If you have ever found university difficult – you are not alone. Despite being in the top 15 percent of students in my university, I still faced a lot of hardships with regard to managing the academic workload. Similarly, every student goes through these challenges. It is quite normal. Nevertheless, the question remains: Why is university so hard?
Students may generally find university difficult because of these five common reasons: a heavy academic workload, having additional responsibilities, dealing with relationship difficulties, lacking proper motivation or interest in their courses or the inability to properly handle being independent. Let’s look into what causes these and what you can do about them.
What are the main reasons why university is difficult and what can you do about it?
1. A heavy academic workload
The number one reason why students find university difficult is the fact that they have to study way more than they have been used to in the past. Of course, this is still vastly situational and really dependent on how difficult your degree or university are as a whole.
However, at some point, most students will find themselves in a situation wherein the workload just seems downright impossible. Students who procrastinate, lack the prior knowledge needed to tackle the subject matter or are simply unprepared for the amount of assignments, readings and degree of difficulty of exams will regularly struggle to get by.
Generally, the best way of dealing with a heavy workload is learning how to study and manage your time more efficiently. This involves having a clear plan by implementing study sessions, taking proper breaks and taking better notes.
Although I will not cover this topic in-depth here, Thomas Frank‘s YouTube channel is an excellent resource for learning how to study more efficiently.
2. Having additional responsibilities besides studying
Sometimes the challenge lies not only with your academic workload but the fact that you have to allocate your time to your other responsibilities and extra-curricular activities as well. Whether it is a part-time job, a position in a school or community organization or sports, being able to manage your time can feel extremely overwhelming if not carefully planned out.
To avoid burning out from doing too many thing, consider foregoing some of your activities. In my case, I love debating. However, during my second year of studies, I knew that if I wanted to get the grades I wanted, I wouldn’t have time for it. As such, I reluctantly stopped debating so that I would have the time needed to put in the extra work academically.
Of course, not everyone has such a luxury – what if you have a part-time job or other mandatory commitments? Well then, you will definitely have to compromise and make sacrifices to get what you want.
3. Handling relationship difficulties
You probably already know that university is a place not just for studying but for making new connections and forging life-long friendships. While this is a great addition to any university experience, it can also be a source of numerous issues.
Handling the social pressure and responsibilities that come from having to maintain personal relationships can equally be as tough. Whether it is ensuring you have the time to spend with your friends (or struggling to make new ones like I did during my first year :D) or a painful break-up and having to see your ex around school. Relationships play a crucial role in your university life and they are oftentimes what you will take away and reminisce about once it is all over.
Relationship management is a huge topic on its own and I will not cover it in-depth here. However, if you do end up facing relationship issues, my recommendation would be to talk with a person whom you trust or maybe consult with the university counselor if you have the opportunity.
In my case, I had some serious communication problems due to my social awkwardness (which I still have til this day), so a friend of mine recommended reading Dale Carnegie’s book “How to make friends and influence people” – and I have to say this book really helped me out.
4. Lacking proper motivation or interest in your courses
You might have excellent relationships as well as have your workload and other activities figured out. However, if you do not have the necessary motivation, even the smallest task could be extremely challenging to do. Let’s face it – if I did not enjoy math, it would be really difficult for me to good at any math-related course.
Usually, one should have already taken precautions in choosing a degree that they will enjoy. However, a majority of students actually do not know what they want to study at the start, make the wrong choice, and end up pursuing a degree that they are not passionate about. This can be a significant source of frustration.
Your options in such a situation are the following. Firstly, learn to love it – often we hate things such as math not because the subject is boring, but because the teacher is bad. Secondly, just to endure it. Thirdly, which is a rather extreme option, maybe you should just drop out and change your major or degree. Of course, this is a rather extreme option, and in case you are contemplating whether to do that I would recommend checking out this article: Should I change my degree?
5. Inability to handle being independent
Before moving into a college dormitory or student housing, most of us had the luxury of living with our parents while we were in high school. However, once we move out of the house we suddenly find ourselves living in a cramped room out of state (or in a foreign country in my case) that smells a bit funny and is a long way from the comforts of home that most of us are traditionally used to. Although it can be a bit frustrating if you are not accustomed to suddenly living on your own– no mum to cook your favorite food, wash your clothes or remind you to do your homework.
However, the loss of these comforts also comes with the sudden gift of independence and FREEDOM. You can basically do whatever you want now… And ultimately, this is where a lot of students actually end up messing things up (at least during their first few years). It is quite understandable that some would test their limits by staying up late, partying all night and forgetting how to manage their time correctly especially if this is the first time in their lives that they have the autonomy to do so and not having their parents giving them a curfew or always looking over their shoulder.
In this case, the ball will always be in your court. The responsibility of learning how to handle being independent during your time at university falls squarely on your shoulders.
Should studying at a university be hard?
While I did my best to provide you with some reasons for why you might find university hard and what you could do to make it easier, you could end up trying out everything and still find yourself in exactly the same situation.
However, if you do think about it — shouldn’t studying at a university really be at least somewhat challenging? After all, if everything was too easy, how would you improve and test your limits? In fact, I believe that the reason for why many people find going to university so rewarding is precisely because it is so hard.
Dealing with challenging situations is part of the university experience. If studying at a university was easy, then it would probably be better just to pay to get your diploma. However, the journey and not the destination ends up being the more satisfying experience at the end of the day.