How to Recover from a Hard Freshman Year
The most difficult time in college isn’t when all the senior year exams and papers need to be completed. Instead, it’s often the experience of freshman year that’s the most trying. Students have to adapt to a whole new lifestyle and workload while being “on their own” for the first time in their lives. Some handle this adjustment better than others, but everyone deals with the challenges.
Performing poorly in your first year as an undergrad is more normal than you might think. There are so many adjustments that students deal with, such as the temptation to skip courses, homesickness and the social problems that come with being surrounded by new faces. On top of that, there are financial pressures and the uncertainty of choosing what to major in.
It’s no wonder that half of all freshmen say they always feel stressed. Along with that number, a third of the students surveyed said they had trouble making friends, and almost half of the new students felt like everyone was performing better than they were.
With all those things to deal with, grades can suffer. Fortunately, it’s possible to get back on track in your second year with a little effort. Take a look at these four ways to do it:
1. Study with a Group
Studying alone can be a challenge if you’re struggling with your classwork. When you’re on your own, it’s easy to give up and end up further behind. What might help is joining a study group. You’ll learn that you’re not the only one struggling with some of the course material. You’ll also be less likely to procrastinate or be distracted when you’re working as a team.
A group might not be enough to make the coursework legitimately fun, but it could be enough to make the work more enjoyable.
2. Check the Campus’ Resources
A drop in grades often signifies an underlying problem beyond not understanding the coursework. For many problems, there’s a resource on campus to help you get back on track. Counseling services are often available, and the health center can help fix up any health problems that are bothering you.
Different clubs might also help you take your mind off your troubles and allow you to focus on the classwork later. There are groups for almost any interest, whether it’s sports, politics, film or a variety of other options.
Your academic advisor can also be a big help, but some advisors are more helpful than others. If your advisor isn’t of much use, switch to a new one. Your future is more important than some potential awkwardness.
All these resources and more are there to make your college experience better.
3. Rethink Your Education
In some cases, the reason you’re having a hard time could be that you’re not studying a subject you really like. If you’re bored or disinterested, then all the studying in the world might not help improve your grades. Think about changing your major. More than half of all college students change their major at least once, so you’ll be in good company.
Your college itself simply might not be the best fit for you, either. In that case, you might be better off making the switch to online schooling or to a shorter program. Your university might offer some online courses, or you could enroll in specialized courses for healthcare, business or other subjects. A change of scenery and being able to take courses on your own time might make all the difference in your grades.
4. Focus on Yourself
College is full of both challenges and temptations. With so much going on, be sure to focus on yourself. Friends might tempt you with wild nights out, and it’s great to have some fun now and then. There’s always a time and place, however, to decline in order to focus on what’s best for yourself.
Some friends, who might be very well intentioned, can be enablers for bad behavior. If that happens, be firm when it comes to finding time for yourself to get work done. It might hurt the person’s feelings or they could tease you a little bit, but that’s just a short-term setback. There will always be time for fun and friends when you’re comfortable with the week’s workload.
Challenges for Everyone
There’s no shame in performing poorly freshman year, since students at all types of colleges, and with highly varied backgrounds, are known to struggle. College administrators realize this and are brainstorming ways to make things less complicated for first-year college students.
At the elite Wellesley College in Massachusetts, for example, first-term students are issued only pass-fail grades for their courses. They’re also given letter grades (A, B, C, etc.) but those letter grades don’t have an impact on GPA. They’re simply an indicator, and the pass-fail marks allow students to transition to their new lifestyle.
While your university might never implement such a progressive measure, take solace in knowing you’re not alone if you’ve received grades that are a bit subpar during your freshman year. There are ways to improve and get that GPA higher again.