Helping you get through tough times

Starting college

College is a big change from school, which is a great thing for some people.  It can be loads of fun, but can also be stressful adjusting to new surroundings and people.

If you are feeling overwhelmed or lonely, you are not alone – many students feel the same way.
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What to expect when starting college

You might have heard a lot about college and the sorts of experiences you should have. Here are some common myths and facts:

Myth 1: College is one big party.

Fact: Sure you have fun and go to parties, but there is the side of college where you do have to concentrate on your studies to get through.

Myth 2: Lecturers and tutors are unapproachable.

Fact: Lecturers and tutors are happy to work through course content or assessment and offer helpful advice. Often lecturers have time specially allocated for students to chat with them about the course.

Myth 3: College students are lazy and sleep all day.

Fact: Most college students work hard and motivate themselves to do well. With all the societies and events to run as well as lectures and study, college life can be incredibly busy.

Myth 4: Some people at college know more than you.

Fact: Some people are more outspoken than others. Try not to feel intimidated about stating your opinion or asking a question, someone else probably wants to ask the same thing.

Studying at college requires you to motivate yourself to keep the workload under control, see time management to help with this.

Feeling lonely

Large classes can be nerve-racking and might make you feel lonely. You aren’t the only one! Here are some suggestions for helping you to feel more confident about going to lectures:

  • Join clubs/societies that interest you. Freshers’ week is a great time to investigate clubs, whether they are sporting, political, musical or general interest – see the getting through freshers’ week
  • Form a study group – it’s a great way to make friends and learn the course content at the same time!
  • Tutorials are smaller than lectures (10-20 in a group) and are a great way to meet people
  • Some colleges offer peer mentoring – especially for rural and overseas students – the best place to find out about mentoring is during your orientation session. If you can’t make them, check out the college website to find out about peer mentoring
  • There are lots of services offered at college including career and personal counsellors, women’s spaces, childcare facilities, indigenous spaces, accommodation, health welfare, chaplaincy or transport. Chances are, if you have a question there will be someone to answer it and there will be somewhere to hang out and feel comfortable.

If you want to change subjects

If you are feeling overwhelmed by your course load or subject content, or you just think the subject/course sucks, you can do something about it! Some things to remember when considering changing, or dropping subjects:

  • Look out for deadlines. Once the deadline has past, you will have to pay for the course even if you do not complete it
  • Look out for other college cut-off times. After a certain time you cannot drop a subject without getting a mark for it
  • Talking to your course coordinator, lecturer, tutor, career adviser or friends may help you to find out more about your options and how to go about changing or dropping a subject.

Failing subjects

If you are failing – there are some things you may need to consider:

Do you understand the course content? If you’re finding the course tough you may be able to get a tutor to help you understand the subject content. This might be your subject tutor, a friend who is doing well or someone from the college support services that could help.

Are you keeping up with the workload? Getting behind in the course can make it difficult to understand the content and to stay on top of your study. It may help to work out a study plan so you can balance your subject load and other commitments.

Is there another subject you’d rather be doing? If you are not enjoying the content of your subject, it might be hard to stay focused. Sometimes your subject might be compulsory and you just have to stick it out, but it may be possible for you to change to something that interests you more.

Is college the place for you at the moment?  If you are going through a tough time, whether you are sick or coping with grief or loss, your college will allow for you to apply for special consideration.

Usually this is a simple procedure and shouldn’t add to your stress. Your tutor, lecturer or counsellor should be able to help you work out the best way you can manage your course work while things are difficult for you. You just need to communicate your situation to them.

General tips for starting college

College should be a great place to be, as time passes, you will face expected and unexpected challenges, but hopefully you will have lots of fun along the way.

Here are some tips that might help you get the best of the college experience:

  • Don’t worry if you don’t have a group of friends within the first couple of weeks, it might take time, and will be worth the wait
  • Ask people for help, most people are more than willing to help out wherever they can
  • Try not to allow yourself to become stressed out, read relaxation for more information about helping you to manage stress
  • Try talking to someone outside the situation
  • It’s OK to feel overwhelmed in the first few weeks of college. If this feeling continues it’s important you talk to someone about it. Don’t let it be your entire college experience.

This article was last reviewed on 05 September 2017

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