How To Deal With Unexpected Struggles In High School

By: Bailee Peralto


Typically, in high school we’re taught time management, study techniques and where to do community service. We’re given tips for college applications, told what looks best to the best of universities and upheld to the expectation of adults. But, what our guidance counselors don’t tell us when we speak with them about school stresses and scholarship woes, are those entirely unexpected struggles that many high schoolers find themselves at the brunt of. While we may completely understand how to organize our notes for the most effective information retention (a skill I learned before having left middle school), our teachers don’t typically relay any information on how to keep straight A’s while overcoming the death of a family member, or dealing with a similar occurrence. Following are two experiences you may not know how to cope with in high school and tips on how to deal with them:

Death of a family member, relative or close friend. It happens sometimes. People get sick; accidents happen. Sometimes it’s a death that’s been looming for months, and other times they’re taken from you suddenly and without warning. Losing someone close to you is a struggle for everyone who experiences it, and it’s especially difficult when you’re trying to keep up with your classes in the middle of a semester. Often times, students end up missing a few days to attend a funeral or simply to cope with the loss. But the stress really builds when – on top of everything else – your grades begin to fall, and you start to see your GPA take a hit. I mean, it’s pretty obvious that doing your schoolwork is not a priority when you’re going through such a tough time. Here are a few things you can when this happens that may lessen the load in the long run:

  • Talk to your teachers. This is the first and probably most important thing you can do with regard to your classes when an event like this takes place. Ask each of your teachers if you can speak with them privately, talk to them after class or send them each an email notifying them of the situation. Ask them for any assignments that you’re going to miss, if you feel okay enough to do so. Most teachers are extremely understanding and will give you the time you need in order to complete your work, without affecting your grades too much.
  • Take the time you need. If you need to take off of school, and your guardians will allow you to, do so. Relax your mind. Grieve. Allow yourself the time you need to recover. If you jump back into the school groove too soon, you may find it difficult to focus or even just make it through the day. Allowing yourself to heal can make this aspect less of a struggle. Again, if you notify your teachers of the situation, they will understand.
  • Complete your assignments when you feel ready and return to school. As soon as you feel okay enough to do your work, complete it to the best of your ability. Ask friends or your teacher for help if you need it. Go to school again when you are sure you can handle it.
  • Speak with your guidance counselor. If you feel you’ll need emotional support while at school, speaking with a guidance counselor may provide you with the advice you need. They also will be able to help you catch up in your classes, by providing you with resources like tutors and websites, which may help you to better understand certain subjects.


Mental health issues. According to, mental illness plagues 1 in 5, that’s 20 percent, of young people today. They can manifest in the form of anxiety disorders, mood disorders, eating disorders, behavioral disorders and so many more. Given this staggering total, it is reasonable to believe that many students will suffer with a mental illness during their time in high school, and you could be one of them. Depending on the severity of whatever condition it may be, you might have trouble focusing in class, gathering enough motivation to do your homework or getting out of bed in the morning for reasons deeper than exhaustion. This can, for obvious reasons, keep you from performing to the best of your ability in school, despite your desire to be successful. Don’t worry, though. It is possible how to cope with a mental illness if the issue does come up, and here are some steps you should take in order to do so:

  • Ask for help and talk to your doctor. If you believe you may be suffering from a mental illness, don’t diagnose yourself. Don’t be afraid to ask you parents if you can speak to your doctor; usually you will be referred to psychiatrist, who specializes in diagnosing and treating mental disorders. These doctors will evaluate you to determine what could be affecting your behavior, moods, etc. If you are diagnosed with a mental illness, it is possible that they will recommend that you see a psychotherapist regularly, and it is likely that they will put you on a medication to help alleviate your symptoms.
  • Notify your teachers. Again, with regard to your grades, notifying your teacher of the situation is extremely important. By informing them of any issues you may have in turning in assignments or focusing in class, your teacher will be able to give you a more individualized approach so as to keep your grades from suffering. Some teachers may allow extensions on certain assignments if you find yourself unable to complete it on time, and most will try to help you catch up if you have taken any absent days. (However, it is important not to take advantage of these luxuries; if you do, teachers may stop providing them.)
  • Focus on your mental health first. If you’re finding it difficult to cope with the stresses of high school as a result of your mental illness, it is perfectly okay to take a day for yourself to get back into the swing of things. Take a “mental health day” off from school, which you should set aside for taking care of your personal needs. Watch some movies, go for a walk, drink some tea. Relax and clear your mind. Mental health days are particularly important for those suffering with depression, as functioning under typical expectation of high school students can be especially difficult when going through a severe depressive phase. Just make sure to notify your teachers as soon as possible, asking for assignments and doing your work as soon as you feel competent enough. This way, you should be able to keep your grades from taking too heavy of a hit and still certify that you’re mental health is in check.Untitled
  • Practice healthy habits. Utilizing study tactics, properly managing your time and not overloading yourself with events and things to do can all help to ensure that you’re keeping up with your grades and still doing well in school. A mental illness is something you will have to cope with everyday of your life, but staying ahead of the game in your grades will help at least partially make up for those days that you are experiencing the most severe suffering of your mental illness.

Focusing on our studies without any other conflict is already super difficult. Add either of these factors into the mix, and you may be fixing to give up before even giving your grades a shot. However, there are ways to cope with hardship and still pride yourself on good grades. Overall, though, if you are going through a tough time and you get a low grade, don’t kick yourself. Learn from it and keep going. Bad things happen, and sometimes you don’t ace every test. Take your experiences, improve upon yourself and you, and your grades, will reap the benefits. I may not be a medical professional, but can inform you that help is out there, and, no matter the struggle, there is always a way to get through!

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