College students face countless obstacles on their academic paths. In fact, according to the U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, only 59% of first-time, full-time undergraduate students graduate.

In a recent survey, we asked hundreds of instructors, “What do you think are the biggest challenges students face and their barriers to success?” Discover what your peers have to say and some tips to share with your students. Bear in mind that each student is unique and you can ask your students individually what their greatest concerns are. Tailor your advice accordingly.Biggest challenges to student success

We asked instructors to choose all of the above that may apply. The majority, 90%, of instructors believe the biggest challenge to student success is time and balancing priorities. Following that response are lack of knowledge, being unprepared, and social distractions — all at 66%. Less selected obstacles were not knowing where to get help (17%) and the material being too hard (6%).

Master time management

Students, how often do you find yourself waiting until the last minute to complete an assignment or having to drop important tasks entirely because you simply don’t have the time? This is a problem that can lead to getting behind in your work or even hurt your chances at college success.

Keeping a calendar of deadlines is critical for busy students. List the dates of your exams and schedule ample study time in the days prior. Once you’ve listed your obligations, remember to prioritize them so the most important tasks never get overlooked.

In his book, The Essential Guide to Becoming a Master Student, 4th Edition, author Dave Ellis give some suggestions for checkpoints and time management:

Ask yourself:

  • Am I making time for things that are important as well as urgent?
  • Am I making progress on my long-term goals?
  • Are my goals and daily activities truly aligned with my core values? (27)

Your answers to these questions can lead to new goals, schedules, projects, and to-do items.

Be prepared

Many instructors believe that simply being underprepared for class and exams is what trips many students up. Dave Ellis suggests:

Read, recite, and review the content of each course until you know it cold. Then review again. The idea is to create a margin of mastery that can survive even the most extreme feelings of fear. This technique—overlearning the material—is especially effective for problem-solving in math and science courses.

Do the assigned problems; then do more problems. Find another text and work similar problems. Make up your own problems and work those. When you pretest yourself in this way, the potential rewards are speed, accuracy, and greater confidence at exam time. (76)

Avoid social distractions

Determine how much time your various obligations will take from your week. Then leave any extra time for relaxation and socialization! If you’re not sure how much time your work will take, save yourself unneeded stress by getting it out of the way early. Be careful to avoid online social distractions as well. To get the most from online reading, disable or ignore phone notifications and tune out social media. Save them as a quick reward for completing your sections of reading.

Reference: Ellis, Dave. 2016. The Essential Guide to Becoming a Master Student, 4th EditionBoston: Cengage Learning.

How do you empower your students to overcome their biggest challenges? Let us know below.