Don’t let the burden of financial debt or academic performance stand in the way of your or your child’s happiness during college. Pay close attention to noticeable changes in sleeping and eating patterns, social behavior, and academic interests. Whether you are studying on a traditional college campus or through an online program — like University of the People — be a source of support to yourself and your peers, encouraging solutions to the problems that college students face.
10 Common Problems College Students Face
1. Time Management
Students often stress about the amount of time available in the day to complete academic work, extracurricular responsibilities, and to invest in a fulfilling social life. When you feel like there is not enough time in the day, start by making exercise a priority. Schedule a yoga class or take a walk through nature as a reminder that you should always be your first priority. You might be surprised by the clarity you feel after a workout and by your own motivation and productivity.
While student debt can become a huge problem for many young adults, there are plenty of ways to relieve the stress, and the earlier you start addressing it the better! Get a part-time job or work study related to your major. Apply for as many scholarships as you can and pay attention to the amount of time it will take to realistically pay off a student loan.
3. Too Much on Your Plate
When beginning your degree, be sure to meet with a student support advisor to discuss your academic decisions. This person will be able to help you select the most beneficial courses, enhance your writing skills, prepare for your career post-graduation, and track your academic progress throughout the degree. Your advisor should be able to help you balance the importance of social life during college with your academic commitments.
4. Stress and Depression
Even before you leave for college or begin your online program, you should have a clear understanding not only of your ideal work environment, but also developed mechanisms to cope with the stress of your workload and deadlines. What can you do at the end of the day for 20-30 minutes that will be a positive distraction? Who can you talk to that will understand the same stress you are dealing with? When you feel overwhelmed by the pressure to achieve as a student, remember that it is never too late for improvement and that your GPA is only one factor considered by your future employer.
Feeling homesick is normal. Remember to talk to friends and peers about this — you might be surprised by their sympathetic responses. For those earning their degrees online, the problem may be more focused on finding ways to gain independence from life at home. If this is the case, try studying from a cafe or a local library. Just by changing your routine and your regular study environment, students can significantly increase their motivation and productivity.
While going out with friends on the weekends can be a great way to relieve academic stress, try taking a break every few weekends to stay in and watch a movie, go to the gym, or read a book unrelated to your course material. If you are someone who basically lives in the library during the week, your weekends should be spent catching up on time for yourself, trying to reset your healthy eating and sleeping patterns.
Your friends from university will be in your life years after graduation, so remember to invest your time and to make these relationships a priority. Most people typically want to feel heard and appreciate when other people invest in their own well-being. If you are having issues with your roommate, take 10 minutes out of your day to sit down together and get to the root of the problem. If there was material discussed in a class that you did not fully understand, speak with your professor face-to-face at the end of class and ask for a clarification. This communication may even be reflected later on in your own academic performance!
8. Academic Decisions
Although your chosen degree or major does significantly influence the general course of your career, your decisiveness and ability to set and change goals will prove even more influential to your success down the road. Post-graduation, what will matter the most to employers are your proven experiences (both inside and outside the classroom) as well as your ability to confidently explain how they shaped you and contribute to the success of your career.
9. Academic Performance
While earning your degree, your performance as a student should be your main focus. This doesn’t mean you need to have the highest GPA in every class, but professors want to see that students are engaged with the course material and willing to speak up and participate in class discussions. And, the more value you earn from your tuition costs as a student, the less pressure you will feel to over-achieve.
10. Getting a Job
It is highly recommended to start applying for jobs before you reach graduation. Speak with your school’s counseling center about your resume, your internship experience, extra-curricular activities, and, of course, your academic achievements. Chances are, someone will be available to help you prepare for interviews and to concisely summarize each of the experiences as they relate to your future career goals.
What can Parents do?
Parents sending their children to college for the first time should offer support, rather than solving the problem itself, asking as many questions as they can to find the root of the issue. Changes in sleeping and eating patterns, social relationships, as well as academic relationships and performance are all important factors that may indicate a positive or negative shift in a student’ stress level. But, if the parents of those students offer solutions as soon as they detect a problem, the younger generation may lack the tools later in life to resolve them on their own.
What can Students do?
Ask questions before giving advice. Students will differ in their strengths and in the areas of college life they feel most or least comfortable with. Remember that everyone you meet in college is coming from a different background and, while it may look like you have the same problems, you never know how another person is approaching their own resolve. Put in a little bit of effort to try and understand why your friend or classmate is struggling with something. Chances are, the problem is bigger to them than it may seem to you, and a bit of friendly advice could go a long way!