College can be hard and there will be Challenges Earning A Degree. It doesn’t matter how smart you are. Moving to a new city, making new friends, and learning new concepts and ideas is a tough challenge for anyone.
A Must-Read: Challenges Faced by Fresh Graduates
If you are preparing to go off to college or are just beginning to look into colleges, you may be worried about the next step.
After all, it’s one of the most important decisions you’ll ever make, and for many, it’s the first time you’ll ever really leave home.
That’s why I’ve put together a list of some of the most common challenges students face when earning their degree.
In this list, I build off my own experiences and the experiences of others to provide a truly comprehensive guide with the ability to help anyone.
So what are we waiting for? Let’s dive in!
Finding the Right School
If you’re still not sure where you want to attend college or university, deciding this should be your first step. Don’t worry if it takes a little time.
After all, this is one of the most important decisions you’ll ever make.
Deciding where to go to school can have a major impact on your career and future life. For this reason, you shouldn’t rush into it.
Look at valuable resources such as the College Board and College Confidential to see college and campus locators that can help you learn about schools you are interested in.
These college prep sites are great resources for students who are looking to learn more about particular universities and find out which ones are truly right for them.
You can also speak to your parents and guidance counselor. These individuals will be able to help you build off your strengths to find a school that is right for you.
What’s more, your guidance counselor will also be able to show you valuable scholarship information that can help you finance your secondary education.
With all of this information, you should be able to find a school (or a couple of schools) that seem right for you.
Remember that you don’t have to apply to just one school. You can apply to all your top options. This will increase the likelihood that you get into a school that you want and that you will enjoy.
Choosing the Right Major
Once you know the school you wish to get into, it’s time to look for a major. In general, you want to find a major that interests you.
More importantly, however, you want to choose a major that will give you great job opportunities after graduation.
Let me explain.
Many students make the mistake of choosing a major just because they are interested in it. While this is a common and naïve mistake, it should be avoided if at all possible.
Changing your major down the road can lead to late graduation and wasted time.
In general, it’s better to choose a major in the STEM fields or in other fields that are currently hiring for high rates.
Get together with your guidance counselor to see possible career fields that are right for you.
Your counselor will able to show you growing career fields that potentially interest you.
Once you know what career you want, it will be much easier to decide on a major. Remember that you don’t have to make this choice right away.
No one is forcing you to grow up in a week. Instead, you will want to put careful thought into what major you choose.
And if you do choose a major that isn’t readily marketable (such as English), keep in mind that you may have to double your degree (such as English Education) or go back for a higher degree to be able to succeed in the marketplace.
Whatever you choose to do, make sure you are confident in your decision. As this is your college experience, you shouldn’t let anyone else force you to do something that you don’t want to do.
Maintaining My GPA
One of the biggest challenges I had at school was maintaining my GPA.
Let me explain: it’s not that I wasn’t good at studying. It was simply that I wasn’t prepared for the amount of stuff I had to do on campus.
As a high school student, you are not prepared for what’s coming next. I’ve witnessed some of the brightest people I’ve ever met turn into raging party animals with disastrously-low GPAs.
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It’s important that you don’t let this happen to you. While you want to soak up the environment and enjoy your college experience, you don’t want your social life to tank your GPA.
This could make it harder to maintain your scholarship status and also make it harder to progress in your classes.
Take my advice: if you want to do well in college (and especially if you plan on seeking a higher degree), don’t party too much.
Instead, focus on maintaining a good GPA.
Choose classes you can handle and always make sure that you work with your professors so that you know the content and can succeed in the class.
If you do this, you should have no problem getting good grades. Who knows, you could even make the Dean’s List.
Balancing Work and School
Another problem many students encounter at the collegiate level is balancing work and school life.
For those of us who don’t get a full ride and/or aren’t filthy stinking rich, working a job to help pay for tuition or living expenses is a dreaded reality.
Unfortunately, it can be more difficult than you
Fortunately, many colleges offer jobs at their dining halls and other facilities. This means that you shouldn’t have to worry too much about finding a job.
The real worry comes in balancing this job with your school life. Often, students find it difficult to balance work lives that can go for twenty hours a week with the constant studying that’s required by classes.
