From the academics to the social scene, it is difficult to imagine a more exciting time than college. However, the transition is often challenging as well. College students fail classes for a variety of reasons, many of which are largely within the control of the students. In some cases, the particular way a professor grades can impact a student. For instance, some instructors grade more heavily on homework, papers and projects while others put a lot of weight on tests. However, regardless of the various assessment methods, college students benefit by being cognizant of common causes of academic failure.
Some of the most common reasons that college students fail classes include poor preparation for the changes that come with attending a university, spotty attendance of college classes, inadequate study habits and less than ideal time management skills.
Lack of Preparedness
The first year of college is often a major transition. Students leaving home for the first time must balance work, school and other activities as well as make the majority of their life decisions independently. In some cases, students aren't mentally, emotionally or academically ready to handle the demands of college classes. Some lack the necessary motivation and work ethic. Others struggle with the emotional difficulties that come with being on their own. Colleges often offer personal counselors who work specifically with students trying to balance academics with personal life challenges. Most colleges also have peer tutoring services, study skills courses and other opportunities for struggling students to utilize.
One of the surest ways to fail a class is to consistently miss it. Some courses include grading components, such as in-class activities, pop quizzes and team projects that can't be made up. In many instances, the bigger issue is that you are out of the loop in a number of ways. Missing classes can lead to missed homework assignments, papers and projects, especially if you don't check in regularly with the instructor. You also miss critical lecture and discussions of topics and content, which can lead to poor performance on tests.
Inadequate Study Habits
The study habits necessary to pass college classes are often a step up from what some students are used to in high school. Even students who generally succeed in high school can fail because they don't enter college with the requisite study skills. Typically, to perform well, you have to spend dedicated time taking notes in class, reading the materials, reviewing content and preparing for tests. You need to be well-organized to keep track of study requirements and deadlines for multiple classes and make regular trips to the school library to use quiet space for studying, away from busy dorms, apartments or campus events.
Faulty Time Management Skills
Poor time management is an umbrella problem with several related issues that can lead to course failure. Students who spend too much time playing games, watching television or hanging out with friends don't put enough time into completing work. Given the common need to balance coursework, labs, extracurricular activities and jobs, lack of planning can put students in a major bind. Procrastination sometimes leads to incomplete or deficient performance on homework, papers and projects. In some cases, students may plagiarize papers to make up for lack of planning and effort, which often means automatically failing the course and can even result in dismissal from the school.
Neil Kokemuller has been an active business, finance and education writer and content media website developer since 2007. He has been a college marketing professor since 2004. Kokemuller has additional professional experience in marketing, retail and small business. He holds a Master of Business Administration from Iowa State University.