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Dealing with a Disappointing College Semester: Tips to Bounce Back

Updated: Jan 11

Over course of my career, I have worked with thousands of college students that have struggled with college life for one reason or another. As we all know, there are countless reasons why someone may have a rough start to college or even a rough semester: homesick, academic struggles, lack of personal connection with peers, undecided about a major and unmotivated (I'll talk more about this in a future blog post, but there's A LOT to share about this), realized the college itself isn't the right fit, mental health struggles, the list goes on and on.

However, a BIG piece of moving on to the next steps along this wild and crazy career and educational journey is to really reflect to better understand what didn't go right and learn from it and be able to pivot moving forward. Are they things that you're able to adjust and learn from to set yourself up for a successful next semester at the same college, do you want to make a plan to transfer, does it involve taking some time off to take a step back and reflect, or perhaps not going back to college at all?

There is no magical answer, or one size fits all approach to being successful in college - especially since what is considered successful is different to each person. But ideally, you want to enjoy your major classes, feel connected, learn something and set yourself up for a job after graduation.

For academic success, I always tell students that I work with, it doesn't matter how academically gifted you are, but to do well in your classes you need to have good communication with your instructors! To proactively reach out and let them know what concepts you're struggling with, questions that you may have, proactively asking them for advice or feedback on a paper are all ways to do this. All too often I've seen a reactive approach when a student is not doing well, and most of the time towards the end of the semester and it's too late to bring their grade up. When an instructor knows that a student cares and is trying, they're more likely to go the extra mile to support them.

Get involved and get out there! If you're not feeling connected, try joining clubs, sports, going to campus events are all ways to get involved. Try something new, you never know what you might learn and who you may connect with. What are your interests? Do you enjoy video games, reading, sports (even if you don't want to play at the college level), working out, coffee, fishing, cooking, and the list goes on. Put yourself in situations where you're able to do what you enjoy, and you will naturally be able to connect with others who have similar interests. It can be as simple as a club, intramural sport, or even chatting over a cup of coffee at Starbucks!

Utilizing campus services and supports is widely overlooked. Every college campus has countless support services available on campus, whether it's academic advising, career services, tutoring, disability and resource centers, smaller cohort programs that have a more intimate feel and provide an additional level of support. All too often students are reactive and not proactive in getting to know what their college has to offer to help them. By using these services, they can offer additional support (quite often for free) to help make it a successful semester!

If you're feeling like you didn't pick the right college, or college just isn't the right thing for you at this time in your life, that's okay! Remember, success is a very individualized thing and not a one size fits all approach. You DO NOT need college to be successful! All too often college students feel like they're letting themselves down or a parent down if they decide they need a change. It's actually more difficult to realize that perhaps it's not the place for you than it can be to stick it through! Maybe it's going to work full-time for a bit to learn more about what you like and don't like, perhaps it's going to a college closer to home and commuting, or a license or certification program.

As long as you are taking some steps to continue your personal and professional growth, you are making progress! Everyone has a different goal and your journey on how to get there is unique to you. If you're feeling stuck on what to do next or need some support, please reach out, that's what I am here for!

Best Wishes,


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