Tackling college-level schoolwork

If there’s one thing that every high school senior has heard by the time they graduate, it’s that college is a lot harder than high school.

As a current student at Loyola, I can definitely attest to the fact that college classes are challenging. The expectations for your work are also different—and higher—than they were in high school.

The good news? I’ve never felt completely overwhelmed by the sheer amount of work that I had to do or the difficulty of the content. Slightly overwhelmed? Definitely. But it’s nothing I couldn’t handle, given the right support.

And you can—and will—handle it, too. After all, you wouldn’t be here if you couldn’t.

An overhead view of a student studying with a notebook, laptop, and other notes

You’ll do more than handle it. You’ll soar.

The key to getting all of this done without getting completely overwhelmed is to know the resources available to you—and to plan and manage your time accordingly.

Sometimes the challenges in college-level work can be attributed to different teaching styles, a larger workload, or just the number of distractions at college. After all, for most first-year college students, this is the first time they are also physically living in their learning environment.

In addition, the kind of work assigned in college is different than high school homework—for a couple of reasons…

For one, your professors probably won’t remind you about their expectations and the work they require during every class, especially if it’s listed in the syllabus. (Your syllabus for most courses will include a list of expectations, the grading scale, required course materials and additional resources, and details for major projects and assignments throughout the semester). Sometimes, a course schedule falls behind the syllabus schedule, but many of my professors just work off of their syllabus and expect me and my peers to have our readings and assignments completed on time.

It can take a couple weeks or months to get used to this, but it soon becomes second nature. You should feel empowered to create your own schedule for each course that allows you to keep up with reading and complete assignments on time.

The other reason college-level academics often feel harder than high school work is due to volume. There is simply a lot more work assigned for each class—with the expectation that you complete it before you meet.

Unlike in high school, you won’t have each class every day. Loyola operates on a Monday/Wednesday/Friday and Tuesday/Thursday schedule. So you might have a theology course only on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays, and a language class on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Since each course only meets two or three times a week (and for some courses, only once!), professors expect you to do more work outside of the classroom.

An example class schedule

The recommended time to spend preparing for each course meeting is three hours per one hour spent in class. Each Loyola course meets for about two and a half hours per week, so on average, each student is supposed to spend about seven and a half hours preparing for ONE COURSE.

No worries, though—you will soon find workload will vary among courses, and even from week to week. Some professors may assign as few as two pages of reading for the week, but it’s not unheard of for a professor to assign over 50 pages of reading for one class (which meets twice weekly).

Here are a few things to keep in mind during your first semester of college—and really throughout, depending on your courses, your schedule, and the academic disciplines that you personally find more challenging than others…


Office Hours

The best thing about college is the fact that professors are here to help you. This is especially true at Loyola.(It’s unusual if I don’t go to office hours or talk to each professor after class at some point. And usually more than once.)

Office hours are a designated time (listed for you right on the course syllabus) where each professor is available in his or her office to help any student that wanders in. It’s definitely intimidating walking into a professor’s office, but I have never walked away from visiting a professor more confused about an assignment or something else from class.

The other thing to note: Even just going will show your professor that you care about your performance, that you take your work seriously, and you are committed to finding ways to make your midterm paper better or understand the material for a test—and that goes a long way and says a lot about you, and they take notice!


Peer Tutoring

At Loyola, any student can sign up for tutoring at the Study. Whether it’s help with homework, a general concept or subject, or you need to review for an exam, the capable peer tutors at The Study can help you to improve in a course and feel more confident in class. This service is free to all Loyola students, and it’s a good alternative to office hours (although not a replacement), since tutoring sessions are one-on-one and therefore tailored to your individual needs. The hidden benefit in peer tutoring is networking: another opportunity to meet classmates and fellow Loyola students.

The Study also offers Academic Study Skills Workshops throughout the year for students to learn everything from more effective notetaking to study skills for various kinds of tests and how to format references according to different styles for research papers.

Need help specifically in writing? Loyola’s Writing Center is dedicated to helping students. Located on the first floor of Maryland Hall, student tutors (and writing faculty) are available in person by appointment or even online to proofread, edit, and help you hone your craft. Do not wait until senior year to visit this cozy, well-lit space full of resources and people whose goal it is to make your writing stronger (they also have coffee and snacks!).


Time Management

I know that I, as well as almost all of my peers, struggle with time management. This may be the plight of the college student—but it’s very real here at Loyola, mainly because the members of our community are involved in many things, including sports, teams, clubs, organizations, and social lives. You should know early on that if you struggle with managing your time wisely, there are resources available to help you. The Study (what a wonderful place!) offers workshops on improving time management and organization, as well as other workshops for success that help prepare students for the increased workload that comes with college.

First-year students will also have the benefit of learning about time management and methods for organizing their work and their schedules for success through their Messina classes.


Stress Management

There are plenty of stressors in college, and academics tend to be among the major ones. Greyhounds have access to free counseling and other services through Loyola’s Counseling Center.

One of the services that the Counseling Center offers is a stress management course that helps students recognize and manage stress in their daily lives. They also offer resources for meditation and relaxation to help students cope with the always-stressful times of the year, like midterms and final exams (and if meditation is your thing, Loyola also has a student Zen Meditation Club).


Wellness Resources

Another fantastic way to manage stress is through yoga or group exercise. Classes are offered at the FAC as well as at a number of yoga studios very close to Loyola’s campus (and nearly all offer a student discount—and many are free).

Walking, hiking, and other activities indoors and out help you manage stress, too, and there are plenty of free, convenient opportunities for those as well.

The office of student activities also hosts programs throughout the year that provide a perfect study break. They are on campus, so students can close the books for an hour or two, socialize, enjoy a meal or music or an activity, and get back to work.


Student Support

Students will find support and so many more services offered by various departments across Loyola’s campus, including services from Disability and Accessibility Services, ALANA Services, the Counseling Center, and Campus Ministry. Walk into an office, reach out to a professor, or ask a fellow student, and I guarantee you will always find someone at Loyola who wants to help you.

The transition from high school to college can be daunting, and it takes a little time, some patience with yourself, and perseverance to acclimate to the level of academic work that students encounter at Loyola.

All you need to do is figure out what works for you, set a schedule for yourself, and get it done. Before you know it, you’ll look back on all that you’ve accomplished and you’ll be impressed by how much you did that you never knew you were capable of doing before.