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College Survival Tips: Academics

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College is a big transition and it comes with its own set of pressures and adjustments. One of the main areas of college life that give students the most stress is worrying about how they will do academically. Grades are no longer just a measure of how well you are doing in school; your scholarships, future internships, grad school admissions, and even car insurance rate can depend on them. On top of that your fellow students might be high achieving and competitive, raising the bar even higher. All of this can be overwhelming and it’s crucial to remember that while academic success is important, it is not everything. Here are some tips for you to succeed in college while still remaining mentally healthy.

Be Honest with Yourself about Your Goals

Be clear with yourself about what you want to achieve in college and what is the most important for you. Many incoming college students struggle because they force themselves to do too much. Some students might think that they will be able to get straight A’s while working a job or internship—while being a part of every club or group on campus—while still hanging out with their friends every night. All of this is simply impossible. Holding yourself to a ridiculously high standard, especially in your first year of college, will only lead to burnout. Even if you aren’t the overachieving type, anyone can be successful if they have clear and attainable goals. Pick a few things that are the most important for this semester or this academic year. Maybe this year’s goals are getting decent grades and spending time with your friends. The next year you might reevaluate your goals and decide it’s time to shift gears.

Don’t Freak Out about Grades

Everyone will most likely notice that their grades dropped their first year at college. There will be a lot to get used to and that can affect your grades. Not only do you have to live in the dorms, you have to get used to a whole new type of academic environment. The classes will be tougher, the work load will be larger, and the professors will have higher standards. It might take you a while to learn how to study better and what exactly the professors are looking for in each assignment. So when you get those first semester grades back, don’t beat yourself up if they aren’t as good as you hoped they would be. As long as you are trying, learning, and growing as a person, you’re doing just fine.

Let Yourself Explore

You may have it all planned–you have every course for the next four years mapped out and you know exactly where you want to work after graduating. It’s great to have a plan but give yourself the opportunity to have new experiences. Take a class you’re intimidated by, take advantage of student discounts at museums or theaters, or join a club that piques your interest. College is about learning, any kind of learning, not just the type of learning that goes on in a classroom. Give yourself permission to explore.

Take Advantage of Office Hours

Professors have office hours–use them. Depending on the professor, you may need to schedule a meeting ahead of time while others welcome pop-ins. Office hours are a good time to get help if you’re struggling. Professors are not as hands-on as high school teachers–they can give you a D and don’t have to have a parent-teacher conference to discuss it with you and your parents. You are responsible entirely for your success. While that may seem harsh, don’t think the professors aren’t there to help in the meantime. Office hours are a good time to discuss the material in greater detail and go over anything you don’t understand. Plus, coming in for office hours shows your professor that you care about the class and are trying to do your best.

Talk It Out

Not only should you talk to your professors when you are struggling with the material but you should also feel free to talk to someone if you are having a rough time emotionally. College can be stressful. It can be hard to be away from the comforts of home while trying to get your life sorted out. Don’t feel like you’re the only one who might be having a difficult time. Talk to a friend, a professor, or counselor if you are constantly feeling overwhelmed.


For Families: A college education is important but don’t make academic success the end all of life’s purpose. Check in on how your relatives in college are doing socially and emotionally, not just academically.

The Golden Takeaway: Don’t hold yourself to an unrealistically high standard when you’re in college. When you start to feel the pressure of college pushing down on you, don’t be afraid to talk about it.

Be sure to check out the second part of this series, College Survival Tips: The Dorms.

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1 thoughts on “College Survival Tips: Academics

  1. Denise Vestuti, Resource Specialist says:

    Veronique this is a terrific post. These are important tips I particularly like give yourself permission to explore and take advantage of office hours.

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