In this Issue: today we are discussing some of the things students may experience when they return to campus, particularly as it relates to each individual class of student
For our P’23s
This is presumably your Deac’s last semester of college. That might hit them hard when they return to campus. They might feel a great urgency to do all the things (on campus or in W-S) they haven’t done – a graduation bucket list, if you will. They may feel increased pressure to find a job or submit grad school applications.
If your ’23s are like me, they might begin to feel a sense of dread that their dear friends only have a few more months together until everyone disperses to go to Whatever is Next. (True story: even though I dreaded graduation and thought it would be depressing to know all my friends would be moving away from me, Commencement weekend turned out to be spectacularly fun and uplifting, not depressing!) Speaking of Commencement, the website will have additional information added throughout the spring, but you can check out what is there now as you think about the weekend’s events.
For our P’24s
Many of our ’24 Deacs are returning from abroad. And when they get back to campus, they might be really happy to be there, but there can also be a sort of culture shock in reverse: the campus looks the same, but everything feels…different? Or am I different now? It was my experience – and it seems to hold true for other students I have known – that going abroad widens your worldview, and you often come back from that experience feeling changed. Suddenly some of the things that might have been important to you as a first year student or sophomore don’t feel as important now.
Deacs returning from abroad may miss some of their favorite places/sights/foods from the country they just left. They may miss having access to museums or historical sights or the ease of going from country to country quickly (at least for those in Europe), specialty foods of the area, etc.
For the ’24s that did not go abroad, there may be some feelings to deal with too: excitement to see friends and classmates they’d missed during the fall, but perhaps a touch of chagrin that their friend groups might shift with the return of other classmates, or that any closeness the campus-based group of ’24s during the fall might not hold now that the whole class is together again.
And all ’24s, whether they went abroad or not, might be stressing a bit about finding an internship or a job for the summer – especially if they are hearing from friends who already have one lined up.
For our P’25s
Our ’25s’ minds might be on upcoming big decisions to be made. Major/minor declaration is at the end of January. For some ’25s, they probably have a solid idea of their major (or minor), but others may still be waffling between majoring in X or Y and are going to try to use their spring semester classes to try and kick the tires to see which major they might like better. Still others may not have a clear idea of what they wanted to major in (my roommate at Wake was in that situation; she picked something literally at the 11th hour).
Some ’25s might be planning to go abroad next year, and their minds might be on getting applications submitted, or trying to decide which program they most want. Other sophomores might be trying to form a more solid plan for the next two years re: their major, possibly summer internships, and ultimately finding a career path or grad school. That can feel overwhelming.
For our P’26s
Your Deacs are about to return to a familiar campus, but it won’t feel quite the same as it was in the fall. Some changes:
Academic: students will have new classes, a new set of professors, and will have to learn their expectations, testing style, etc. It can feel like starting all over again. And if students are trying to get off wait lists or make changes to their classes, that can add a layer of stress.
Social: Some students will go through fraternity or sorority recruitment, and that can cause many emotions (excitement, anxiety, exhilaration, disappointment, etc.). Many of our ’26s will make new friends – whether from new Greek affiliation, new classes, new student organizations. First semester friend groups tend to fluctuate, and it’s not uncommon for students to worry that they will ‘lose friends’ as group membership shifts.
Friends’ availability also can play out based on new class schedules: our ’26s may find that the people they used to eat lunch or dinner with on certain days now have classes at that time or have other commitments, which can feel unsettling. There is also potential for adjustments in their living spaces as roommates adjust to new schedules.
Emotional: I tell my first-year advisees that January can sometimes feel like quicksand – it can feel unstable, like things are shifting all around you. While that doesn’t feel good in the moment, things will get more stable in the first few weeks of the semester, so hang in there.
For all families
No matter your student’s year, be understanding if your Deac feels a little unsettled once they get back to campus. As the semester begins, and as they get into the swing of their classes and extracurriculars, students will find their groove. And if not, urge your Deac to seek support from the many offices there to help them.