Struggling in College? How to get help before it’s too late!

guestCollege Success, Transition

Feeling overwhelmed? Maybe even failing a course (or two)? This blog post is for you.

I was a good student in high school and had decent grades. But my first quarter of college I barely avoided academic probation due to low grades. I didn’t know how to manage my time well, and I didn’t know how to take notes in a way that helped me prepare for quizzes and tests. The good news was that I wasn’t alone. I discovered many of my classmates had similar challenges, and the college had resources to help us.

We each have our own collection of strengths and challenges. This means we each have different ways we learn best. (To learn more about how you learn best, check out QED’s Learner Sketch Tool). But most college instructors cannot provide one-on-one support for every student. They teach to the best of their ability, and then it’s up to each student to find a way to be successful.

This level of independence is one of the most significant differences between high school and college. You are expected to be a more independent learner, which may be new to you. Many college students struggle with managing their own schedules, and juggling projects and expectations from different classes, just like I did. And they’re often not aware of the resources and strategies that can help them.

It isn’t always easy asking for help. You might feel like you are the only one struggling (you aren’t) and asking someone for help can be intimidating and anxiety-inducing. The good news is colleges WANT you to be successful. And they know everyone needs help at some time. So they have a variety of supports and resources just waiting for you to access them. Below are some places to find help on your campus.


Libraries and librarians are the superheroes of college campuses. Most on-campus libraries offer a range of supports right in the library. They’re also connected to many other supports.

College libraries typically offer sessions to show you how to find the information you need, how to organize your research, and how to give credit properly in your papers.

On-campus libraries often provide other non-academic supports. For example, some college libraries have “Dog Day” you can relax with a puppy in the library to reduce your stress. Check out your library website to see what they offer.

Even better, visit the library on campus even when you do not need support. Get comfortable with the space and find out how they advertise student events so you can stay informed.

Librarians are also good people to ask about other resources on campus – they are natural information gatherers and can often point you in the right direction for other supports you might need.

Tutoring Centers/Learning Support Services

All college campuses have some learning support services. These typically include tutoring support. Tutoring centers are generally available for writing support, and most campuses have additional support for math and science courses.

 In these tutoring centers, you will find paid tutors to help support you. They will not do any work for you but can help you get started, refine your work, or provide advice on the next steps.

Many campuses will offer tutors for specific classes as well. These will be referenced in the syllabus as an embedded tutor or a peer tutor assigned to your course.

Search your college website for ‘tutoring,’ or ‘learning support services’ or ‘academic support services.’ The information provided online should tell you where to locate these services in person or virtually.  It will also give some details about things you need to know, like whether you need to make an appointment or can ‘drop in.’

Utilizing College Designed supports

Colleges are committed to helping you succeed. They want you to stay enrolled and be successful, so they have invested resources into providing student support. In addition to the supports mentioned above, look for these additional resources on your campus.

First-Year Experience Courses

These might be called ‘Intro to College’ or Freshmen support courses. If your college requires such a course, be sure to sign up for it as quickly as possible. Even if your college does not require such a course, it’s still a good idea to take one if it’s available. These courses provide introductions to the campus resources. They also teach strategies for college success. A bonus is these are typically smaller courses run by very approachable instructors.

Accessibility/Disability Services

If you received accommodations in high school, you might be eligible to continue receiving support in college. All college campuses have an office dedicated to supporting students with learning challenges. These offices may be called accessibility or disability services. Support differs from college to college, but it includes things like:

–          Access to notetaking support

–          Access to audiobooks for textbooks

–          Early registration so you get the course access you need

–          Class accommodations where you can receive additional time on tests or flexible deadlines.

To learn more, look for accessibility or disability services for students on your college web page. They should provide an email, phone number, and physical location so you can learn more about what resources are provided and what you need to do to access them. For more tips on receiving support from your college’s accessibility / disability services, check out The Top 10 Steps to College Success for Students with Learning Challenges.

 Counseling and Mental Health Services

Sometimes you need someone to talk with who isn’t a friend or family member. All campuses have some counseling and mental health services available for students. These often include:

  • Workshops on stress management
  • Opportunities to talk one-on-one with a counselor
  • Connections to student resources and activities

For more tips, check out Your Mental Health in College, part of the Crash Course How to College series on YouTube.

It is never too late to ask for help.

Asking for help can be scary, intimidating, and anxiety-inducing. Remember that everyone needs help sometimes. It’s also important to keep in mind your college wants you to be successful. It is better to ask for help and figure out some next steps than to give up on your dreams for your future post-college career.

Kari Thierer, Ed.D., Q.E.D. Foundation

Want to learn more strategies for succeeding in college? Join our webinar on February 22nd from 3:30-4:30 Eastern. Please click here to register!

For more tips and resources, check out QED’s Transitioning to Adulthood page.