Information for the parents of college students
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How Hard Is College?

Does your soon-to-be college student worry about how hard college is going to be?  Probably.  Do you worry about how hard college will be for your student – and whether she’ll be able to do well?  Probably.  Can you find the answer?  Probably not.

Many, if not most, college students – or almost-college-students – and their parents worry about how hard college will be.  Students may not voice their concerns out loud, but they are there.  Will school be hard?  Will I be able to do the work?  Will I understand the material and what is being asked of me?  They may ask their advisors, faculty members, other students – “Is this class hard?”

The answers may not be very satisfying.  It depends.  Hard is relative.  It may be as hard as you make it.

What do students mean by “hard?”

Hard, of course, can mean many things – and different things to different people.  It may mean difficult, challenging, complex, time consuming, a lot of work.  It may mean arduous, demanding, exacting, strenuous, exhausting, grueling, painful, distressing, brutal, complicated, intense.

A lot of scary words.

Your student who worries about hard classes might need to determine what she means by “hard”  and why she is asking. Is she worrying about a class being hard because she’s fearful that she can’t do the work or understand  the material, or is she worrying about hard because she simply doesn’t want to have to do much work?  She should also think about the benefits of taking hard or difficult classes.  She may find that she as long as she knows what to expect, she is ready to embrace challenges.

Why do students expect college to be hard?

Many, but not all, students understand that college will be different from high school.  But students may not be sure what those differences will be.  Students may worry that they are not well prepared, or that the material will suddenly be much more complex and difficult.

Students worry about the content of their courses.

Students worry about the workload

Students worry about their abilities.

It is true that the material may be more difficult, but it is also true that college success may be less about students’ ability and more about other things, including motivation, time management and approach.

Do some students make college hard?

Hate studying?  College will be hard.

Don’t do the work.  College will be hard.

Coast through early pre-requisite courses?  Later courses will be hard.

Mentally dismiss required courses?  College will be hard.

Fail to seek help? College will be hard.

Don’t put in the time required for studying? College will be hard.

Fail to plan ahead and manage your time.  College will be hard.

How can parents help?

Reassure your student that she was accepted to college because the school believes in her and she will be able to succeed even if college is “hard.”

Help your student think about what she means when she worries about college being “hard.

Help your student understand that challenge and facing difficult things can be a positive experience and make her a stronger person, as well as a better student.

Help your student plan to succeed:

  • Help her think about how much time she needs to spend studying.
  • Help her think about how she can find something interesting and meaningful – even in required classes that she is not looking forward to taking.
  • Help your student prepare for the differences between high school and college – including a different level and way of thinking about her learning.
  • Help your student work to recognize the links between pre-requisite and early courses and the later courses she will need to take.
  • Help your student look for the internal motivation that will drive her forward.

“Hard” may be a frame of mind.  Help your student remember her goals and be prepared to rise to the challenges she may face.

Related Posts:

Eight Benefits of Taking Difficult Courses in College

College Parents Can Help Freshmen Overcome First Semester Challenges

How to Help Your College Student Avoid Remedial Courses

How Is Your College Student’s Work/School Balance?

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