In general, you want to make sure that you have a job that doesn’t get in the way of your academics.
If you feel that your job is interfering with your grades, perhaps switch to a different avenue. And don’t forget to study just because you are working.
Even if you are tired, you should take the extra effort and time required to make sure you really understand your course content so that you don’t start tanking your courses.
In general, however, it’s very possible to balance a part-time job with your academic life, especially if you cut out some of that partying.
If you’re like I was, you can use this as a great opportunity to mature and really prime yourself for life after college.
Finding New Friends
Imagine this: you go from your high school of a couple thousand (tops) to a major university with over 40,000 students.
That’s quite a change.
Understandably, you may be a little shy. At first, it can be difficult finding friends in a new environment.
But don’t be disheartened! With so many people, it’s impossible that you won’t find a great friend.
In fact, some of the best friends I’ve ever made, I made at the collegiate level. These friends are still with me today, years after graduation.
If you’re having trouble making friends, consider going to clubs or other campus events that are related to your interests.
By doing so, you can find friends who are interested in the same things you are—increasing the chances of a long time friendship.
For example, if you are into the Chinese language, consider going to your university’s Chinese language club.
There, you’ll find many native Chinese speakers and interested Chinese learners with whom you can form a bond and a community.
You will also be able to make friends in your classes. Never underestimate the power of a study buddy!
Adapting to a New Environment
It can also be difficult adapting to a new environment. Not only do you not know anyone, but you also are likely in a different city.
Away from home.
While this can be scary, it also offers great opportunities for you as a student. To begin with, you have a whole new city with whole new opportunities to explore.
Check out this article on why location is important when looking for a college.
Often, university towns are bigger and more exciting than our hometowns, so that adds an additional element of excitement.
University towns are also generally more diverse. This means that you have the opportunity to take part in various cultural events and meet different types of people than you might normally.
This is a great advantage for anyone looking to go to college. Instead of being intimated by your environment, you can see it as an opportunity to expand your horizons and grow your comfort zone.
In fact, this is one of the most important parts of your college experience. Because you are learning how to adapt to a new environment, you are preparing yourself for the many changes you’ll have to make later in life (as demanded by your career).
This is a valuable step to your progression as a young adult and as a human being. So don’t worry if that new environment seems a little scary at first! You’ll soon be living it up.
Preparing for Debt
One of the biggest challenges of all college students is figuring out how to manage debt.
If you’re lucky, you’ll have been given a full ride to whatever institution of higher learning you wish to attend. If you’re like most of us, however, it’s likely that you’ll have to take out some number of student loans.
And that’s never pretty. With the average student owing around $40,000 in student loans after graduation, college can sometimes feel like a gamble.
After all, what’s the point of going somewhere to learn when all you’re doing is racking up thousands and thousands of dollars’ worth of debt?
Here’s the trick: you don’t let this debt intimidate you. Instead, you begin early to make a plan on how you will combat any debt that you accumulate.
Maybe this requires working through college so that you have some money saved up to mitigate some of that debt cost that will slam you once you graduate.
Maybe it requires coordinating a career pathway long before you graduate so you have a clear-cut way to pay back your loans.
Whatever you choose to do, know that there are ways to cut down on debt.
You don’t have to live in fear of it.
Though many people see student loan debt as a big bad monster (and it is if you don’t pay it back), there’s no reason to let the prospect of debt shadow your college experience.
Instead, find ways early to lower the amount of your debt and be prepared to pay it back once you graduate.
It’s important that you understand your university’s repayment options and potential exemptions so that you can make the most educated decision when it comes to loan repayment.
The Bottom Line
Here’s the bottom line: attending college or university has its share of challenges.
I would know—I’ve been there.
Still, none of these challenges are worthy of ruining your college experience. You should never let potential problems weigh you down or detract from what should be the best time of your life.
As long as you can balance your school, work, and social lives, you shouldn’t have any trouble having an A-plus college experience.
Though it may take some navigation at first, you can do it by keeping the tips in this guide in mind.
And remember this: for whatever difficulties you face while at college, you’ll have ten great and unforgettable experiences.
So lighten up! If you’re about to embark on your collegiate journey, you’re about to enjoy one of the most special times of your life—challenges and all.
Best of luck!