Tackling the First-Year Slide

For more reasons than one, college is hard. Between being away from home for the first time, trying to make new friends and finding where you fit in, choosing a major that interests you, and figuring out what on earth you are going to do with your life, the first year of college is a huge life transition. As you move through the semester, different areas of your life may begin to take priority while others fall on the back burner. Something that typically gets left behind by first-year students caught up in the newness of college is academics.

This is something that I want to highlight for first-year students. It is not uncommon for your grades to fall in your first year of college. You are thinking and learning differently than when you were in high school. College challenges students to think critically about concepts rather than just memorizing facts that will be on a test. This is a huge adjustment that takes time to get used to. It is perfectly normal for the stress and newness of everything around you to weigh on your shoulders, and it is important for you to recognize that you are not alone.  A lot of students feel this way, even beyond just the first year, because this is one of the biggest life transitions that you can experience. Give yourself some grace as you navigate through all this change.

While adjusting to your new learning habits in college, there are still some ways that you can help yourself out academically. Here are some helpful tips on overcoming the first-year slide:

  • Identify your priorities. The first thing you’ll want to do is to identify what is important to you and what you dedicate your time to. Try making a list of what you are involved in, what your current priorities are (be honest with yourself), and what you want them to be. This will allow you to visualize where you can make adjustments in your daily schedule and add in any additional study time, homework time, reading time, etc.
  • Learn how to appropriately manage your time. When balancing a heavy course load, students sometimes struggle to designate the appropriate amount of time to each class. You may have a really big paper due tomorrow but decide to work on your math homework that is due next week instead. It’s easy to procrastinate in this way and tell yourself, “oh, well I’m still working on an assignment that needs to get done, so I’m being productive.” This is poor time management. Prioritizing bigger assignments or assignments that are due sooner than others will make a huge difference in your academics throughout the semester.
  • Eliminating distractions. Once you sit down to do your homework or catch up on some reading, that is what you should be focusing on. There are so many distractions around us that make it easy to say, “I’m just going to take a 5 minute break to look at social media,” but more often than not, 5 minutes can turn into an hour. Being disciplined during your study time and not allowing yourself to get distracted will make lectures and future assignments easier to understand. You will also be able to perform better on assignments and assessments because you will be able to give them your full attention. Turn off your phone, find a quiet place alone or with people who won’t distract you, and set aside time to really focus on academics.
  • Use the resources available to you on campus! Florida State University has so many resources that support students on campus who are struggling, whether that be academically or in other areas of life. A few of these resources include:

Everything that we do in life is a valuable experience that we can learn from. It is completely normal to make mistakes in uncharted territory, and it’s important to know that your mistakes are just as important as your successes. Allow yourself room to grow over time, and take advantage of the resources provided to you and the people willing to help you succeed academically.

Written by Rylee Mehr

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