Freshmen: What to Do if College Feels Too Hard


Becoming a college freshman is challenging, and some of us have a harder time with the transition than others. If you're struggling, here are some suggestions for what to do.

Freshman Blues

Starting college is a major transition in a person's life. On top of the changes in one's location, living arrangement, social group, and other life variables, academic expectations become much more rigid. You're required to be more independent than ever before in school, and your grades are determined by fewer, bigger assignments and exams. If you feel like you're drowning, you're certainly not the only one. Here are some suggested steps to take if you feel like your freshman year is too hard.

An unhappy college freshman

Put Things in Perspective

The most important thing you can do when your freshman year is proving to be more difficult than expected is to be understanding with yourself. Of course college is hard! It's supposed to be! And while it might seem like those around you are having an easier time, it's impossible to know what another person is experiencing, and you can only focus on your own journey.

So be patient with yourself during this adjustment period. Avoid any negative self-talk, and focus on the proactive steps you can take to improve your journey, rather than just feeling bad.

A college student talks to a professor during office hours

Seek Help in Person

Universities know that they're asking a lot of their students and that the transition from high school to college can be challenging. Fortunately, they want you to succeed, and there are resources available to students in your shoes.

For example, teaching assistants (TAs) and professors, typically available during office hours, can help to guide you through your work, the concepts they're teaching, and their expectations of you. They're ready and willing to help, and we highly recommend that you take advantage of this valuable one-on-one time as a resource. Additionally, many universities offer student tutoring programs for specific classes or types of assignments, like writing, where your peers can guide you through coursework they've successfully handled in the past. And don't disregard the value of friends and classmates - study groups are an effective way to get some extra help!

Seek Help Online

If you're struggling with a specific class, topic, or concept, consider using online resources to help you study. The advantages of online help are that the resources are plentiful and varied and you can access them in your own time. A simple Google search will lead you to online lessons, worksheets, flashcards, tutors, and websites where you can submit specific questions and receive an answer within 24 hours. And, these days, you might find that a course you're in has its own Facebook group where students ask and answer questions about coursework and assignments, a useful resource if you're a little bit hesitant to approach your peers for help in person.

A college student uses online study resources

Adjust Your Course Load

If you find that you've over-committed academically, know that you don't have to be stuck with a challenging course load. If it's still the beginning of the quarter or semester, you might be able to drop a class. It's also possible that you can opt into the pass/no-pass grading system to avoid stressing out about all of your courses. We recommend visiting an academic counselor who can help you figure out exactly how to best manipulate your class schedule in order to make things a little bit easier on yourself.

Look to the Future

We know that struggling academically feels terrible, but you don't have to feel trapped. We hope that these tips help you put yourself in a better place and maybe even find enjoyment in your freshman year. Good luck!

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By Daisy Rogozinsky
August 2018
college freshmen

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