Learning to navigate college workload


Photo by Grace Hannemann

College freshmen need a dedicated work space

Nicole Posont, Staff Writer


When stepping onto a college campus as a freshman, finding the way to the right lecture hall and feeling homesick aren’t the only challenges. Learning takes a new form, demanding students adapt and leave old habits behind. 

The seven-hour school day experienced in grades K-12 doesn’t exist in college. Classes are fewer and farther between, ridding students of any sensible schedule. 

“High school is designed with some built-in structure that college doesn’t have,” Tutoring and Learning Center supervisor at Joliet Junior College Elisabeth Bell said. “Learning to navigate that independence can be surprising.”

Many students have perceptions of what classes will be like, only to be proven wrong once joining class. 

“I thought since classes weren’t all day that it would be easy,” University of Louisville freshman Nadia Darwish said. “Instead, they take up a lot more of your free time. [Professors] also aren’t as in-depth during lectures as they are in high school, so you have a lot of learning to do on your own.”

The term ‘burnout’ is used often when talking about students of any age and may hit home for college freshmen. 

“Burnout in students can take many forms, and it can fluctuate based on severity and/or the level of burnout the Student is experiencing,” North social worker Ashlee Wright said. “Burnout is when a student/individual can experience mental, emotional and physical exhaustion.”

Incoming freshmen are more susceptible to burnout, as they are in a new environment and may not be ready for the workload that they are required to handle. On top of feeling overwhelmed by work, burnout brings a host of other symptoms. 

“Burnout can present as feeling exhausted no matter how much sleep you get, resulting in fatigue and insomnia, lacking motivation to attend classes/start assignments, lashing out at others and increased irritability due to frustration, lacking inspiration/creativity to bring to projects and other large classroom assignments and loss of confidence in academic ability,” Wright said. 

Feeling this way is common, especially when stepping into a new world with so many unexpected challenges. Adapting to college is a process of trial and error, and failing is part of the experience. 

“The beginning of college is a learning curve to see what works best for you,” Darwish said. 

However, these challenges don’t last forever and those struggling with a lack of motivation can always find a way back into their groove. 

“I would challenge them to break down tasks into smaller, more manageable chunks rather than trying to sit for a long period of time to cram everything in all at once,” Wright said. “ That can only allow stress to increase and also feelings of being overwhelmed.”

Learning to enhance certain skills has proven to benefit students; however, growing in certain areas such as time management or independence is a learning process. 

“Students who work to grow their self-management, organizational and communication skills overcome challenge[s] quickly,” Bell said. 

Study habits might look different than in high school, meaning that learning what works best for each class is important. Reaching out is an essential aspect of study hygiene. 

“Put your studies first and be hard-working,” North college and career counselor Melissa Hurst said.  “Ask questions. Get help.”

While classes may take up less time, being a full-time student really is a full-time responsibility. According to the University of Michigan-Flint Survival Guide, a good rule of thumb is to study, “2 hours per 1-hour class.” Many students can become overwhelmed; however, there are most likely tutors on campus, and they do much more than hold flash cards. 

“Tutors can help with study skills like time-management, note-taking and studying strategies to prepare for tests and quizzes,” Bell said. 

On almost every campus there is a way to reach out for help when drowning in work. From tutors to office hours, sources on campus are open for questions. 

“Be ready for hard work, but trust yourself,” Hurst said. “Plainfield North has prepared you well for this, you can do it.”