When we talk about going to college and furthering your education, we tend to paint a very pretty picture of college students studying with friends on a picturesque university campus with autumn leaves falling around them as they sip lattes without a care in the world.
Let’s get real: College is hard. It’s a lot of work. And sometimes, the frustrating things about being a student really just make you want to pull your hair out. So how should you deal with them? Here are our tips.
The Flip Side: How to Handle the Frustrating Aspects of College Life
Juggling 11 Balls at Once
For me, one of the most frustrating things about college was trying to juggle classes, homework, social time, several part-time jobs, and sleep. I handled all of those responsibilities in high school, but it seemed easier because my time was chunked into two distinct pieces: School Day and After-School Day. Once I got to college, though, I found myself studying for an hour in the morning, then running to class for 90 minutes, then squeezing in lunch and two hours at my campus job, then running back to two more classes, then studying for an hour before I went to my evening job at a local restaurant. All of the back and forth left me feeling schizophrenic and completely exhausted.
How to cope: If possible, try to schedule your classes as close together as possible, so you have a morning chunk or an afternoon chunk. I know I felt more sane when I attended classes for four hours straight and then went to work for the afternoon or evening, rather than juggling everything for one hour at a time.
I also made a point to carry study materials (which back in those days meant flash cards) with me at all times, so when I did have a break, I could squeeze in some extra studying. With smart phones and tables available for accessing notes, lectures, podcasts and more, being able to study on the go is easier than ever, and it relieves some of the stress of trying to get to the library before it closes.
Sometimes You Feel Lost
This applies more to those of you who are attending a large university with a big undergraduate class, like I did. I loved the opportunities, diversity, and culture that came with attending a big research university, but sometimes, especially my freshman year, I felt like a very small fish in a very big pond. And with all the money I was spending on tuition, I wanted to be more than just a number in a very big tuition roster. I wanted to be able to actually talk with my professors when I needed help, or get some guidance from a counselor for my graduation and career goals.
How to cope: One way to find your place at a big school is to get really involved with student activities. I signed up to live in my college’s residential dorm, a smaller “college within a college” where students lived with their classmates and enrolled in courses that had no more than 20 students. That made a huge difference. Regular trips to my advisor helped too – it kept me updated on the latest college news and also on top of where I was in terms of credits, grades, etc. The key here is knowing that you’ll have to seek these opportunities out, but once you do, you’ll feel much more integrated into your school’s culture.
Waiting for Your Career to Start
I loved college, I really did. But there were times in lecture, when a professor would be droning on and on about cranial morphology or iambic pentameter and I would think to myself: “Wait, tell me again just how exactly is this going to get me a job in June?” I know now that college gave me the critical thinking, research, and communication skills I needed to succeed, but back in those moments, I felt anxious, frustrated, and confused about how all of these classes were going to translate into a paying job and health insurance. And with tuition bills and student loans hanging around in the back of your mind, it can transform into a big, all-consuming worry.
How to cope: Until the higher education system undergoes a major overhaul, you are point-blank going to have to take some classes that pertain in no way to your career or interests. The good news is that: 1.) There shouldn’t be too many of them and 2.) You can get an internship. That’s right – right now, while you’re busy preparing for that midterm on Beowulf, you can seek out real work experiences on your college campus. Knowing that you’re gaining practical work skills and building your resume will go a long way to relieving the anxiety or frustration you might feel with some of the subjects you have to study.
College, like any endeavor in life, isn’t 100% perfect. But with the right plan and the right coping skills, you can handle these challenges and use them to make you even stronger.
What did you find frustrating about college? How did you cope? Let us know in the comments below!