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How to Overcome Common Struggles Faced in College

Written by Alexander College in Student Life on February 3, 2020

Why do students decide to attend college? There are a multitude of answers to this question, which vary greatly from student to student.

Some students attend college because they have significant career aspirations. Other students attend school because it is the ‘next step’ in life’s checklist on the road to adulthood, or to set out on new adventures in a new country.

No matter what the reason, there is typically one core reason for this decision to attend college: the desire for a better life.

With aspirations for greatness and a prosperous future, comes a number of mountains and hills to climb to get to that ‘better life’ peak, and no worthwhile reward comes without common struggles faced along the way.

Student looking into sky with relief
Jumping girl silhouette in front of sunset


Here are four common struggles faced along the journey to the mountaintop of college graduation, and some tips to help you navigate these bumps: 

Feeling Loneliness and/or Homesick

For many college students, setting off on the road to higher education means moving away from home. For some, this move is a few kilometres away, and for others this move is half a world away. Picking up and leaving behind familiar
surroundings and loved ones can be hard and often leaves students feeling homesick and lonely.

The truth is, you are not alone. You are surrounded by others who likely feel the same way as you.

When I moved a short 200 km away to university, I felt very isolated and I missed my family a lot. Regular phone calls to my parents offered some help, but it wasn’t the same as physical interaction with others.

Student sitting on deck feeling homesick
A single tree symbolizing a student feeling lonely


The solution for me was to create my own opportunities to try and build friendships: I started a biology club.

By starting this group and hosting events like barbeques and pub nights, a number of other students who were feeling lonely came out of the woodwork. Soon, we were hanging out on a regular basis and true friendships were formed. I no longer
felt alone and homesick: I had created a new home for myself.

Now, you don’t need to start your own club, there are so many clubs and activities available at Alexander College for you to readily join in on. You can check out the Student Life page for a list of clubs and events. The highly active Alexander College Student Association (ACSA) hosts tons of exciting activities and parties and they are always welcoming to new comers.

Check them out! I’m sure you’ll be feeling home away from home in no time.

Alexander College students working in science lab
Alexander College students meeting in college library


An Overwhelming Schedule and Too Many Deadlines

When you have a full course load, tons of homework, a part-time job, bills to pay, and social engagements to attend, time commitments can add up quickly!

Suddenly, you look at the demands on your time for the next day and you’ve got 30 hours of things to cram into a 24-hour time period. Gulp – that math doesn’t work out.

Then you show up to class and the teacher says, “Ok, time to turn in your assignment.” Yikes! The assignment! You completely forgot. There are just too many things going on. How can you manage it all?

Overwhelming numbers of books stacked
Student overwhelmed trying to make college deadlines


The answer is actually simple: plan out your time.

Get a day planner or use the calendar app in your phone.

At the start of the semester when you receive your course syllabus on Canvas, write down all of the important test and assignment due dates.

When you get your work schedule from your boss, put it in your calendar.

Do you have a social event that you don’t want to miss? Include that too.

Once everything is kept in one tidy place, it’s much easier to keep track of deadlines and to plan out your time in advance.

If you notice that you have three assignments due in one week, start working on them early.

You have four exams during the last week of February? Take one less shift at work that week so you have enough time to study.

If you do these things, the next time your instructor comes around to collect homework, you’ll have your assignment completed and ready to hand in. Phew!

A planner on table near laptop
Student with planner to organize week


A Failing Grade

You check Canvas for the test results that your teacher has just posted. Your eyes widen as you see that big ugly ‘F’ in the midterm column.

But I’m here to tell you that it is okay. Failure happens – to everyone. I myself have failed more than one exam while I was in college and I survived. I graduated and I’ve ended up getting a number of great jobs in life.

Failing a test or assignment is recoverable.

So, if you find yourself in the situation of receiving a failing grade on an exam or an assignment, don’t despair.

Pick yourself up, dust yourself off, and figure out a way to improve for the next time. One of the best ways to do this is to go talk to your instructor. Explain how you prepared for the test/assignment, ask for clarity on the course content and tips for how to prepare for future exams. That’s what we’re here for!

As an instructor, I have had a number of students come to me after doing poorly on a test. With some guidance and hard work, many of my students have been able to improve their grade in the class from an F, to a B, and even an A!

Student stressing about college classes while looking at laptop
Student leaning against bench with book resting on face exhausted of studying


Feeling Worn Out

All of this sounds like a lot of work, and yes, it is a lot of work. To achieve great goals and aspirations, it of course takes great effort. However, it is so important to take care of yourself so that you have the stamina to make it through the college years.

When I was in graduate school, I worked non-stop. Weekdays and weekends blurred together in one long continuous stream of work. Even though I was working non-stop, my productivity declined. I became a very unhappy person.

Tired Koala resting in tree
Scrabble blocks displaying Mental Health


I decided to make a change.

One thing I did was to carve out a few small chunks of time each week that were dedicated to spending time doing things that I loved to do: Joining a volleyball team. Doing this made me a physically and mentally healthier person, and I was able to continue doing what I needed to do in order to graduate.

Do something that makes you happy. Take a timeout in nature, go for a walk, join a sport, do art, or go for coffee with a friend. Take some time for yourself amongst the chaos of college to do things to keep you happy and healthy.

No matter what college experiences offer you bumps in the road to success, you are capable of hurdling those hills. So, lace up, equip yourself with a can-do attitude, and set off to conquer all of your college aspirations.

Instructor in the Biology department at Alexander CollegeAuthor: 

Written by Dr. Lindsay Spielman with edits by Rachael Curtis.

Lindsay is an instructor in the Biology department Alexander College and the Health Sciences faculty at the University of the Fraser Valley. In addition to teaching the principles  of science and human health, Lindsay has a sincere passion for
science literacy within the general public, and student well-being.

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