Having Difficulty in a Course?

Complete a quick self-assessment

Students have difficulty in class for many reasons

Academic difficulty:

  • insufficient time spent studying
  • weak study skills
  • ineffective time management
  • inadequate background for the class
  • too many classes

Personal concerns:

  • relationship issues
  • roommate problems
  • financial worries
  • homesickness
  • family emergency
  • competing demands on your time (work, childcare)


  • Physical, mental, emotional
  • short-term or ongoing

Signs you may need help: self-assessment

If you wait until you have received your mark for your first significant test or assignment to consider how you are doing in a course, it may be too late to improve how you are doing or drop the course. Luckily, there are signs other than marks that can help you assess your progress.

Read through the following table and keep track of the statements you agree with in the Managing column and in the Having Difficulty column.

  Managing Having Difficulty
Lectures and Presentations in Class You feel that you have understood most of the concepts presented You have trouble following lectures. You walk out of class feeling confused.
Questions asked in class You understand the questions others ask and follow the explanations. The questions others ask frequently mystify you.
Understanding Assigned Readings You can work through them, even if there is some difficulty. For the most part they are over your head.
Keeping up on readings You have no trouble keeping up (most of the time, anyway). You are falling behind.
Making Connections You see the relationship between the readings and the in-class content. Often it all seems a blur.
Assignments You understand them, even if they are difficult. You are not sure what you're supposed to do or how you're supposed to be doing it.
How you're feeling
in class or when studying Challenged, sometimes unsure, sometimes engaged, sometimes enthused. Anxious and uncertain.

If you agree with one or more statements in the Having Difficulty column, you should seek help.

Where to go for help

  • Contact the Student Health & Wellness Centre or Academic Advising if personal problems, such as a family crisis or relationship issues, are interfering with your ability to focus, or if you just need help to sort out what to do.
  • Speak to your professors. They may have some suggestions or resources that will help you.
  • Check the course drop deadlines listed under Important Dates. Put the dates in a prominent place where you’ll be able to find them (your iPod, cell phone, fridge). Remember, you have until the Drop with a "W" deadline to drop a course.