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Adjusting to College

Take charge and make college the kind of experience you want it to be!

Congratulations! You have been accepted to college. This means you have already demonstrated that you have the skills and abilities needed to be here. Yet you may feel nervous about starting this next step in your life. If you are anxious about starting college, you are not alone. Here are some tips to help you make the most of your college experience.

Be prepared to spend more time studying between classes.

Some people were able to succeed in high school without having to study much. This leads many to believe that once they get to college they will continue to excel without much preparation. However, when their academic performance is not as impressive as they had hoped, these students may start to question their intelligence and whether they should be in college. Usually, they are in the right place, but they need to adjust how they study. It is recommended that students study 3 hours per week for each hour they are in class. If this happens for you, it's time to make a study schedule and stick to it.

Manage your time so that you also have time for fun.

Since high school usually has a rigid schedule for you to follow, college might be the first time where you are responsible for managing your own time. The freedom can be overwhelming and it is easy to hit the snooze button too many times and miss a class. These are common mistakes that some students make until the panic sets in and they receive the early warning letters that they may not be passing some of their classes.

Make a schedule of when you will study each week. Pay attention to how well it works for you so that you can make modifications if necessary. But don’t forget to schedule time for fun after you finish studying. That way, you can relax without feeling guilty.

Get involved.

In high school, you might have found it easier to meet people because you had the same classes together every day. In college, you will usually find that you need to be more proactive about meeting people. College can seem very big at first and it will help if you find smaller groups that share your interests. This can mean finding people from your residence hall to go eat with, creating study groups and trying out different sports clubs or student organizations until you find a couple that fit your interests. Simply saying hello to other students might mean more to them than you realize. It might be the first step in gaining a new friend, too. It takes some time in order for friendships to develop. Plan to spend more time on campus so that you have the opportunity to get to know people.

Use the resources that UWF has created for you.
  • Use the Writing Lab or the Math Lab if you have any difficulty in these areas.
  • Talk to Career Development and Community Engagement if you are not in a major that inspires you.
    • Check out their Career and Major Exploration page to learn about their coaching opportunities, explore majors and careers online or via theirroundtable discussions, and more!
  • Identify several student organizations that you may be interested in joining.
  • Talk with a counselor if you need help working through this normal developmental step of transitioning to being a college student.

Study Skills

What to do when you hit the books and they hit back! Here are some ways to improve your study skills:

  • Stay organized (planners, calendars, smartphone, electronic reminders, etc.).
  • Use the syllabus to plan ahead (refer back to the calendar, planners, etc.).
  • Make a designated study area.
    • A designated time would help as well but set the place first, then work out a time.
  • When you study, don't try to study in MONSTER sessions.
    • No more than two to three hours and take breaks every 45 minutes to an hour.
  • Use study groups to:
    • Get input from other students.
    • Develop new ideas on tough topics.
    • Work out the details on something you missed.
  • Make a list of tasks and work the list.
  • Study with your preferred learning style:
    • Visual (graphs, diagrams, coded notes, pictures, mental imagery like a story or movie).
    • Auditory (reading assignments, lectures, hear it to know it).
    • Kinesthetic/Tactile (hands-on, learn by doing).
  • Improve comprehension:
    • Instead of reading over and over, read once thoroughly.
    • Instead of highlighting every 3rd sentence, do so sparingly.
    • Instead of taking notes on everything, select only the most important information.
    • Instead of rereading your notes, reduce them by changing and revising.
    • Take breaks when you have completed a task or at a stopping point. 

Time Management

As a student, you live a busy life. Many of you are trying to balance schoolwork, a part-time (or full-time) job, family obligations and social life. Here are some ways to manage her time in your busy schedule.

