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5 Things That Can Derail Your College Success

July 7, 2015
5 things that can derail your college success

Go to college or get a job. Not sure about you, but I always chose to attend college when I played the Game of Life as a child. $40,000 in the bank. Two or three turns later. And I miraculously had a high paying job. Yeah. Real life doesn’t work like that.

In real life college graduation is not assured when you begin to pursue higher education. In fact, 44% of American students who enter college never receive their diploma. And graduation is not as simple as spinning the wheel a few times. College graduates need to fight to graduate by making good decisions every step of the way. Here are five possible problems that could make or break your college education.

Mismanaging Free Time

Freedom! Freedom from parent supervision. Freedom from all of the adults who treated you like a snot nosed brat in high school. The problem? College students aren’t as free as they sometimes act.

Classes must be attended, assignments completed, and tests passed. According to an article on College Parents of America, students spend around fifteen hours in class each week, and should devote at least two to three hours studying for each hour they spend in class.

The problem? Many students fall prey to all of the unmonitored fun they can have. You want to go to that frat party or binge watch Game of Thrones? Why not make the ability to attend the party or watch another episode a reward for completing your assignments?

Sleep Deprived

Many students, unwilling (or unable) to forego all of the activities they desire, spend their college career in a sleepy daze. A 2014 study, Causes and Consequences of Sleepiness Among College Students, by Shelley D Hershner and Ronald D Chervin, found that continual sleepiness throughout college “can result in lower grade point averages, increased risk of academic failure, [and] compromised learning.”

The moral of this story? Sleep in a little. Take cat naps. And start studying for exams a week in advance. Twenty-four hour cram sessions, are not as efficient as they might seem.


Students aren’t stupid. They understand to some degree that they cannot function effectively without sleep. Energy drinks, caffeine, and various other stimulants are one common answer that many college students use to cure their fatigue.

Yes, some stimulants are legal; and yes, they can help in small doses, but they should never be used as a long-term solution. The negative health effects can be just as detrimental to your academic success as sleep deprivation. Drowning yourself in Red Bull, Monsters, Red Bulls, and even Coca-Cola could lead to heart attacks, addiction, caffeine withdrawal, jitters, and vomiting.

Did I mention that the drinks could potentially lead to ulcers?

You’ll have to decide yourself, but in my opinion, the health, finance, and academic risk are not worth the ability to crank a few more hours out of the day.

Alternate Course Requirements

Never sign up for a course or program without discovering the nitty-gritty details. Dr. RuthAnn Althaus, a program coordinator at one of Ohio University’s master programs, warns students that they should double check that the online program they are applying for does not require students fulfill “campus visits” or are held to any “attendance obligations.” On-campus programs can have similar requirements. Here are a few to be on the lookout for:

  • Internships
  • Volunteer work
  • Workshops
  • Labs

You can usually discover these side requirements in either the course description or in the introductory syllabus. If you need the class to graduate, you might ask the professor to provide an alternative assignment you can complete. Just remember to make the request early, so you will be able to drop the class without academic repercussions.

Lack of Funds

The Game of Life got one thing right: college is expensive. Right off the bat, players take out a $40,000 loan to cover their education. The price of college is pretty close to modern day tuition. As of the 2013-2014 school years, the average tuition of a 4-year public college degree was $40,917 (Although some students, depending on the university, are paying far more.) What isn’t accurate is how easy it is to repay the loan. A loan of $40,000 dollars might take decades to repay. Decades. Is it any wonder that many students run when they realize the student loans are piling up? Don’t run yet. Let’s spend a bit of time exploring a few alternate choices.

  • Check to see if your current or potential university has any government grants. (Ohio University’s nursing program offers a federal grant to help unemployed nurses working in underserved areas.)
  • Pursue scholarships offered by your school and offered by various other institutions and companies.
  • Apply for a work study or locate a part-time job.
  • Locate an employer who will pay for your education.

The game of college life is a long and arduous task. Successful completion of your degree will require hard work, perseverance, lots of money, and the ability to make the right choices. Some students may be able to make it to the finish line by making all the wrong choice, but why take the chance you might fail. After all, the only thing worse than sinking 40K into college is sinking thousands of dollars into a college program you never complete.

Written by Samantha Stauf. Samantha Stauf is a marketing specialist who enjoys writing career, business, and education articles. You can find her at Twitter at @samstauf.

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