Ways To Support A Struggling College Student

student with mountain of books

It’s not uncommon for college students to experience distress—with their grades, with their emotions, and sometimes, even with their finances (to the point of needing to call a Denver shoplifting defense attorney to help them navigate their ill-conceived legal transgressions!). Don’t let it get to that point with the down-and-out college student in your life—follow some of these tips, and show them the support they need!

While you might not know all the details at first, you’ve probably got a feeling, and it’s telling you that something is amiss. Your first reaction might be to try to jump into action, but a far more prudent course is to take a step back and ask a few questions.

After all, you don’t yet know what your college student is struggling with, and there are multiple ways in which you might be able to render aid. So, your first questions should be those that will help you define the problem you’re facing and understand how to tackle it.

Is your student having financial difficulty? Are their grades starting to falter? Are they experiencing an emotional crisis? What are the underlying causes that led to this situation? Is this a situation where your help will be useful? Is there an immediate need for action? Would it be more prudent to delay action until later? All of these questions will shape your response, so be sure to ask them so you can drill down to the most important details.

Once you understand the issue, you can work with your struggling college student to help. Let’s say, for instance, that after some questioning you learn that your college student’s grades are faltering. In this instance, you might suggest several strategies to correct the situation: 

  • You can urge your student to speak with their professor
  • You can recommend that they talk to an academic advisor
  • You can help them train study skills or work on specific course material
  • You can aid them with scheduling so they have more time to complete their work
  • If all else fails, you can encourage them to retake a course

And what if your student is feeling emotionally distraught or homesick? In this case, you might try some indirect support that will help them process their feelings:

  • You should listen to their concerns, acknowledge their feelings, and validate that both are real
  • Suggest that they also speak with trained personnel at the college—Resident Assistants, Orientation Leaders, Counselors, etc.—who are trained to deal with students experiencing homesickness
  • Help them contextualize their negative experiences and remind them of equally important positive experiences
  • Urge them to take some time for themselves so they can recharge
  • Reassure them that they are capable of handling the situation and that you are there to help support them through that

These are hypotheticals, of course, but the overall principle should now be clear: each path through collegiate struggles is different, so the ways in which you show support may have to change to best fit the situation. There’s no one-size-fits-all solution for helping out a college student in need, but if you’re willing to listen and cooperate, you can often decide upon a course of action that will help them reach a desired resolution.