonomy. This occurs when you become your own person and develop new relationships in your new community.  

Eat and sleep well.

We function at our best when we take care of our bodies. 

Practice good stress management.

While some stress is inevitable, there are things we can do to prevent or reduce stress. Seek out and learn these methods. 

Communicate productively.

Be assertive with others so that your own needs are met but do this in ways that respect others and their differences. 

Maintain healthy relationships.

Work to avoid “toxic” relationships, but also practice give and take with your friends, and make sure your relationships are balanced. Put effort into resolving conflicts in ways that honor yourself and others. Stay in touch with those that support you. 

Stay focused.

Academic life requires students to focus and concentrate. Work to avoid or reduce things that interfere with your concentration. 

Resources and Support 

Sometimes you may need additional support. When that time comes, there are great resources on campus that can help.  

  • The Counseling Center provides counseling and same-day consultation services to all enrolled students. Students can call 205-348-3863 to schedule an appointment. Consultation services are also available to faculty and staff members who are concerned about the welfare of students.   
  • The Student Health Center and Pharmacy provides medical, women’s health, allergy/immunizations, nutrition therapy and psychiatry services. The in-house pharmacy has the same hours as the clinics.  
  • The Women and Gender Resource Center offers free, voluntary and confidential counseling and advocacy services. New clients can call 205-348-5040 between the hours of 8 a.m. and 5:15 p.m. to schedule an initial appointment. 
  • Collegiate Recovery and Intervention Services provides a comprehensive continuum of care for students with substance use concerns. Services range from prevention, awareness and exploration of consequences for high-risk behaviors to a supportive, safe and engaging environment that supports students seeking or contemplating recovery. 

Check out these other digital resources to support you in adjusting to college life:

  • Stress Management Tips 
  • Togetherall — As a UA student, you have access to a free online peer support community through Togetherall. It provides a space for you to connect anonymously with peers where you can give and find support for your mental health and well-being. 

We’re so glad you’re here, and we’re rooting for you.