Why do people procrastinate?
  • Thinking motivation comes before action.
    Students who procrastinate are often waiting for that magical motivation to appear. When that motivation doesn’t appear, students get discouraged and just don’t get their work done. On the other hand, successful students know that action often comes before motivation. This means that you sometimes have to force yourself to start work on that calculus assignment even though you have little to no motivation to do it. After you get started, you are more likely to feel motivated by the fact that you have some work completed.
  • Fear of failure or perfectionism.
    Some students are so afraid of failure or falling short of perfect, they don’t even try. If they don’t try, then they don’t have to explain why they failed or why they made less than a perfect A. However, you can relax those standards by reminding yourself that no one is perfect, failing a class does not make you a failure as a person, and everyone has strengths and weaknesses.
  • Lack of rewards.
    Some students procrastinate because they lack rewards. Promising yourself a special treat, time spent with a friend, or some other fun activity can serve as a motivator to complete your class work.
How to avoid procrastination.
  • Five-Minute Plan:
    Many people with writer’s block stare at a blank computer screen because they lack the motivation but if they set out to commit at least 5 minutes to writing something then they will feel a sense of accomplishment. Dedicating yourself to only five minutes of school work is something we all can do. In addition to feeling a small sense of accomplishment, most students don’t stop after five minutes because they start to feel a sense of momentum.
  • Bits and Pieces Approach:
    The Bits and Pieces Approach takes a large assignment and breaks it into small manageable pieces. For example, let’s say you have a lengthy chapter to read for your English 101 class. Break the chapter into 3 or 4 sections. Read a section and then take a break. Come back to it again later.
  • Switch-Over Technique:
    The Switch-Over Technique helps you avoid getting bored by focusing on variety. Let’s say that you have Art History and Physics assignments. You like your art history class but are not as crazy about physics. Start out with Physics. When you get tired or physics, switch over to art history as a reward. You can go back and forth this way.
  • Self-Reward:
    It’s always good to have built-in rewards for completing an assignment. The reward doesn’t have to be anything pricey. It could just be watching your favorite television show.
  • Associate Procrastinated Task with a Daily Routine:
    Alternately, you may want to try associating the procrastinated task with a regular daily routine. If you eat breakfast every day, you might want to associate studying for a particular class with breakfast. You review your notes while eating breakfast every day (except weekends). Pretty soon, you will mentally associate breakfast with studying!
  • ABC method:
    After writing out your to-do list for the day, you can prioritize with the ABC method. Label each item on your to-do list as either A (high priority), B (medium priority) or C (low priority).
  • Set semester goals (fixed commitments like tests, meetings, holidays, vacations), weekly goals and daily goals:
    Now that you have a prioritized to-do list for daily goals, start on developing your prioritized list of weekly goals and semester goals.

Test Anxiety

Many students report that they experience test anxiety. For each person, the experience can be different. Some also find their anxiety to be more intense prior to the test and some find that their anxiety is most intense when they are taking the test.

Believe It Or Not, Anxiety Is Not All Bad.

We can appreciate having some anxiety about a test because it means we care enough that we want to do well. We realize it has some value in challenging us to learn about something new and to demonstrate that we have learned it.

The problem is that those with test anxiety end up with too much of a good thing. If you think about rating your anxiety on a 10-point scale where 10 is the highest score, if your anxiety is at a 10, this can make you feel overwhelmed. Some even liken it to stage fright, where they feel frozen during the exam. Therefore, our goal is to reduce anxiety to a level that energizes you but does not incapacitate you.

Tips for Coping with Test Anxiety

Proper preparation.

Preparation can help reduce test anxiety. Some people cope with their anxiety about a test by avoiding thinking about the test. This means they also avoid studying as much as they need to for the test. This results in increased anxiety when they actually take the test since they really are not prepared for it.

Don’t let the anxiety control you. Instead, plan to study more in order to build your confidence in the material. If you are social, then plan to study in groups. If you are not sure what to study, ask your professor. Some professors will tell you if they want you to focus more on studying their lecture notes or on studying mainly from the books. It would be frustrating if you missed hearing a professor say they were not going to test you on a specific section of the book and that was where you had spent your time studying.

Study smarter.

You are more likely to retain information if you study in smaller increments over more days as opposed to cramming and trying to learn it all in one all-nighter. It can also help to quiz yourself, which increases your ability to retain the information as well as helps to prepare you for the testing environment. You can make flash cards by hand or you can make them electronically with Practicing writing out essays also helps you to retain what you have learned.

Do it anxious.

When you do what makes you anxious, that can help reduce the anxiety you feel the next time you do it. When you avoid what makes you anxious, that can increase the anxiety you feel when faced with the same circumstance. Therefore, by just showing up and taking the test, you are starting the process of reducing your test anxiety. Even if you don’t make the grade you were hoping for, you can still celebrate that you showed up for the test. 

Be physically prepared for the exam.

Often people go into an exam when they are not at their best. Some show up after pulling an all-night cram for the exam and they are exhausted; they may have consumed excessive caffeine and unhealthy foods in the process. When they start the exam, they might feel that energy-crash.

