September 2017: Handling Common Student Stress Experiences: The First Three Weeks


By: Office of Residence Life Staff

The first three weeks are critical to your student’s success, yet this can be a challenging experience. After your student moves into their residence hall and begins to get settled, encourage your student to explore their new home-away-from-home. Orientation plays a large role in helping get your student acclimated to JMU. Talk to your student about the importance of attending all the orientation events and getting to know their Freshmen Orientation Guide (FrOG). FrOGs help connect your student to all JMU has to offer. Additionally each new student who lives on campus has a Resident Advisor (RA) who lives on the floor and is a great resource for them. RAs are trained to help students get acclimated, learn about JMU, the campus culture, and the values and norms of JMU. Your student’s RA will reach out to each student on the floor to get to know them and provide assistance if necessary, and they are accessible to each student as needed.

Your student should get to know their roommate(s) and suitemates. This step is crucial to successfully navigating the first year of college. Taking the time to get to know each other and to openly talk about the room environment and suite in the beginning will help in the future after the “honeymoon” period or newness wears off. A good way to start is for each roommate pair to discuss and answer questions from a roommate agreement. This conversation starter can help set up some guidelines for how the students will live together and create ways to settle differences when they arise. If your student is sharing space with a suite, please encourage them to get to know their suitemates. At least make sure they know their names! Roommates and suitemates can be a wonderful addition to your student’s experience at JMU and some may even become life-long friends.

The campus is beautiful and full of wonderful places to explore. However, it is large and can be intimidating for new students. Early on your student should walk around and learn the various academic buildings, eating and exercise facilities, residence halls, and offices. Your student should receive a personalized MAPPY from their FROG during orientation. It is okay for them to walk around with their campus map and plot a course to their classes finding the fastest way to make it to each class on time (or even early) even though they may think it is “not cool.” There will be many students navigating with a campus map for their first couple of days/weeks. Roommates, suitemates, and hallmates are great people to walk around with and as they walk and talk together they will get to know each other. As your student gets to know JMU any fears they had about the campus (where they will eat, sleep, exercise and go to class) will begin to dissipate. Figuring out what’s what and where in advance can be great stress reliever. Note: Tell your student to take off the headphones as they walk around campus and remind them, “Heads Up Dukes!” at crosswalks. This will help them be more aware of their surroundings and help them to be more open to others as they have personal contact on the sidewalks or in the buildings. Many students, staff, and faculty will smile, say hello, or even engage in conversations with others on campus. 

Your student should check their @dukes email and MyMadison frequently.  Most communication from the university are sent out via these two methods. Students can miss important deadlines if they fail to check and read their messages. Additionally, they may miss important information about attending events, learning about clubs and/or organizational meetings, scholarships, or even extra credit opportunities.

A few other people on campus to encourage your student to get to know include the housekeeping staff who clean their building, the dining hall staff, the University Police, student employment supervisors, and the Office of Residence Life staff (of course!!). They can introduce themselves to their professor and schedule a visit during office hours for additional face time. These professionals will help enhance your student’s experience in many different ways and it only takes a little step outside of their comfort zone to make it happen. 

Finally, college is about both the academic and out of the classroom experiences. Encourage your student to take a million pictures and post them with #LIVEON and tag @jmureslife – especially pictures of them at JMU with other people they have met at JMU. They will have their ups and downs, but with the connections they make here and the ones they have back home, they will be able to find success.

Other common stressors may include: roommate conflicts, initial adjustments to a new academic environment, values exploration, social life adjustments, initial social reflections, becoming familiar with campus, long distance relationships, feeling inadequate, and/or financial adjustments. 

Short articles on these and other topics can be found throughout the year at

We look forward to getting to know your students and are available to help with the transition to JMU. If you have any questions about anything related to residence life, feel free to check out the rest of our website, give us a call at (540) 568-HOME, or email us at

Live safe. Live close. Live supported. Live engaged. LIVE ON!

Published: Friday, September 1, 2017

Last Updated: Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Back to Top