Girl studying on the table with coffee, laptop and notebook

Why College is So Hard and Advice That You Will Need

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Everybody’s experience is different, but I think most people who have gone to college go through days or weeks when they just feel like it’s too overwhelming. But I feel like nobody is talking about it. The Internet doesn’t help because we all want to show our achievements and happiness but not our failure and down times. 

All those Instagram pictures and Youtube videos of college students going to party, making cool friends and enjoying their new free life just portray a small part of student life. Because the truth is, the main part of student life is studying, which is not that amazing and glittering. 

So let’s talk about why college is hard and how we can get through this together. This post is not to discourage others from going to college but to bring a more realistic and sympathetic picture of what college students often go through.

1. Adult responsibilities

College student being stressed with a laptop
Image by Tim Gouw

We are at the age where we are not mastering adulthood yet but expected to be. I remember being an 18-year-old freshman and having to start a new life from home, finding housing, paying bills, cooking for myself, trying not to fail classes, looking for a part-time job, rebuilding my social life and finding myself all at the same time. There are more to count though but I’m sure you get the idea. 

Yes adulthood is hard, there are many skills we should have been taught at schools. But here we are, learning everything in the hard ways. I was and still have been fascinated by other adults who seem to have gotten their life together with a well paid job, good social life and a family.

Why does everyone seem to know what they are doing? The truth is, nobody does, they just figure it out as they go and some are luckier than others. College is hard because you have to handle early adulthood and school at the same time, plus nobody really talks about it or teaches you how to get through it. 

2. You are always broke

I feel like if I have to sum up my whole college life in a word, it would be broke. College students are broke as hell because we don’t have a stable full-time income yet (that’s why we’re in college innit?). We are also too damn busy with school and homework to work and earn much money. 

I’m sure some are luckier than others when they have wealthy and generous parents or they have scholarships, but the majority of us are still too broke for this early adult life.

3. Class load and homework

College student overwhelmed with class work

This shit does get too much sometimes. People who make content about how hard college actually is (yes just like what I’m doing), I notice, are mostly from big universities like Stanford or UCLA, which is not really relatable for many. 

I don’t think you need to be in big universities in order to struggle through college. Even though this doesn’t mean everyone will struggle, the study does get hard sometimes and it really doesn’t help when you don’t have teachers who actually love and care about their job. 

4. Shitty professors

This is what I think can make your college life way harder than it is supposed to be. A bad teacher can really make you hate a subject and so be really bad at it. Teachers also determine how much you learn from a class as well. I remember learning nothing from a class that was supposed to be so informative because the professor wasn’t good at his job. 

Now there are different types of shitty professors, but here are the types that I have met and the most common among all:

  • The boring type: these are teachers who kill your enthusiasm and motivation to go to class because they either don’t try to make the class interesting by making interesting discussions or the way they teach just makes you sleepy
  • The self-centred type: this kind of professor thinks that the class revolves around him/her. They can’t stop talking about themselves and their achievements in their lives and they don’t give two shits about what you think about this subject and how to help you learn better. If you want to have good grades in their class, you have to flatter them and pretend to be their ultimate fan.
  • The shy type: this is the kind of teacher who always apologises over nothing like dropping his/her pen during class. This type is often bullied by students, insecure about the way they teach, and apologise more than actually teach. You will be either frustrated or have no respect for the teacher that you actually don’t bother studying at all, which results in learning nothing.
  • The I-hate-my-job type: these teachers do really make your student life miserable. They will be angry when you ask questions and unhelpful to you. They are so bitter that it makes you wonder why the hell are you a teacher when you seem to hate your job so much?
  • The not-explain-well-but-expect-too-much type: now there are professors who teach really well and therefore they expect students to ask questions and understand the subject well, these professors are often fair in the way they give assignments and grades, so don’t mistake them with this type. This type of professor doesn’t teach well at all, so the assignments and homework don’t seem to equate what you have learnt.
  • The confusing type: this one doesn’t give syllabus, cancel class quite often, isn’t consistent in which assignment to give. Everything in their class is just so chaotic, so you don’t learn much.

5. Everyone is so smart except people in your group

Among us meme about group project

Ever been in a class where everyone seems so smart and you feel so far behind what they are discussing and then when group assignment comes, you are always paired or grouped with someone who doesn’t know shit and is lazy? If not then you are so lucky.

College is different from high school because teachers are not up your ass on assignments, you either go to class and actually learn or you don’t. Even though you do go to class and work hard, once you are paired with those who are lazy and never attend class, you are done. Whoever invented group work in college should have put this into consideration. 

6. Sometimes you fail and it hurts

Even if you attend classes, work hard, do homework, prepare well, you can still fail. And when you fail, the harder you have worked, the more devastating it feels. I used to have Statistic class which was so difficult considering my major was music and performing arts (this class was compulsory), and I spent so much time studying but I had a C in the end. I was so angry and done with college. 