The next time you take an exam, do what you can to feel physically well for the test. Plan to get enough sleep the night before. Even if you are anxious and have some sleep difficulties, at least let your body rest. Eat healthy foods that won’t cause your energy to spike and then crash. You might even find it helpful to take a walk outside before the test if that helps clear your mind of worry.

Pay attention to what you are telling yourself.

Many people are critical of themselves when they are preparing for a test and while they are taking the test. They tell themselves that they will fail or that they aren’t smart enough. Sometimes they catastrophize the possibility of failure and tell themselves that if they fail the test they will fail out of school. With internal criticism like that, it is not surprising that a person feels anxiety while they take the test.

The first step in changing your self-talk is to notice it. You may not have realized how negatively you were treating yourself. The next step is to catch yourself when it happens and to replace it with kindness. Tell yourself the kind and supportive statements that you would tell a friend if they were nervous about a test. Sometimes we are much kinder to others than we are to ourselves.

Take the test.

When you are taking a test, it can help to re-read the instructions in order to make sure that your anxiety did not cause you to miss something in the directions. Don’t let yourself get stuck on an answer you aren’t sure of. In the interest of time, you might do best to give it your best guess and put a star by it so you can go back to it later if you have more time after completing the other test items.

Do breathing exercises to help you reduce anxiety to a manageable level and to focus more clearly. One way to do this is to imagine slowly breathing in the fragrance of a flower and then, when you exhale, imagine blowing bubbles. The key is to take in long slow breaths through your nose and then to exhale slowly through your mouth. This can create physiological changes in your body that reduce anxiety and can increase your focus.


After the test, congratulate yourself for showing up to take the test. That is the first and most important step of conquering test anxiety.

Academic Suspension Recovery

Many who incur an academic suspension feel like they are the only one. You are not alone. It’s just that others may not talk about it. The following are factors to consider if this happens to you:

Don't be too hard on yourself.

Other factors such as finances and family difficulties can interfere. This does not mean you can’t be successful in college if you really want to pursue a degree.

Consider whether it makes sense to appeal the suspension.

While there is no guarantee the appeal will be granted, it does not hurt anything to try the appeal process.

Turn the suspension into an opportunity to review and reframe your career goals.

Find out what it would take to be successful in your chosen career and evaluate whether another career may be a better match for your interests. Job shadowing and information interviewing are great ways to get more information and to meet people in the field you are considering. Career Development and Community Engagement can provide more information on how to do this.

Clarify that you are pursuing the degree you want.

It is a lot easier to feel motivated if you really like the degree you are pursuing. Career Development and Community Engagement can help you to clarify this. If you find that you really don’t know what degree you want, but you know that a four-year degree will still make you marketable for many jobs, you might think about what would be the most efficient and practical track toward graduation. This can help you to avoid the Excess Hours Surcharge that universities are required to impose if a student exceeds taking a certain number of overall credit hours. Ask your advisor about which Interdisciplinary Studies degree could be attained most efficiently when they look at which fields you have taken most of your classes in. Ask about a General Studies degree.

If you determine that the traditional college route is what you really want, then take steps to increase your success for when you return to UWF.

Take a class or two at a community college or state college and work on changing any factors that were getting in your way from being academically successful before. You can investigate the Associate of Arts (AA) forgiveness policy. While rules can change and you always need to check with your advisors, this may help you to get back into a traditional 4-year Florida college and may mean that you would start with a new grade point average when you return.

Plan what will be different when you return to UWF.

This may mean spending time with a different group of people who will be more encouraging of you spending time studying. Plan to use the resources that UWF provides for you, such as the UWF Writing Lab, Math Lab, Counseling and Psychological Services, Career Development and Community Engagement and the Center for Academic Success. Meet with professors when you need to. Form study groups with other students so that you can all motivate each other. Set limits with others so that you can study 2 or 3 hours per week for every hour that you are in class. Study more than that if you need to.

Be kind to yourself.

Many successful people in this world had difficulties in college at some point in their lives. Many successful people attained their training through other avenues than the traditional four-year degree. Many people recover from academic setbacks and go on to earn their 4-year degree. Careers are not “one size fits all.” You are your own unique person and this is your time to find the path that will allow you to use the gifts you have to offer this world. They may be gifts you don’t even know yet that you possess. Take this time to explore and appreciate your talents.

If you feel you are struggling with academic success or any of the factors associated with it, please contact Counseling and Psychological Services at 850.474.2420 or visit the Center in Building 960, Suite 200A, Monday through Friday, 8 a.m.-5 p.m. to set up an appointment. 

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