MIT: Massachusetts Institute of Technology
For Associate Advisors
The First Year at MIT

Advising Fundamentals: First-Year Transition

First-year students face many obstacles as they transition to campus life and the academic rigor of MIT. You can help your advisees face challenges by being observant to changes in their behavior and being accessible to offer your experience and guidance.

Going off to college can be a overwhelming experience for many students. For some freshmen, this may be the first time away from home, family, and friends. They will be meeting people, who are different than they are, and may struggle with this adjustment. You can have a lot of influence on freshmen during this time. Being aware of these potential issues is the first step:

Friendships: The first four to eight weeks of the first semester is when students form friendships that set a pattern for future interactions. They may change or adapt their behavior to meet the expectations of their new peer group.

Tolerance: First-year students tend to view things as right or wrong. Those who have not learned to share, compromise, and accept other people’s views will experience interpersonal conflicts.

Values: Students enter college with values most similar to those of their parents. Meeting people with different values and beliefs force students to articulate why they believe what they do. This can be distressing, where the student cannot understand the difference between what they believe and values expressed by others.

Freedom: Students react to their newfound independence by testing the boundaries through trial and experimentation. Frequently, this behavior can be personally destructive and disruptive to the living group.

Academics: Adjusting to the new demands for studying, more intense competition, and enhanced need for critical thinking skills can place a lot of pressure on students. This can lead to stress, depression, panic, excessive drinking, and disruptive behavior.

Loneliness: Freshmen may experience roommate conflicts, trouble with exams, illness, etc. and something as simple as spending their first birthday or holiday alone can particularly difficult times. Feeling isolated, they might be reluctant to reach out to others for help.

If you notice changes in your advisees or freshmen who share your living group, you should reach out to people and resources who can help.

See Helping Advisees Adjust to MIT page in the Right Now section for more detailed advice on handling issues related to roommates stress, homesickness, etc.