The following is an excerpt from Dr. David Lowenstein's article on freshman adjustment stages that seemed pertinent to issues facing Tech parents.
"Usually at midterm students are confronted with reality; they may be behind in their work and they've discovered they don't understand as well as they thought they did. Receipt of their first low grades is a shock. In classes where there is only a midterm and a final, a failing midterm grade begins to confirm students' worst fears that they won't succeed in college.
Many students harbor deep fears about being "impostors," that somehow they did well in high school only because they were able to fool their teachers. Others will deal with their insecurity by believing that their teachers are bad. (It's quite common at this time for students to begin to talk of transferring to another school.) Graduate instructors sometimes begin to hear that it is their fault, their inexperience; it's the program's fault; it's the reading material. (Sometimes part of the fault does lie external to the student.) The students' inner fear of failure and of suddenly not being able to count on themselves to perform can be an overwhelming crisis.
The insecurity and fear students feel academically is often reinforced in their first visit home. Sometimes the return home is like a return to the womb; at other times it is a reminder that they really "can't go home again." Their bedroom may suddenly be the sewing room.
As finals approach, panic generally sets in. Illness is rampant, and many students develop "sleeping sickness," sometimes sleeping up to 12 hours a day. When students are asked to work more independently, they may become very dependent, demanding your time or perhaps not putting forth their best effort. The important thing to remember is that students experience this with all their classes; no matter how much time or help you give them at the end of the term, the fear may still be there. With your help and encouragement, the freshman students are more likely to get over the shock of their first bad grade if you offer them strategies for improvement.
Finally students begin to see college as a total experience. They will begin to see
connections between classes. They will begin to integrate a social life with their studies. And they will begin to develop more effective study habits. Integration and adjustment may occur within the first few weeks of class, or it may not happen until their senior year. But it will happen. At many universities, college instructors have discovered that students tend to hit their lowest point in the winter quarter. Maybe it's partly Seasonal Affective Disorder: the sunny days are gone, and everything seems a little grey. There are no major holidays to look forward to, only one-half of the school year has passed. Receipt of less-than-stellar grades in the fall also indicates a long hard winter ahead.
You may not witness any of the stages described above, but they are probably there and students are struggling with them. Some students handle things effectively on their own; others, unable to see options or even a future without a straight-A grade point average, will be devastated. If you think your college student is in trouble, contact the college Counseling Center immediately and ask for their assistance."
David Lowenstein, Ph.D.