Second term blues

Gareth Hughes

Gareth Hughes is the Clinical Lead for Student Space and is a psychotherapist, researcher and writer on student wellbeing, including the book Be Well, Learn Well

If you’re finding the second term more challenging than you expected, taking some steps might make it easier to manage.

It is quite common for some students to find the second term more challenging than they expected.

The second term contains a number of unique challenges. Some simple steps and the right support can make them easier to manage, or can even reduce the possibility of experiencing second term blues at all.

What are second term blues?

Having completed the first term, you may expect that managing the second term would be straightforward. As a result, when some students do experience problems, they can be surprised and worried about what this means.

It can be easy to start thinking – is there something wrong with me? Am I not up to this? Is university not for me?

In fact, these 'second term blues' (as they are known) are a common experience and will usually go away after a short period of time.

Factors causing second term blues and how to manage them

There are a number of interacting factors that create these feelings in the first place.

Coming back to reality

For first years in particular, the first term can be scary but it is also exciting. That excitement can help to power you through. Having settled into university, it may not seem quite as exciting now – but many of the challenges of the first term still exist..

“I had gotten so used to doing nothing. Getting up late, eating unhealthy foods and watching TikTok endlessly… It sounds so silly, but the thought of doing things after weeks of doing nothing, being in my own comfort zone, can actually petrify me.”

What you can do:

Accepting this as normal can reduce the impact it has on you. Remind yourself that many students go through this, that it will go away and that your experiences of being a student will help you. You got through the first term – you can do this.

It may help if you can stay active and create good routines and structures for each day. Be proactive in taking care of your wellbeing and try to plan some fun into each week.

Looking after your wellbeing

Changes in friends

Friendship groups at university often move around at the beginning and end of term. People you were close to may drift away, while other people become more important to you.

You might feel that the friendships you made in the first term don’t feel quite as good now. Or you may feel you haven’t made any friends yet and are worried about being isolated.

This is a natural part of university life but it can cause some people to feel upset or worried.

What you can do:

Keep trying new things and creating opportunities to make new friends. No matter how much you did or didn’t do in the first term, you’ll still benefit from meeting new people.

Remember, because lots of friendship groups move around they aren’t as closed to new people as they might first appear. People are usually happy to make a new friend.

You might try joining some Students’ Union societies or inviting a coursemate for coffee.

Taking a structured approach to making friends

Academic challenges

You may not be doing as well academically as you’d hoped, or you may be worried about future academic assessments or modules.

You may also have found blended learning more of a challenge than you expected.

As you move through into a new term this may feel more consequential – especially if you are in your final year.

What you can do:

If you are concerned about your academic performance, use the support available to you at your university. This may be a personal or academic tutor, a study skills advisor or mentor.

Find support at your university

It is never too late to improve your academic skills and your university wants you to succeed, so don’t be afraid to ask for help to improve.

You can also read our guidance on making the most of learning online.

It's dark and cold

Lack of sunlight and cold weather can have a real impact on your mood. We are part of the natural world and sunlight helps us to maintain mental and physical health.

What you can do

Try to get outside in daylight for 20-30 minutes most days, even if it is gloomy outside. Exercising outside can also help raise your mood – even a brisk walk may improve how you feel.

The role of sunlight in your wellbeing

Make use of the support available

If you find the second term difficult to manage, do remember that support is available for you:

Page last reviewed: January 2023