The Rhythm of Gustavus First-Year Students

Changing with the Seasons

Some of the biggest adjustments first-year students can be facing

The W-Curve and the Gustavus First-Year student

  • The W-Curve developed by Zeller and Mosier (1993) explains a pattern of stages that occur when experiencing culture shock.
  • It's normal to have ups and downs, especially the first year of college, as the W-Curve suggests.
  • Honeymoon Phase starts prior to even stepping foot on campus and encompasses the excitement and anticipation of a new journey
  • Culture Shock naturally occurs while dealing with all the new adjustments. Zeller and Mosier reveal this period as a time of great conflict and anxiety but it can lead to positive change.
  • Initial Adjustments once made helps student to gain confidence in ability to face other conflicts and challenges along the way.
  • Mental Isolation occurs where they may compare the new culture and their familiar culture back home. Homesickness begins to be felt, however there is a sense of being in limbo and not completely belonging in either place.
  • Acceptance, Integration, and Connectedness is where the university begins to feel like home and the students' home is more like a foreign place. They begin to integrate the positive experiences with the struggles and see the university with a more balanced and realistic view.

Helping your Gustavus first-year student as they spread their wings

  • Especially the first birthdays, holidays, mid-terms, final exams are all times when it is nice to know that parents care and wish to send them best wishes with a care package.
  • Order a cake through Dining Services
  • Treat academic achievement and grades realistically. It is appropriate to help your child set his or her own long-term goals, but in the end these are choices that are up to the student to make.
  • Getting connected socially and getting involved can become more of a priority than academics.
  • The structure of academics and managing time can be a struggle for new students and the first exams bring about their anxiety
  • Speaking with your son or daughter about drug and alcohol use is not always easy but is necessary. Make it clear to your student that underage alcohol consumption and driving while under the influence are against the law. Stress that alcohol is toxic when consumed excessively (binge drinking) it can be fatal. Learn about the alcohol scene on campus and then having the conversation can be helpful.
  • Being financially responsible for themselves is a pressure for them and also for you if you're always paying for something every time you turn around. Decisions about whether they should or should not work, should have a credit card or not and other money matters should be discussed as a family prior to college.
  • You want to know that they are taking care of themselves and are eating nutritiously. Encourage them to make time for breakfast and to pack snacks in their backpack for in between classes.
  • Freshmen face a multitude of social challenges, which they must solve by finding productive activities with what seems like a lot of time on their hands.
  • Feel free to advise son or daughter on certain majors but don't insist on your student needing to declare a major.

Rhythm month by month, Rhythm of Sophomore Students, Rhythm of Junior Students, and Rhythm of Senior Students.