Effective Ways to Support College Students Through Winter Quarter Stress

ESH Blog
Effective Ways to Support College Students Through Winter Quarter Stress
A father and a student smiling at each other in a dorm space.
A father and a student smiling at each other in a dorm space.

As students return to campus for the winter quarter, college students face a new set of challenges and stressors. The holiday season is over, the weather is cold and gloomy, and the pressure to perform well academically is on. As a result, students may experience increased stress and anxiety during the winter months. From colder weather and shorter days to the potential for illness and holiday-related stress, it’s crucial for students to take care of themselves and find healthy ways to manage their stress during this time.

What is Student Stress and Why is Support Needed?

Student stress is the feeling of being overwhelmed or anxious due to the demands and pressures of school and academic performance. A variety of factors can cause student stress, such as the pressure to achieve good grades, the challenge of managing multiple classes and activities, and the need to balance schoolwork with personal responsibilities. Students may experience stress because of these and other factors, and this stress can have negative effects on their mental and physical health if not properly managed. To support students through stress, emotional support humans can support them with resources and strategies that can help them cope with the demands of school and alleviate their feelings of stress and anxiety. Or, just lend an ear and listen.

Student Stress Calendar: Winter Quarter

To better understand how we as emotional support humans can support students in our lives, let’s look at what challenges they may experience during the winter quarter. In addition, remember that students are likely still experiencing the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, including learning amidst hybrid environments, experiencing anxiety around potential illness and feeling lonely from lingering isolation.


  • A new semester or quarter: For many students, January marks the beginning of a new semester or quarter, which can bring with it a new set of classes, exams, and deadlines. This can be overwhelming and stressful for students who are trying to adjust to their new schedule and workload.
  • Winter quarter starts right after the holiday season: Students may return from family time and a support network at home and experience post-holiday depression as they try to adjust to life back on campus. Or, they may be returning from difficult family situations and come back to campus with lingering anxiety and stress.
  • Financial strains: Students may be feeling financial restrictions from holiday gifts and travel expenses, especially as they wait for their financial aid refunds to come through. These financial strains can increase stress levels, particularly for those living away from home.
  • New Year’s resolutions: Many people make New Year’s resolutions in January, which can add to the pressure and stress that college students already feel. They may feel pressure to make changes in their lives and improve their habits.


  • Winter weather: February is typically one of the coldest months of the year in Maryland, which can make it difficult for students to get outside and engage in physical activity. This can lead to feelings of cabin fever and depression, which can exacerbate stress.
  • Spring break planning: Students may feel an increase in pressure when planning for spring break trips, springtime job seeking to plan ahead for summer internships and employment, and other stressors that impact their finances and their proximity to their campus support system.
  • Non-active social calendar: Anti-social behaviors can increase, as some people continue to experience cabin fever.
  • Social relationships: Depression may increase for those who have not succeeded in establishing social relationships.


  • Exams: For many students, March is the month when midterms or finals take place. This can be a major source or stress, as students may feel pressure to perform well on these exams and prove their knowledge and skills.
  • Future planning for seniors: Seniors’ job searching and interviewing causes increased level of anxiety.
  • Returning home: Anxiety may grow around feelings of returning home and leaving friends and romantic relationships behind.
  • Graduation: With graduation around the corner, anxiety may significantly increase in seniors as they plan for their future. Some seniors may experience anxiety around their educational choices, from which school to which major they chose, and even begin questioning the value of their education.

How to Show Up for and Support Students in Your Life

The months of January, February and March can be particularly challenging for the reasons listed above, and more. Emotional support humans have plenty of options to show your support. Here are a few suggestions:

Offer them support and understanding

Encourage the student(s) in your life to talk about their concerns and struggles. Listen actively to what they have to say. Boost their confidence by being a source of encouragement and support. Try reminding them of their strengths and accomplishments, without denying the validity of their concerns. Do more listening than talking.

Offer to help them seek out additional resources on campus

As an emotional support human, you don’t have to have any of the answers, and you don’t have to provide support alone. If the student in your life needs more support than you can give them, try referring them to on-campus resources. Many academic institutes offer tutoring services, study groups, and mental health counseling for students who need additional support. Remind your student that their professors likely have office hours, where they can seek additional support for challenging coursework. Knowing what resources are available to them can help keep them focused.

Your student’s institution may have academic coaching and counseling resources available online, check their website to learn more!

Offer them opportunities for socialization and connection

The winter months can be isolating, especially for students who live on campus. If they express that they would like to engage in activities, but they’re unsure where to start, you can recommend they try clubs, intramural sports, club sports, or look for research opportunities.

And, if you are on campus with the student you want to support, invite them to do an activity together. Asking them to join you for an event or activity you plan to attend may offer them a chance to try something new that they would enjoy. But, even if they decline the invitation, it can feel supportive to know someone is inviting them to go to events and activities.

Support them in building healthy routines

If the student you care about has expressed that they want to start making some positive health-related changes, it might be instinctive to offer them well-intentioned advice. But telling a college student what they “should” do isn’t the most effective route. Instead, showing up as an emotional support human by being a loving and encouraging force can help them stick to the healthy habits they’re building. Try asking them questions about their goals, their current sleeping and eating habits, and what changes they might like to make to feel healthier.

At the end of the day, the most effective thing you can do to support a student through the stress of the winter quarter is to listen to them, stay engaged, and offer encouragement. This can make all the difference in helping them to succeed during this challenging time.

You’re There for Them. We’re Here for You!

Remember, just by listening and showing you care, you’re making a difference. For more tips on how to continue your journey as an emotional support human, visit the below links:

  • How to start: learn how to begin supporting someone you care about.
  • How to say it: looking for some ideas for what to say? Find tips to help you start conversations!
  • Continuing support: sometimes just listening is enough. Other times, we can do more. Discover tips to help keep the conversation going.

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