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What should a student do if their classes are getting too hard?

As students transition between middle school and high school (or high school to college), they might notice that the material is getting harder to understand. What suggestions do you have?

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Shaye’s Answer

Hi, I would start off saying this is totally normal and I'm sure a lot of other students have similar experiences. I would first suggest to be more open if the class materials are getting too difficult, such as asking more questions in class, discussing amongst peers, build study groups, and/or asking the teacher questions 1-1 after class. Secondly, the student should spend more time after class (ex. at home) to digest the materials and pre-read the next day or even next week's material before it is taught in class. Pre-reading has worked really well for me and lessens the stress I would have experienced for not understanding the materials first taught. Lastly if the student is really struggling I would recommend hiring a tutor and commit the time and energy to it.
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Michel’s Answer

Transition between levels can be very difficult. I believe admitting difficulty is one of the hardest aspects especially if we are used to doing extremely well in a subject and find ourselves struggling. If you are having difficulty explaining it to the teacher and seeing if you are missing the main ideas because you are trying to grab low yield topics can be helpful. Study patterns will change depending on the class we take. In biology you may be able to make flashcards where as when you are studying math you need to practice. So understanding the differences required for studying for different classes I believe is extremely pivotal to success in school.
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Wilson’s Answer

I would form a study group with peers so you can have more heads to figure out difficult topics.
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Matthew’s Answer

Agree with the folks above. It's not only completely normal to experience this kind of transition, your child is not the only one experiencing it! We tend to feel like it's only happening to us but it definitely is not. Don't underestimate the social changes as well, no longer a big fish in a little pond, you're now the little fish.
I would add to some of the above suggestions that keep in touch with classmates daily. My sons would work a lot with their friends (I guess cell phones have their benefits!) to work through more difficult homework assignments instead of going it alone. Collaboration is not cheating, it's how we all work as adults!
Also, one change is if schedules allow it, when they walk in the door, knock out something for homework. Their brain is still in school mode and often a simple assignment or two can be knocked out in short order and not hang over their heads the entire day.
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Greg’s Answer

I agree with all the other advise. I returned to college after some years and was on a steep learning curve as I had to re-learn what I had been taught in High School. To be completely honest, I wasn't the best student in High School and did not want to "waste" my time with more learning at the college level. After some years I realized that I needed a college education to get into the electronics / telecommunications industry, and land a good paying job.
My best advice is to set a study time, with no interruptions and stick to that time. As part of that study time, look at the outline for tomorrow's lesson and read through it or practice the problems. This way in that class you have an idea of what will be covered, what notes to take and most importantly, what questions to ask. With this method I was able to intensely concentrate on what I didn't fully understand from the pre-study, ask direct questions regarding that area, and take concise notes to support what I was having trouble understanding. This method helped me feel much more comfortable in class, I didn't have to write as many notes, and was able to concentrate on what the instructor was trying to communicate.
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Ramayya’s Answer

Lots of good advice already from others. I want to re-iterate that feeling the stress in college is normal. Even students getting consistent A grades are worried and complaining about how hard every subject is. The difference is that they do not give up. As Greg mentioned above, having a college degree can make a big difference in getting a well paid job. Motivation is the key to success. It will allow you to stay focused and find that quiet time every day to focus on studies. Prepare for your classes ahead of time, and once the class is over, find time to go over the material on the same day or within 1-3 days. Prepare notes and ask questions about things you didn't understand. One big advice I would give when it comes to clarifying your doubts is to not be afraid to ask for help. Ask your teachers, teaching assistants, other students, or anyone else who can help. There is no harm if someone says no. Knock on every door until you find what you need. Not asking and taking all the pressure on your own is what leads to stress and potential failure. Remember you are not alone when it comes to the struggle with learning new things. Others may have had prior learning or readily available help, but you can do it equally well if you set your mind to it.
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Richard J (Rich)’s Answer

I will keep this simple. As with any major changes in life (changing schools, civilian to military, changing jobs) - go with the knowledge that there will be a learning curve, go with the confidence that "I can do this," keep an open mind to learn and adapt, and realize that you are qualified as the millions of youth that have gone before you such that if they can transition - so can I. There is always the fear of the unknown - but that usually passes quickly
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Leslie’s Answer

Hi there! Recognizing that classes are becoming more challenging early on is a good thing. It is important to review the syllabus for each course to ensure you understand what is expected. College can be overwhelming, but if you don't know what is expected of you, it can be even more confusing. There are support groups for students such as tutoring and work study programs. Students who exceed in specific subjects are usually those working the programs offering tutorial services. Sign up for these services at your earliest convenience. Take notes in class and review the notes. Connect with another student and discuss your challenges, ask questions. Other students may also feel that the courses are difficult. You two can brainstorm and help each other to get a better understanding by working together.

If you have gotten too far into the class and have found that you can't recover, you may want to drop the class (if it's not too late) and try again at a later time. You can also speak to the counselor to explore other options such as a similar course (same credits) but not as challenging. Hope this helps. Good luck!
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Anna’s Answer

I love this question and all the answers above. I absolutely agree, recognizing that classes are getting harder early on is absolutely essential.

