The first thing that you should know about college is obvious — it is going to be difficult and oftentimes challenging. Students who excelled in high school may be stymied by college courses, or even struggle with the independence afforded to college students. Even the most brilliant and talented students will face challenges and many will wonder at some point if it is all worth it — spoiler alert, it is.
The good news is that while college is hard, it doesn’t have to be impossible. We spoke with Jan Klingman, the director of Academic Standards at UVU and two recent graduates, to get their advice on how to succeed in getting your degree.
Klingman works to help get students get back on track and stay on course to graduate. She said that it is not a question of if students will struggle, but when.
“Coming to college itself is such a major shift in life,” said Klingman. “It’s more likely that you’ll struggle in some way than not and that’s perfectly natural.”
She said that college is not just about learning in the strict academic sense, but also about developing skills, traits and a work ethic that will be with students throughout their professional lives.
“Expect some challenges, but don’t run from them,” said Klingman. “Make sure you address those challenges so that you can develop yourself.”
For Maddie Patten, a recent graduate from UVU with a degree in family science, one of the most difficult things about transitioning to college was the increased workload that came with each class.
“In high school, I never had to study very hard in order to get good grades,” said Patten. “In college, I had a big wake up call when I realized that I had to devote time each week to doing assigned readings, completing homework and preparing for class in order to stay on top of everything.”
College courses emphasize self-study and textbook reading far more than high school courses do. This focus on the student to learn is liberating and appealing to some, but can be devastating to one’s GPA if they are not prepared for it.
“One of the most helpful habits I developed was to treat school like a job,” said Patten. “When you are working at a job, you have certain hours you are expected to be at your workplace, clock in and out, and do what’s expected of you by your employer. Treating school the same way helped me keep up with my classes really easily.”
Patten recommended that students schedule time out of each day to study for each class, preferably in an environment away from distractions, such as the library. College studying may take more conscious planning and preparation than trying to fit homework into spare moments of the day.
McKenna Payne, who graduated with a degree in English, said that deciding on a major was a cause for stress early on. After switching a couple of times, she realized she should pursue what seemed most interesting.
“You don’t have to listen to what other people are saying,” said Payne. “Get your generals out of the way and then go with what interests you the most, not what you think will make the most money. If you’re thinking about a major, just take those classes and see if you like it.”
Payne said she had to learn to regulate studying with breaks and other outlets.
“In high school I wouldn’t take breaks, I would just study hard until midnight because I was so stressed for the test,” said Payne. “In college I had to learn how to take breaks in my studying, because if I didn’t, I would do a lot worse. I learned I had to plan ahead for studying, and then take breaks to go exercise or watch a quick Netflix show.”
Perhaps more important than anything is for students to realize that college isn’t a sprint, it’s a marathon. You’re probably going to trip up — if not fall flat on your face at some point — but you can get up and keep running. You may feel as if the finish line is always going to be out of reach, but each assignment, quiz and research paper completed is just bringing you one step closer to graduation.
“We have a lot of students who say ‘If I fail one class, or if I fail one test, then I’m going to quit everything,’” said Klingman. “Don’t give up, you have to persist. Look at the value of finishing something that is not perfect. You’re still going to learn something.”
(Graphic by Natasha Colburn)
Bridger Beal-Cvetko is a junior at Utah Valley University where he is studying journalism. He has been with The Review since 2019, where he has covered the UVU men’s basketball team and the softball team before becoming the Sports/Valley Life Editor. Bridger also covers the BYU football and basketball teams as a writing and producing intern for ESPN 960 Sports on KOVO 960 and espn960sports.com. Aside from sports, Bridger is an ardent cinephile, and writes reviews and commentary on films for his personal website.