The Most Difficult Thing about College, Ranked

Choose the thing you think is the most difficult!

Author: Gregor Krambs
Updated on May 22, 2024 06:26
Many students face challenges during their college years, which can vary widely from person to person. Understanding these difficulties can help institutions create better support systems and assist peers and parents in providing the right kind of help when needed. By ranking the most strenuous aspects of college life, we gain insights into common patterns and unique outliers. This live ranking serves as a dynamic archive of student experiences, factoring in diverse perspectives across various colleges. Each vote helps to adjust the rankings to reflect the current consensus on what makes college challenging. Your participation is crucial in shaping this ongoing conversation, helping to highlight areas that may need more attention or resources.

What Is the Most Difficult Thing about College?

  1. 1

    Time management

    Peter Drucker
    Juggling classes, assignments, extracurricular activities, and social life can be overwhelming and challenging. Without proper time management, students may struggle to balance their responsibilities and experience burnout.
    Time management is the ability to plan, organize, and prioritize tasks in order to make the most efficient use of time. It involves setting goals, creating schedules, and managing distractions to ensure productivity and maximize accomplishments.
    • Goal setting: The skill of defining clear objectives and identifying what needs to be accomplished.
    • Prioritization: The ability to determine the order of tasks and address the most important ones first.
    • Planning: Creating a schedule or action plan that outlines the necessary tasks and their deadlines.
    • Time allocation: Allocating appropriate amounts of time to each task based on its importance and complexity.
    • Organizational skills: Efficiently arranging tasks, resources, and information to enhance productivity and minimize confusion.
    Time management in other rankings
  2. 2

    Financial struggles

    College students
    College tuition, textbooks, and living expenses can add up quickly, leaving many students in debt. Financial struggles can also impact mental health and academic performance.
    Financial struggles in college refer to the difficulties students face in managing their finances while pursuing higher education. These struggles often arise due to the high cost of tuition, living expenses, textbooks, and other educational materials. Many students may have limited financial resources and rely on scholarships, grants, loans, or part-time jobs to cover their expenses. Unfortunately, it is not uncommon for students to encounter financial hardships, such as difficulty paying for essential needs, accruing debt, or being unable to afford extracurricular activities.
    • 1: High cost of tuition
    • 2: Expensive living expenses
    • 3: Costly textbooks and educational materials
    • 4: Limited financial resources
    • 5: Reliance on scholarships, grants, loans, or part-time jobs
  3. 3
    College courses are often more challenging than high school classes, requiring students to develop new study habits and critical thinking skills. The rigor of college coursework can be intimidating and overwhelming for some students.
    Academic rigor refers to the high level of intellectual challenge and demanding coursework that is expected in college education. It involves rigorous academic standards, extensive study, critical thinking, and continuous engagement in the learning process.
    • 1: Requires a high level of discipline and self-motivation
    • 2: Emphasizes deep comprehension and mastery of subjects
    • 3: Involves extensive research and analysis
    • 4: Includes complex problem-solving and critical thinking
    • 5: Demands time management and effective study strategies
  4. 4
    Many students leave home for the first time when they go to college, which can be emotionally challenging. Homesickness can affect mental health and academic performance.
    Homesickness is an emotional condition that often occurs when individuals are away from their home or familiar environment, particularly during their college years. It is characterized by feelings of longing, sadness, and a sense of detachment from one's usual surroundings.
    • Emotional response: Feelings of longing, sadness, and detachment.
    • Triggers: Being away from home or familiar surroundings, particularly during the college years.
    • Physical symptoms: Loss of appetite, difficulty sleeping, lack of energy, and general fatigue.
    • Duration: Varies from person to person, but can persist for several weeks or even months.
    • Causes: Separation from family, friends, and familiar environment, adjusting to a new routine and responsibilities.
  5. 5
    College can be a time of exploration and experimentation, but social pressure to fit in and conform can be intense. Students may feel pressure to drink, party, or engage in risky behaviors to fit in with their peers.
    Social pressure is a psychological phenomenon experienced by college students where they feel compelled to conform to certain social norms, expectations, and standards set by their peers. The fear of being judged or rejected by others can lead to a significant amount of stress and anxiety.
    • 1: It can arise from academic achievements and comparison with others
    • 2: It can be influenced by societal stereotypes and media portrayal of college life
    • 3: It can lead to students engaging in activities they are not genuinely interested in
    • 4: It can affect students' self-esteem and sense of belonging
    • 5: It can have a negative impact on mental health and overall well-being
  6. 6

    Balancing work and school

    College students
    Many college students work part-time or full-time jobs to support themselves financially. Balancing work and school can be difficult, and students may struggle to find time to study and complete assignments.
    Balancing work and school refers to the challenge of managing and dividing time and energy effectively between academic responsibilities and employment commitments while pursuing higher education. It requires juggling between coursework, exams, assignments, and job demands, all while maintaining a healthy work-life balance.
    • Time management: Effectively allocating time for studying, attending classes, and working.
    • Prioritization: Identifying and ranking tasks based on urgency and importance.
    • Organizational skills: Maintaining a structured approach to managing academic and work commitments.
    • Communication: Ensuring clear and open communication with professors, employers, and colleagues regarding scheduling conflicts and availability.
    • Flexibility: Adapting to changes in work and academic schedules while maintaining balance.
  7. 7

