5 Common Reasons for the First Year Grade Drop


While entering university can be a fun and exciting time, it also presents many challenges that can often lead to a first year grade drop. The following are five common factors that may affect your performance as a student during your first year in university.

5 Common Reasons for the First Year Grade Drop

1. Increased Difficulty in Courses

The primary reason why most student see their marks drop during their first year of university tends to be that university level courses are simply more difficult than high school courses. Not only is the content more conceptually difficult, but the volume is usually higher, and the amount of studying time  required to succeed is more than most students are accustomed to. Unless you learn to meet your new demands academically, it is likely that you will not be able to achieve the same results you did in high school by putting in the same amount of work.

2. Adjusting to the University System

Not only is course work more difficult in university, but the structure of your classes and assignments differs radically from your previous education. Instead of being an hour each day, a class in first year is typically three hours a week with two hours of lecturing and an hour of tutorial. Also, instead of having a steady stream of assignments throughout the semester, university courses typically base your marks on one or two major assignments as well as a midterm and final that make up the majority of your grade. In your first year classes it is also likely that you will be packed in a room with a couple hundred other students and not get a chance to know your professor unless you make a concerted effort. All of these changes can be disorienting at first and lead to a first year grade drop as you struggle to adjust to the university system.

3. Being Placed in the Wrong Program/Courses

For some students going into first year, they will soon discover that the major that they elected to take is not the right fit for them. While chemistry or history may have been your favorite courses in high school, the realization that a concentration in these fields requires you to take numerous courses on them, some on subjects that you find tedious and boring, is enough to turn some students off. Other subjects like engineering or business may not even be introduced to students at a high school level, thus a student’s perception of them might change once they are actually in their first year introductory classes. If you discover when entering university that you are disinterested in your field of study then it is easy to get discouraged and see your marks suffer.

4. Programs that Grade on a Curve

What many student often forget is that when they enter a competitive university program they are placed in classes with other students who were also high performers in high school. While you may be used to having been one of the brightest people in your class back in grade twelve, now you are competing with others who probably felt the same way. As such, since most university programs maintain a certain average and tend to grade on a curve, the quality of your work will be measured up against other strong preforming students. Thus when you receive a B in University you are receiving a median mark for students who were used to getting A’s in High School.

5. Socializing and Lifestyle Changes

If you were somewhat sheltered growing up and are now living away from home for the first time, chances are that you will now be exposed to a new lifestyle of partying and a range of different social activities carried out through the various clubs that are available on campus. Even if you were outgoing in high school, university is still considered by many to be a highlight in their social lives where for four years the good times never seemed to end. Regardless of your circumstances it is important to learn how to balance your school work with your social life if you desire to overcome a potential first year grade drop.

Bottom Line on Your First Year Grade Drop

Regardless of which of the aforementioned reasons is most responsible for your likely decrease in grades when entering university, it is important to remember that first year is more about adjusting to your new surroundings than receiving stellar marks. If you are pursuing a post bachelors degree, or want to complete a competitive program, keep in mind that there is still plenty of time to improve your performance in school, and that if you put in the hard work you marks will eventually go back to where they once were.

Academic and Professional Counseling: Where to go to in University


Many students who enter university may be under the impression that their faculty’s guidance counceling services are going to provide them with all of the academic and career advice that they would need during their four years in school. Yet the reality is that many guidance offices are strapped for resources, and that the councelors on staff are often only able to provide support for basic concerns regarding progression through your program.

For other concerns that you might have during university, such as questions about possible career trajectories or graduate school, it is best to seek out help from other more effective resources that you have access too.

Why Would You Need Counseling

It is quite common for students to enter university not having a clear end goal regarding where they want to be in life after they complete their bachelor’s degree. Furthermore, as many university programs are highly abstract and theoretical, students often find themselves in need of guidance when contemplating their next move after undergrad.

Three Great Resources for Counseling in University

1. Your Professors

If you are contemplating graduate school after you finish your bachelor’s, there is nothing more critical than maintaining an open dialogue with one or two of your professors. These are people who have experienced the process first hand, and are in the best position to guide you through applications and selecting programs that are commensurate with your interests.

Since master’s programs and graduate schools generally require a couple of academic reference letters for their admissions process, it is essentially mandatory to seek out a few of your professors for help if you wish to continue school after undergrad.

2. Teaching Assistants

As teaching assistants are graduate students themselves, they are also a great resource to tap into for advice if you wish to continue in academia.

Moreover, many master’s programs are geared towards providing their students with more practical knowledge to enter the workforce. Thus unlike professors who have committed themselves to a lifetime of academic work, many graduate students may be more knowledgeable of industry and what it takes to succeed in the real world. Therefore while teaching assistants may be less effective in writing you a reference letter, they are likely better prepared to help you plot out a potential career path after university.

Yet it is not guaranteed that every teaching assistant you encounter will be eager to help you. Therefore it is important to craft a relationship with your teaching assistant during your term with them. Be sure to participate often in tutorials and visit office hours occasionally. By doing so, you can form a more personal bond with the teaching assistant and make them more inclined to help out.

3. Older Students, Graduates, and Alumni Associations

If your goal after university is to make practical use of your education and enter the workforce directly, then perhaps your best resource are people that have been in your shoes before and are further along the path of life than you are.

Students in the upper years of your program might be great people to approach when you are trying to figure out how to score a great summer internship.

Meanwhile graduates of your program can provide a model of what sort of careers to look at once you have completed university. They may also provide some invaluable advice that they have acquired through trial and error.

Finally reaching out to alumni associations as you finish undergrad might be a great way to forge valuable connections that will help you land a job. These associations are often made up of graduates from your faculty that have successfully made it in industry. The sense of kinship that derives from graduating from the same program will likely make more them sympathetic to your cause, and might provide you the necessary ties to get your foot in the door.

Why You May Still Need Traditional Guidance Counselors

While the aforementioned resources are invaluable in terms of providing guidance for life after undergrad, you may likely still need traditional academic counseling for more practical matters while still in school. At some point in their academic careers, the majority of undergrad students make some sort of alteration to their program .

Whether it be deciding to double major, removing a minor from your program , or pursuing an honors specialization in a particular subject, the reality is that keeping track of the breadth requirements for your module can get quite confusing. Many faculties also tend to make alterations to program requirements every few years.

For this specific problem it is strongly recommended that you visit your faculty guidance counselor’s office at least once a year to make sure that you are on top of your program requirements and on track to graduate. Every year their are countless stories of students who failed to graduate on time, and were stuck in undergrad for an extra semester because they misinterpreted their program’s requirements.

This issue is more common than you may think, and there is no reason to feel too embarrassed to reach out for help. After all, that is what university counseling is there for.