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How to Help a College Student Struggling With Academics

by Linda Emma, studioD

Parents sometimes feel helpless when their college students confess to academic struggles. They want to help their student, but are not professional tutors and often do not know college-level content. However, parents need not be academic experts to guide their student in a positive direction and give him the tools for success. Good time management and organizational habits are invaluable life skills that transfer well to college life. And suggesting who a student can ask for help can do more for his academic success than trying to edit papers and assignments long distance.

Strategies for College Success

Teach your student the fundamentals of healthy living. Eating right, getting enough sleep and exercise and being reasonable about partying are important for maintaining good health. Students who are sick miss class and fall behind, and sometimes find they just cannot catch up.

Day planners are an important organizational tool for college students.

Provide the student with organizational tools such as day planners and calendars and teach her how to use them to set and maintain realistic schedules. Many students use smartphone apps to set reminders for important classes, assignments and due dates. Students often struggle academically because they do not allot enough time to complete assignments. Organization is imperative to achieving good grades.

Urge your student to attend every class. A surefire way to get bad grades in college is to cut classes. Students not only miss course content; they may miss out on study tips and extra credit opportunities. Most professors factor class participation in their final grading.

Encourage your student to attend help sessions conducted by professors and teaching assistants. Help sessions allow students to ask questions and receive individual attention. Students should also seek out professors during office hours if they have questions about content or an assignment.

Suggest that your student form study groups for individual classes. Working through concepts and materials with peers can help clarify content. Success in these groups can also build a student’s confidence and make him less afraid to speak up in class. Additionally, if the whole group doesn’t understand content, it’s easier to approach the professor as a unified force.

Use the college’s student handbook to show your student the breadth of academic resources available to her. Most colleges have a wide array from which to choose: computer and business labs, writing centers, and professional and peer tutoring centers. College librarians are also excellent at helping students with research projects. Asking for help is an important component to college success.

Items you will need
  •  Student handbook
  •  Day planner


  • Share with your student about a time when you sought the assistance of a supervisor or topic expert in your own field.


  • Resist the urge to be too actively involved in your student's college life. Natural consequences -- even if they mean poor grades -- are the way students learn most effectively.

About the Author

Linda Emma is a long-standing writer for gardening sites. She is also a digital marketing professional and published author with more than 20 years experience in media and business. She works as a content creator and professional writing tutor at a private New England college. She holds a bachelor's degree in journalism from Northeastern University.

Photo Credits

  • Jupiterimages/Creatas/Getty Images