During my high school and college years, I relied heavily on my teachers, after school activities with my peers for example study groups, office hours with professors and their TAs. I used to observe other kids in my class and see who understands the material and ask them for help as well.

Before taking a class, I would try to meet up with a school advisor to see if taking certain classes is aligned with my goals, career choice and interests.

I would always speak up and express my concerns. I would try to exhaust every possible Avenue before considering dropping the class.
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Jaya Mareena’s Answer

Hi,

Lets take it as a stage where we are learning new things in life. Below are the ways to make the learning lighter:

1. Clear the doubts as we learn each topic so that the doubts wont get piled up.
2. Review the learning each day so that at the end it would feel much easier.
3. Share your learnings with your peers and make sure to get any missing portions clarified.
4. Make sure no ditractions happen during the study time.
5. Find time for leisure after the homework is done
6. Try to put your toughest job in in your most active time of your brain.
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Hadi’s Answer

Try breaking down the subjects into manageable chunks. Prioritize them and start with the most important ones.
This will give you confidence and sense of accomplishment. leverage other resources than text books.
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Brian’s Answer

It's definitely a grueling feeling to struggle with academic transition. If for example you go from a small high school to a college in a bigger city, it can be easy to feel isolated amongst others who appear to 'know what they're doing'. It's important to remember a few key things here:

1) It is very unlikely you're the only one struggling; you are not alone
2) The professors and administration have a vested interest in seeing you graduate and...
3) Typically, there are various programs and office hours available for getting help in a particular course

Most importantly try not to compare your performance to others! You may struggle in some courses, but you will also excel in others that other students do poorly.
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James’s Answer

This is a common trend and I have a good suggestion for you. Set aside some time where you don't think about tests or assignments. Just read the class materials. Get familiar with the subjects you're studying. It will give you more confidence when you take on those daunting assignments and tests.
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Colleen’s Answer

As soon as you realize it, reach out for help. Not asking for help will only make it harder to catch up. And don't give up. Everyone learns differently. It is not necessarily you. When I was in high school I had an algebra teacher that was very fast-paced. Even his speech was hard to understand because he spoke so fast. I tried to request changing instructors without luck. I had a private tutor for a while, but when I finally caught on to a concept he accused me of having the tutor do my work. It was humiliating and I gave up hope. I repeated the same class with a different instructor the following year and received an A. But my GPA already suffered. Hopefully, you will have better success advocating for yourself. The sooner you start the better.
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Vamshee’s Answer

lot of good advice and perspective from others.

Subjects and curriculum get harder as one move from middle school to high school to college.
Plan to spend more time learning the concepts, build the foundation so you understand the subject and do better at exams.
my daughter used to spend half hour or less over all to complete her homework until she was 5th grade...middle school and high school subject demands more time for study and practice. She spends 2-3 hours every day now as she is in 7th grade.
She attends after school one on one with her teachers if she needs help with topics, also her school offers peer tutoring which is a good resource.

Khan academy is a free online resource to learn and practice the subjects by grade (K to 12 or college).

https://www.khanacademy.org/

School/college counselors are important part of the education environment. They are responsible for guiding and supporting students through challenging situations like adjusting to a new school or applying for college.

Please reach out to school/college counselors for help.


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Chirayu’s Answer

Starting high school or college is a major transition in a student's life. You should put things into perspective as it may seem hard and impossible to complete course work and that is true in some cases because as you move in to high school or college, the amount of material increases, there are more projects, more deadlines and so on. In high school teachers have after school hours for homework help and you have your peers and in college there are teaching assistants (TAs) and professors, typically available during office hours and can help to guide you through your work. Time management is a key skill to improve upon in high school and college especially so you can complete all your work and not miss deadlines.
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Gloria’s Answer

When I was in high school, I think that the challenge for me was placing too much emphasis on the advanced classes. This was back in the day when the advanced classes didn't weigh more than other classes in your grade point average. I imagine it is now even more of a problem for students who focus too much on GPA. I got a bad grade in an advanced class when I should not have been there. It was even a class that I didn't really need. (I had reached all of my Math requirement so I didn't even need to take an advanced math class.) I also was eligible for an advanced English class my senior year. My journalism class was at the same time and I again opted for the advanced credit for my school record. Thankfully, my journalism teacher and new English spoke and they both realized that my goal to become a journalist benefitted from me taking the non-advanced class. I tell that story to say that I think that sometimes the source of thinking a class is too hard is often because they are reaching higher than they are capable. So moving back from an advanced class would work. This would require some focus from a school counselor or even just observant teachers to help determine what they should be taking for both their skill level and interest.

After that, I think that the most important thing that a student can do is learn about what support mechanisms are in place for their school. Many schools depend on overworked teachers to spot a student having challenges. School is hard and the teacher may have several students struggling. Is there tutoring or a student study group that this person could access? This knowledge would help reduce the shame of not understanding a topic as well as others around them.

Lastly, as a school, the administration needs to make sure that they have competent teachers. I had and still hear about teachers who shouldn't be teaching. It looks like the struggle is with the student, however the teacher is the problem. Polling students, especially those in classes with high low performance, may show a poor teacher in the school.

Gloria