College Problems: How to Cope When it All Goes Wrong | Top Universities

College Problems: How to Cope When it All Goes Wrong

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Felix von Wendorff

Updated Apr 20, 2016



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Few things besides death and taxes can be guaranteed in life. But besides those two, there is one thing I can guarantee you: things almost never go according to plan. I promise you one thing, over the course of your higher education, at least one thing (and probably a lot more than that) will go wrong. This blog post is a quick guide to common college problems, especially for international students, and what to do when you hit a seemingly unrecoverable dead end.

1. Stay calm.

The most important thing is not to panic. There are very few mistakes that honest, well-intentioned people can make that are unrecoverable. However, remaining calm is extremely difficult when facing certain college problems, and requires a great deal of faith and self-confidence. The more college problems you circumnavigate, the easier this becomes. Think of this “unrecoverable dead end” instead as a new “imposing obstacle”, a challenge to be met and overcome. When you say something can't be done, you are right. If you say something can be done, you are also right.

2. Adjust your expectations.

College is more difficult than high school. And being an international student is an order of magnitude harder than it is for native students. So if you had great grades in high school (like me) and expected to end up at the top of your class (like I did), and then you fail two thirds of your university classes (like me), it hurts a lot. It got worse in my case, because the classes I failed were the easiest we had to take, and everyone passes them (as a local friend of mine was so nice to remind me...). Remember that you really cannot compare yourself to local students. If you need to compare yourself with someone, look at other international students. If you thought being an international student was going to be easy, you are in for a rude awakening – so be prepared for things to be tough.

3. Ask someone else for help.

Have someone you trust look at the problem and see if they can see a way out. When I applied to universities in Europe, I found out that I had taken a math class that is not recognized in Europe or at most US universities (note to everyone: never take IB Math Studies). Because of that math class, I could not apply anywhere in Europe. I panicked. I was incensed. I was unspeakably mad at the people who had recommended that math class to me. I went on a run to try and burn through some of my fury. By the time I got back, still in a terrible mood, my parents had found a way to circumnavigate the problem and apply a different way. A fresh pair of eyes can work wonders.

4. Appeal for mercy!

Call the people responsible for placing the obstacle in your way. They are human beings too. Appeal to their compassion and explain your situation to them. They will usually do the best they can for you.

5. Do something to de-stress.

Get rid of some stress and sleep on it. If you have found a good way to deal with stress, this is the time to use it. Do your relaxing activity until you feel the stress gone. Then take a long sleep with no alarm. When you wake up the next morning, you will look at your college problem much more clearly and be able to face the challenge with new energy and vigor.

So be optimistic! It is unlikely that that your college problem really is the end of the world. There are lots of paths that lead to success and happiness. So what if your plan did not work perfectly; make a new one and keep moving forward. Every step forward is a step closer to your goal. Just keep focused on that goal, and find a new way to get there. Never give up. No one ever did something great in life by giving up.