5 Common Challenges in College (and How to Overcome them)

challenges in college

Going to college is an exciting experience you will remember for the rest of your life, but it's not without its challenges. There are several common challenges many first-year students face, so we thought it might be helpful to take a closer look at these challenges and provide some tips on how to overcome them.

Here are five common challenges in college and how to overcome them.

Challenges in College

Leaving for college can be exciting and terrifying at the same time. While you know you are starting a new chapter in your life, you also know you will face some obstacles. How you cope with these challenges can be the difference between completing or not completing college.

According to statistics, 56% of college students who do not complete their diploma by year six will become dropouts. In addition, 70 % of Americans attend a four-year degree program but less than two-thirds of those students will graduate.

One of the reasons students drop out of college is because they were not prepared for facing common challenges. Not only were they not prepared, they did not have a plan of action on how to help them overcome challenges.

This does not have to happen to you, however. Keep reading to learn about common challenges faced by college students, symptoms associated with these challenges, and how to overcome them so you can reach success.


When you leave for college, you are also leaving something, usually your parents, hometown, and a sense of security. You have had the same routine, in the same home, with the same friends and family providing you support for the last 18 years or more.

Going away to college means you no longer have immediate access to these supports. This can leave you feeling homesick. Without a plan to combat homesickness, you will start to notice an increase in thoughts of being back home.

You may even start to feel depressed and feel like you need to be home. This can lead to not finding pleasure in college activities, drop in grades, low energy and a lack of interest in adapting to your new surroundings. It may even lead you to poor coping skills such as drinking alcohol or using drugs.

You are not alone. Many students feel the same way. Being homesick is normal and is okay. It is how you cope with your feelings that count.

Connecting with other homesick students can be a game changer. Together, you can support each other, making the adjustment easier. There are also sober outlets on college campuses to help you with feeling homesick while avoiding drinking and drugging.

Difficulty Sleeping

It’s uncertain if any college students get a full night’s sleep. This can be hard to do in a residence where students are coming and going all night. Between late night cramming for tests, pizza runs, social outings, and other normal college student behaviors, it can be hard to get good rest.

A lack of sleep can wreak havoc on your system and can become a big challenge when it comes to succeeding in college.  Lack of sleep interrupts how well you concentrate and focus on assignments, it leads to unhealthy eating and prohibits your immune system from properly functioning.

To overcome a difficulty in sleeping, try to maintain a consistent routine. Go to bed and wake up at the same time so your body can get on a schedule. Avoid caffeine late in the day, do not sleep with the television or lights on, don’t eat right before you go to bed, and learn relaxation techniques to help you fall asleep.

These can range from meditation, prayer, stretching or reading. There are many to choose from, each of which can help with anxiety too.


Anxiety can happen at any time during your college day. Whether you experience test anxiety or social anxiety, this is a challenge that needs immediate attention. While you don’t have to meet with a counselor about your anxiety, it is one of the best ways to overcome your problem.

Anxiety is something that can become a bigger issue if left untreated. So, the sooner you seek help, the better. Some students try and cope with unhealthy activities such as drugs and alcohol. These do not work in the long run.

Avoid negative coping skills by working with peers or counselors who specifically gear treatment around sober college living. They can teach you stress management skills, test anxiety reduction skills, time management, and good decision-making skills.

Too often, anxiety is connected to depression, which can be just as challenging. Depression can even lead to suicidal thoughts. Working with a counselor at the onset of these symptoms is extremely important.

You may find you are suffering from a trauma-related illness that is creating an obstacle to your success in college.


When you have been traumatized, you have experienced an event that has caused you significant emotional distress. You may have even had physical distress too. The distress continues even after the initial event.

Distress can show up in the forms of nightmares, flashbacks, or by encountering triggers that remind you of the traumatic event.

If not dealt with, trauma can make it hard for you to attend class, complete assignments, and even leave the safety of your room.

If you have experienced a traumatic event, seek help from a counselor, either on campus or off. There are many outpatient centers connected to college campuses that can offer support and help you cope and overcome your experience so that you can be successful in college.

Peer Pressure

Peer pressure can come from anywhere on a college campus, from classmates to roommates to complete strangers. The party culture on college campuses is real and many people think you must party to be a true college student.

This is not true, however. Peer pressure means you are being asked to do something negative. You never hear of peers pressuring other peers to join a fundraiser or provide free tutoring for other students.

There are peer groups on campus who can help you avoid negative peer pressure. These groups provide peer-to-peer mentoring, which can help guide you toward your goals.

Plan for each obstacle you foresee. Work with a peer mentor or counselor to make sure your plan is complete and geared toward you being successful.

Photo by Zachary Nelson