For some of us school is not an easy breeze and we may sometimes struggle with it. This may cloud our perception of school and our ability; it might make us believe that school is not for us, that it is too difficult or that we are not smart enough to do well. We may be crushed by the thought that we are destined to fail at school and that our experience of it is doomed to be full of misery. Of course, none of this is true because, with the appropriate help, any one of us can realise our academic potential.

Don’t panic

If you do start to think that you’re struggling with school, it is important to not panic or blame yourself. Remember that everybody struggles at some point or at something and the fact that you find it difficult is not necessarily an accurate reflection of your own intellectual ability. Everybody learns differently and your struggle might reflect that your current method for learning might not be best suited to you. How you learn and how your own brain process new information is often not a conscious choice, so don’t be too hard on yourself if other people’s methods don’t work for you.

Find the root cause

Before you attempt to seek solutions, it’s a good idea to try to identify what the root of the problem is. Perhaps you learn things at a different pace and your class is going too fast for your needs. Are you able to ask if things can be slowed down or repeated for you? Are you comfortable asking for a particular point to be explained to you? Consider if you might be more comfortable in another class or have a conversation with your teacher about the pace of the lesson. If you are struggling with a particular subject, try to identify which aspect of the subject is causing you trouble. It is usually not the case that you find EVERYTHING in the subject difficult and just giving up and saying that you do is not productive. Pinpoint which aspect you don’t understand. It might be that you don’t understand a fundamental concept which may be having a cascading effect on the following topics, making you believe that you don’t understand the whole subject.

Think about how you’re managing your time

Perhaps, the struggle is coming from the amount of work you have instead of the actual content of the work. If this is the case, and you’re suffering from a high workload then speak with your school about coordination strategies that they could adapt to help you manage your workload better. Alternatively, if you find yourself struggling because of your own time management abilities then this may be something that you will have to work towards improving.

It is also worth noting whether the difficulty comes as a result of having started a higher key stage of learning. If you find yourself struggling at the start of a new academic year in a higher level then remember that this is to be expected because you will be learning more challenging material and the skills to excel and navigate this new material might not yet be fully developed. As you progress through the year and learn more content you will start to piece things together and things will start to click and make more sense.

Take action

Once you’ve identified the root of the problem, then you can figure out the best course of action to take and when to take this action. If the struggle came as a result of having started a new school year then it might be worthwhile waiting a month or so to allow yourself to acclimatise to the challenge of the new tasks. If the cause is more immediate, like a fast-paced class or an overwhelming workload, then seek help early, preferably within the first few weeks of identifying the problem. If you leave the problem to fester for too long then you risk being too late to effectively combat it – you can also be faced with the possibility that the problem will accumulate and affect your other subjects. Avoid this and seek help early!

Ask for study help

Seeking extra tuition might be one solution if you find yourself struggling with the content or pace of the class. Having someone sit and talk you through the problems one-on-one might help you to get a better understanding of the topic. It is also an opportunity to ask questions and iron out any misconceptions in your understanding.

Consider joining an after or before school club dedicated to providing extra help in your subject or asking one of your classmates if you can study with them. Asking one of your peers to talk you through a particular problem is very effective because they are likely to have recently come across similar obstacles and have a fresher perspective on how to navigate through it.

And, don’t forget, if you are struggling, you are not the only one. Anyone can have a tough time understanding things – it’s how and when you take action to change things that make the difference.