Regardless of the hard work, sometimes you do fail and when you fail, it hurts like hell.

My Realistic Advice

These are things that actually helped me survive my college years and deal with all the struggles, so I hope this helps you too.

.

1. Talk about it

One thing that has kept me going all these years is talking about it. When a class is too hard, I talk about it to my friends or teachers who will listen and give me amazing advice on how to keep going. I don’t necessarily take their advice all the time, but it feels good to talk about it. Me and my friends who took the same class often complained to one another how much we were struggling and it helped me feel like I’m not the only one miserable about these assignments. 

Or if you have kind and caring professors, you can talk to them about your struggles and I’m sure they will either adjust it in class or help you personally. 

2. Choose classes that you actually like

Sometimes there are compulsory courses that are not interesting at all, which is why it’s important to choose classes that you actually like when you can. It’s easier to work hard on something that you love rather than feeling forced to. 

I know this is not always possible, but maybe choose at least one course that you are interested in in a semester, or at least a class from a professor that you like, I’m sure it will help you get through.

3. Do research on scholarships, financial aids,…

If anything can make your college life better, it’s free money. It’s always better to cry and worry about homework while eating out and shopping instead of being stressed and broke.

It is never too late to start researching scholarships, financial aids and grants. Depending on where you are studying or where you are from, there are always scholarships available for you. Personally, I applied for the scholarship offered by my university, and I asked the admin office to give me notification whenever there are new scholarships available.

4. Remember what college is

Woman covering her face with a white book because she is stressed out about paying for college

Now before you go into college thinking about all the fun things and parties you’re going to do, remember what college really is for. It is a place to study and learn and it is not that fun. 

People don’t really write or film about how hard they study in all those blogs and Youtube videos about “A day in the life of a college student in abc”. In reality, we students do have to go through all those hours of studying (not in timelapse like the videos), and it is not that exciting. 

Just remember that college is where we all study, lower your expectation a bit and know that struggling is so normal. 

5. Do schedule fun times and trips

Yellow car on the road trip

Do I really have to elaborate on this? You know what I mean eh? 

Don’t forget to travel around, meet new people because that’s what makes the college experience worthwhile. 

6. Cry it out

This is my top advice for any struggling student out there. When things get hard, cry it all out, I’m sure you will feel a lot better.

I cry during every midterm and final when I think about how many essays I have to write till the end of the week or how I haven’t prepared my presentation for tomorrow. But hey, after crying, I always feel refreshed and motivated to start working again. 

I think people underestimate the power of crying, or fear over the insult of “cry-baby”. There is one article from The School of Life that explains perfectly our needs for a cry that I think we all should read. It’s time we normalised crying and admitted that crying is in fact very healthy. 

7. Stay hydrated, eat well and sleep

College student stretching

Speaking of healthy, I feel like a lot of students overlook the importance of staying hydrated and a good sleep. I can’t focus on class if I don’t have enough sleep (especially when the class is boring), and so I’ll just waste more time trying to study again what the teacher already explained in class, which then results in not having enough sleep. It’s like a circle, like a curse for all students, so make sure you have enough sleep and drink plenty of water.

8. Think about the money before skipping class

(unless you have scholarships like me, then think about losing them)

This is my way of not skipping class on some tempting occasions. Waking up to go to class on the cold days of winter is the most annoying thing ever, and we need a big enough push for that, which to me is money. 

Just imagine the money you paid for your education burning in front of you while you sleep through your classes, or losing the scholarship that you worked so hard to get. Yes, now get your ass up and go to class.

9. Be realistic when making timetable

Just know yourself enough to decide whether or not morning classes are for you, especially for the winter semester. Sometimes, when I register courses, I choose 9am classes thinking I will be fine. But everyday I wake up wishing I hadn’t done such a thing. So do reconsider whether or not you would like to wake up early for those morning classes and if you have enough self-discipline or motivation to do so.

10. Do part-time jobs

Yeh more money, but also it kinda gives you a break from school and studying, and you have a chance to make friends outside of school. The initial reason why I did a part-time job was money but after a while, I actually enjoyed it. I have got lots of insights and experience about the working environment, especially in my host country. This experience will really give you freedom mentally and financially.

11. Study abroad

Girl standing in front of Vilnius Gedimino Pilis
Yeah that's me studying abroad in Vilnius

Aha you got me there. You know me, this whole blog is about study abroad, so obviously I would always advise you to study abroad. It’s one of the experiences that really changed me and my life. I really don’t know where I would be if I hadn’t chosen to study abroad. So yeah, why don’t you try that out and justify it for yourself. Here are reasons why everyone should go study abroad and so should you!

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