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[Discussion] The struggle is real: How to persist past your first semester of college

Last updated February 15, 2022

Congrats, you made it to the end of your first semester in college! As you’re returning from break and starting your second semester, now is a good time to reflect on your experience these past few months. While your first semester can be a fun and exciting time, it’s also OK to admit if you struggled with your grades, experienced culture shock, or even felt a little homesick. Your first semester in college is a major life transition, which a lot of students experience!

The outcome of your first semester doesn’t have to define the rest of your college experience, but there are steps you can take to set yourself up for a successful second semester and beyond:

Keep track of FAFSA requirements and deadlines

Studies show one of the top reasons that students drop-out of college is due to financial concerns. With the cost of tuition rising, it’s key to familiarize yourself with financial aid definitions, filling out the FAFSA, and keeping up with important deadlines. You’ll also need to complete your financial aid forms each year - in addition to FAFSA renewal deadlines, grants and scholarships also have their own renewal processes. It’s well-worth the effort in tracking and responding ahead of these deadlines, as it can give you the opportunity to access up to thousands of dollars in financial aid.

Check-in with your Academic Advisor

At the start of your next semester, it’s helpful to check-in with your Academic Advisor to make sure you’re on track towards graduation. Meeting with your advisor gives you a chance to review your course schedule with them and recommend changes to your schedule before the enrollment deadline approaches. Most importantly, if you have been struggling - whether it’s in your academic or personal life - they can help connect you to on-campus resources to help you cope with any issues and hardships you’re experiencing.

Connect with your campus community

Whether you’re living in a dorm or commuting from home, spending time on campus outside of your classes can help you connect with other students going through similar experiences. If you had a difficult time making friends during your first semester, thanks OK! You still have the chance to find your community - through study groups, cultural clubs, events, or intramural sports.

Check out mental health resources available on and off campus

While it’s very normal to feel overwhelmed or stressed in college, it’s easy to find yourself alone and isolated in these feelings. Taking care of your mental health is essential, so it’s important to identify your stressors and find healthy ways to cope with them. Most college campuses offer free counseling services, or can connect you to free or low-cost services in your area. You can also check out our list of COVID-friendly opportunities to receive free therapy, self-care and mental health guides, and de-stressing techniques. Don’t be afraid to ask for help.

Have some tips that you can share with others? Leave a comment below!

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