Executive Function Strategies Blog

Why College Students Struggle (Even if High School Was a Breeze)

Millions of college students are on summer break: scooping ice cream to earn a few bucks, sweating out a coveted internship, or just StrugglingCollegeStudent.jpgcatching up with hometown buddies. And many, many of these students are also having some tough conversations with their parents about their grades.

“How can it be,” parents say, “that you were an honor roll student in high school yet you are barely scraping by at college?”  Could college be all that different from high school?

In a word, yes. College is a vast terra incognita for students - filled with unexpected challenges and unimagined distractions. A trip to Bed Bath & Beyond, a visit to the campus bookstore, and a whirlwind orientation weekend aren’t nearly enough to prepare for a successful transition to college.

Maybe this sounds familiar: “You told me all your classes were going well! How could you not know you were in the D range for two of them?”

This theme is echoing throughout homes this summer. Parents are incredulous at the apparent disconnect their college students have between how they think they’re performing and how they really are doing in their classes. Therein lies one major reason why college students struggle: there are typically no progress reports or other automatic processes to show college students where they stand at any given point in a semester. The onus is on the student to reach out, attend office hours, and actively solicit feedback and advice from professors. That’s a pretty foreign idea to students who are accustomed to the structure of pre-determined check-ins with teachers.

Reality Check: Plan for Meeting With Professors Consistently

As executive function coaches, we encourage our students to switch tactics and create their own structured plans for check-ins with instructors. Professors always list office hours but too few students take advantage of this time to get feedback. We advise students to put those office hours in as recurring events in their google calendars and to commit to attending on a regular basis throughout the semester. Not sure what to discuss when you show up? Prepare by planning a couple questions: “Am I meeting your expectations for class participation?” “How do you suggest I prepare for the exam in two weeks?” “What could I have done differently on that essay you handed back yesterday?”

More Strategies to Help College Students Succeed

Find out many more tips to help your college student bounce back from a rocky semester (or two) in Michael Delman’s recent article for Grown and Flown.

Did your college student have a bumpy transition to self-management? Find out how online coaching supports students and provides peace of mind for parents.

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