College Courses – How to Succeed when You’re Struggling

College is a remarkable time in life. For many people it is a first taste of freedom, a chance to explore a new place and meet new people. The imagery of it all can almost make you forget what you’re really there for–to attend classes, get an education, and eventually a degree that will help you succeed in the working world. Occasionally you’ll find college courses that are more challenging than others. Sometimes this is in your major, but often it comes in core requirements such as science, math, or writing courses. You are required to take and pass these classes, so be sure you are prepared to seek out help when you need it.

college subjects

Tutoring for College Courses:

Most colleges and universities will have a tutoring program in place. Some of these are offered for free, others will charge a fee. Typically graduate students or upperclassmen will provide the tutoring sessions. If you are a student athlete or involved in other extra curricular programs, you may have tutoring available to you through those programs. Some college courses many students find challenging may offer tutoring specifically for that course, such as calculus or chemistry. Reach out to your professor, your adviser, or your program representatives to see what options may be available at your school.

Study Groups for College Courses:

You may not be the only person in your class who is struggling. Setting up a study group with your classmates can help you all keep up. While you may understand the first part of a chapter, your classmate may have a better understanding of the second part. Working together, you can work through problems you may struggle to tackle alone. This has the added advantage of sharing a common classroom experience, while a tutor may understand the material, if they weren’t in the class, they may not know what parts were presented poorly, or follow the examples your professor provided. Working with your classmates can help overcome these hurdles.

Writing Centers:

Writing is a huge challenge for some students. Utilizing the writing center can have an incredible impact on your grades. The staff of the writing center can help you with grammar, formatting, and ideas for writing. These are typically free programs staffed by English majors. You can take your assignment to them to plan what you will write, or take a rough draft to have someone work with you on spelling, grammar, and formatting. Whatever you feel your weakness is in writing, the writing center can help you work through it.


Your professor may be your best option for getting help in a college courses. They should have office hours listed on your course syllabus, or be available to make an appointment at a time that works for both of you. You can meet with your professors to go over concepts you’re struggling with, review a test or assignment, or talk about your progress in the class. Your professor is there to help you learn.

Prepare for meetings with your professors. Know what it is you’re struggling with or want to talk to them about. Review the course syllabus so you know their policies, and don’t try to harass them into doing special favors for you. You have to earn your grades through what you learn and how you apply that knowledge. Meeting with a professor should be about improving those areas, not begging for grade bumps or extra credit assignments.

Almost everyone will find some college courses more challenging than others. Knowing what help is available and how to seek it out can greatly improve your chance of success in those classes that don’t come easily to you. Don’t wait for the end of a semester to seek out help. Getting help early in a difficult subject will keep you from falling behind.

Suggested books to help you with your college courses:

College Study Skills: Becoming a Strategic Learner

How to Study in College

College Study: The Essential Ingredients (3rd Edition)