While time spent at college is a fond memory and a happy experience for most, the student life is not without its rough patches. Everyone’s situation is unique, but there are a few problems that almost all college students deal with at least once during their time at school.
If you are on your way to college, get a jump on how to deal with the challenges that may come your way.
1. Time Management
Problem: College is academically challenging. For many, college courses require much more effort than high school classes did. Unlike most high schools, colleges often pack two years of content into one year. Many students take a full 15 credit semester, while others try to cram in up to 18 or even 21 credits. At times, it seems impossibe to stay on top of it all.
Solution: Know your limits. If you can’t handle 18 credits in one semester, it is worth it in the long run to slow down and take only 15. While the purpose of a college education is to learn as much as you can, that doesn’t mean studying all the time. It is important to schedule time for fun and to take breaks to keep your mind fresh and clear. For more ways to manage this kind of academic stress, see this guide of effective study habits.
Problem: Tuition costs are rising at alarmingly high rates. Add to that the cost of housing, meals, supplies, transportation, and textbooks, and you have a recipe for unmanageable debt. Most financial advisors recommend borrowing no more than one expects to earn their first year out of college. However, soaring tuition costs make this rule difficult to follow.
Solution: Student loans are relatively easy to get. Many students, however, don’t know how repayment works and how many years they may spend paying off their loans. This lack of understanding only adds to the stress. An important part of your education is educating yourself about the structure of the loans you take on to pay for that education. Sit down with a financial advisor to get a firm grasp on the debt you’re taking on.
Consider an on-campus job. Working on-campus will cut out potential transportation expenses and help you stay more focused academically. If you had a job in high school and are going to college locally, see if you can continue working while in school. If you are going away to school, inquire about transferring to a job location near your school. In addition, create a budget for shopping trips and eating out and stick to it.
3. Spreading Yourself Too Thin
Problem: To afford the high price of college tuition, many students must get jobs. Juggling a job, 15 to 18 credits, relationships, and extracurricular activities is extremely difficult. Many students try to cram all of these activities into one day and do not get enough sleep. Without proper rest, students are vulnerable to physical and mental health problems.
Solution: Decide what is important. Prioritize and schedule events, games, meetings, social events, and studies accordingly. Also, be aware of your options when getting a job. Universities often offer jobs that fit into a student’s schedule.
Problem: Whether they admit it or not, most students will at one point get homesick, especially those who attend a school that is more than three hours away from home. Freshmen suffer more, as it is presumably their first year away from home.
Solution: If you live within three or four hours from home (a comfortable day’s drive), plan to visit home once every month or two. Ask friends and family to email, call, and send care packages. These steps should greatly assist in reducing feelings of homesickness.
Many campuses have support groups for students. Talking to others who are having similar experiences can help. You may even form friendships with some of the people you meet there. Remember that the other students you come into contact with every day may be feeling the same things you are, and you can help each other.
Problem: Every problem on this list can raise a student’s stress level and contribute to emotional lows. Some find temporary relief in partying which, in excess and in the long run, may contribute to depression.
Solution: If stress and depression are an issue, seek professional support. Many campuses have free counseling programs for students. Counselors are trained to listen and help students get back on track.
6. Sickness/Health Conditions
Problem: Heightened stress, poor self-care, and lack of sleep can cause health problems. Living in close quarters also poses health risks and can increase a student’s chances of contracting illnesses.
Solution: Eat healthy, balanced meals. Get a good night’s rest as well. Wash your hands often. If an illness does develop, visit your campus clinic.
7. Social Problems
Problem: If you’re lucky, you’ll make many new friends. Establishing connections and spending time with classmates and roommates is important for building community. However, spending too much time together can be challenging, and conflicts can arise. Social relations can become a distraction.
Solution: Take some time out for yourself. If possible, get away from campus for a break and visit a coffee shop or a mall, take a walk in a neighborhood, or visit a local park. Prioritize time for studying and taking care of yourself. If conflicts do arise and you need help, get your RA or another friend involved.
Problem: Partying in itself is not a problem. Parties can be a great way for students to blow off steam. However, sometimes partying can cause problems. Drugs and alcohol can lead to poor choices, risky behavior, health risks, and even potentially deadly situations. Having sex without sober consent and without taking the necessary precautions can be traumatic, dangerous, and even criminal.
Solution: While parties are important, enjoy them in a responsible and legal way so you don’t create problems for yourself or others. Know your limits. Ask for a ride home if you’ve been drinking. Keep track of your friends and make sure they’re being safe, too. Make sure to eat and drink enough water when consuming alcohol. Carry a condom. Understand what it means to have “affirmative consent.”
Problem: Relationships are good, but they can be overwhelming. Sometimes they take a lot of time and can begin to encroach on your education. There are times in every relationship when a couple will have a disagreement which can distract them from schoolwork and add to stress levels. Break-ups can drive some students even further into depression.
Solution: Relationship advice is hard to give, since the solution varies on a case-by-case basis. Establish a clear communication of your needs and expectations from the outset. If you do break up, consult with a school counselor to work through the experience.
10. Choosing a Major
Problem: There is a lot of pressure to choose a major. It is easy to think that your major will determine your future career and how much money you will make, which means that making the right decision now feels hugely important (and stressful).
Solution: College majors are important, but they do not chisel your future career or wages into stone. Choose something that you like. If you are unsure about what major to choose, choose something broad and versatile, such as communications. Many students who get their undergraduate degrees in one field progress to get a Master’s degree in a different area. Worrying too much about your major is simply not worth it. Focus instead on gaining knowledge and life skills.
Is College Worth it All?
These are just ten of the major challenges that students face. In the end, is it worth facing these problems and struggles? If you ask students, eight out of ten will say it is. While college can stress you to the limit, the good times and outcomes will outweigh the bad.