10 signs you are falling behind in a college course

A college student is looking for something.

Do you feel like you’re falling behind this semester?

Whether it is your first year at college or your last, it can be easy to get in over your head. Sometimes you simply pick too heavy a class load, or maybe you have been enjoying so-called “extracurricular” activities too often. Whatever the reason, you may have found yourself wondering if you are falling behind in a college course. So what are the signs that you have bitten off more than you can chew and it is time to call “uncle” before you do serious damage not only to your GPA, but to your psyche as well? Read on.

The top 10 signs

College is supposed to be hard, right? But how hard is too hard and when should you be asking for help or figuring out a new game plan? Jeremy S. Hyman and Lynn F. Jacobs wrote “10 Signs You’re in Trouble at College” August 27, 2009 for US News’ education blog detailing the tell-tale signs:

  1. Your grade point average is a C or below.
  2. You are regularly asking for extensions for assignments.
  3. You aren’t able to follow your professor’s lecture — ever.
  4. Your entire day is tied up doing homework or reading assignments.
  5. You are using credit cards to buy everything, from dinners to textbooks.
  6. You can’t pass the basic prerequisite courses.
  7. You go home every weekend or are constantly talking to mom and dad for support.
  8. You have to have some sort of prescription medication or alcohol to get through the day (not including medicine for a medical problem or chronic condition).
  9. You spend all your time on some device, be it your computer or a cellphone.
  10. You feel overwhelmed every moment of the day.

Sean Mahon posted “5 Signs You Need to Ask for Help in a College Class” on GradGuard.com’s blog October 24, 2012, where he mentions a few other signs that your college course may not be going as well as it should be, including you are copying a classmate’s homework or you bomb the mid-term.

If any (or all) of those signs sound far to familiar, then you need to seek out some help, or risk flunking out of college with enormous debt and nothing to show for it.

Why students fail

Published in 2009, Crossing the Finish Line: Completing College at America’s Public Universities shared the startling information that only about half of the American students enrolled in college graduate with a degree. The Center for Academic Success at The University of Alabama offered some insight into why a college student might be falling behind in his or her college class in the article, “Causes of Failure in College” written by Dr. Robert Pitcher of the Educational Development Center.

Chief among the 10 reasons he cites are a lack of understanding of the workload college requires. “Prior to college, school work is usually parceled out in small units and students usually spend a minimum amount of time studying,” he writes. “In college, students may actually work harder than they have ever worked before and still find that their efforts are not sufficient.”

Dr. Pitcher also cites the vagueness that many college students may have about their long-range goals and an inappropriate choice of a major. He writes, “One of the purposes of college is to help students discover or create their identities through education. This process of change reflects not a lack of character, but the development of it. Students must be aware of their own development and adjust previous goals and decisions to accommodate personal growth.”

Other reasons Dr. Pitcher says that can cause someone to fall behind in a college course are:

  • Poor language skills — a student’s ability to read, write, speak and listen effectively
  • Lack of ability to evaluate their own work — a student can overestimate their understanding of material and the quality of their work
  • Inability to assume responsibility — student’s have to accept the consequences of their choices, good or bad
  • Picking the wrong college — not all schools are right for everyone, whether because of size or just the general campus climate
  • Lack of ability or prior preparation — for some student’s their previous high school experience may have not properly prepared them for college.

If you find yourself struggling with a college course, it is important to seek out assistance from your professors or other university personnel. The college or university you are attending wants you to succeed and has many resources to help.

Want to learn more about doing well in college? Check out Questia — particularly the section on Higher and Adult Education.

Have you struggled with a college class? Did you make it through the class, drop it or simply take the bad grade? Let us know your thoughts in the comments.

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2 replies
  1. Brainclive says:

    i do enjoy ur tips on this, actually i had once gone through one ur circumstances ie struggled in one class twice but i made it. i really do hope ur tips will make me help others. thank


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