    Lack of support

    Some students may struggle to find support from family or friends during college. This lack of support can make it difficult to navigate the challenges of college life.
    The lack of support in care work refers to the absence or insufficient assistance, resources, and encouragement provided to caregivers and care workers in their demanding roles. This can be experienced in various forms such as low professional and emotional support, inadequate training and supervision, limited access to essential tools and materials, and inadequate compensation.
    • Impact on caregivers: Emotional and physical exhaustion, burnout, and stress.
    • Impact on care recipients: Potentially lower quality of care due to overwhelmed or unsupported caregivers.
    • Financial burden on caregivers: Additional expenses incurred due to lack of support and limited access to financial assistance.
    • Workplace conditions: Inadequate staffing levels, insufficient training and professional development opportunities.
    • Mental health implications: Increased risk of anxiety, depression, and other mental health issues among caregivers.
  8. 8
    College students are at risk for mental health issues such as depression, anxiety, and stress. These issues can impact academic performance and overall well-being.
    Mental health issues are a significant challenge for individuals managing diabetes. This refers to the psychological and emotional complications that can arise from living with a chronic condition like diabetes. It includes conditions such as anxiety, depression, diabetes distress, and eating disorders. Managing diabetes requires constant monitoring and adherence to a treatment plan, which can often lead to heightened stress, feelings of isolation, and a negative impact on overall mental well-being. Taking care of mental health is crucial for individuals with diabetes to ensure optimal diabetes management and overall quality of life.
    • Prevalence: Mental health issues are prevalent among individuals with diabetes, with studies indicating that up to 30-40% of people with diabetes experience some form of mental health concern.
    • High comorbidity: Mental health issues often coexist with diabetes and can influence glycemic control and disease outcomes.
    • Risk factors: Factors such as the duration of diabetes, poor glycemic control, diabetes-related complications, and a lack of social support can contribute to the development of mental health issues.
    • Impact on self-care: Mental health issues may lead to difficulties in managing diabetes self-care tasks, including medication adherence, blood glucose monitoring, and healthy lifestyle choices.
    • Bi-directional relationship: There is a bidirectional relationship between mental health and diabetes, as mental health issues can worsen diabetes management, and diabetes-related stress can impact mental well-being.
  9. 9
    Every college has its own unique culture, which may not be a good fit for every student. Students may feel out of place or isolated if they don’t fit in with the campus culture.
    Campus culture refers to the unique social environment and atmosphere of a college or university campus. It encompasses the values, traditions, beliefs, behaviors, and overall climate that shape the student experience. Campus culture influences all aspects of student life including academics, social interactions, extracurricular activities, and personal development.
    • Diversity and Inclusion: Embracing and celebrating diversity in all its forms, fostering an inclusive environment.
    • Traditions and Rituals: Establishing unique traditions and rituals that strengthen the sense of community and pride.
    • Academic Focus: A strong emphasis on academic achievement, intellectual growth, and critical thinking skills.
    • Student Organizations: A wide range of student-led clubs, organizations, and associations, providing opportunities for involvement.
    • Social Events: Organizing social events, parties, and gatherings to promote socialization and community building.
  10. 10
    College students may feel uncertain about their future careers and life plans. This uncertainty can be stressful and overwhelming, causing some students to struggle with anxiety and depression.
    Future uncertainty refers to the lack of clarity or predictability regarding one's future prospects and outcomes that arises during college. It is often characterized by the anxiety and stress associated with the unknowns of future career paths, financial stability, and personal development.
    • 1: Causes worry and anxiety
    • 2: Results from the unpredictability of the job market
    • 3: Involves uncertainty about career paths
    • 4: Can lead to difficulty in making long-term plans
    • 5: Includes concerns about financial stability

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Ranking factors for difficult thing

  1. Academic rigor
    The level of difficulty and complexity of the coursework, including critical thinking skills, problem-solving abilities, and workload, should be considered.
  2. Time management
    Balancing academics with extracurricular activities, social life, and potentially a job or internship can be a challenge for many students.
  3. Financial burden
    The cost of tuition, textbooks, housing, and living expenses can be stressful and impact a student's overall experience.
  4. Social and emotional adjustment
    The transition from high school to college can be overwhelming, as students adjust to a new environment, make new friends, and experience increased independence and personal responsibility.
  5. Mental health and well-being
    College students may experience increased stress, anxiety, and depression, which can interfere with their ability to succeed academically and socially.
  6. Navigating campus resources
    Students may struggle with accessing the necessary resources to support their academics, such as tutoring centers, study groups, or counseling services.
  7. Maintaining a healthy lifestyle
    Eating well, exercising regularly, and getting enough sleep can be difficult for busy college students, impacting their overall health and well-being.
  8. Choosing and planning for a career
    Making decisions about majors, minors, internships, and future career paths can be daunting.
  9. Adapting to different teaching styles
    Students must often adapt to new instructional methods, such as large lecture classes, discussion-based seminars, or online learning.
  10. Developing and maintaining supportive relationships
    Building connections and support networks with peers, professors, and advisors is essential for students' success in college.

About this ranking

This is a community-based ranking of the most difficult thing about college. We do our best to provide fair voting, but it is not intended to be exhaustive. So if you notice something or thing is missing, feel free to help improve the ranking!


  • 162 votes
  • 10 ranked items

Voting Rules

A participant may cast an up or down vote for each thing once every 24 hours. The rank of each thing is then calculated from the weighted sum of all up and down votes.

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More information on most difficult thing about college

College can be a challenging and rewarding experience, but it also comes with its own set of difficulties. Many students struggle with the transition to a new environment, the workload, and the pressure to succeed. In this article, we explore the most difficult aspects of college, as identified by students themselves through our polls and rankings. From balancing academics and social life to dealing with financial stress, we delve into the common challenges faced by college students and offer insights and advice for navigating them.

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