When to Ask for Help: Failure, Procrastination, & Stress

Today we suggest three ways you can know it's time to ask for help: failure, procrastination, and stress.

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Today we suggest three ways you can know it’s time to ask for help: failure, procrastination, and stress.

Knowing when to ask for help can be tricky. One doesn’t want to ask for help too quickly and skip looking for an answer that’s accessible, like in a syllabus. At the same time, it can be unhelpful to our end goal if we put off asking for help for too long. If we wait until after midterms to seek tutoring, or help from the professor, we may only have a few weeks (and a few assignments) to catch up in the learning for the course, and subsequently pull up the grade in that class as well.

Thus today we offer a few guidelines for how you can know when to ask for help with coursework.

First, lean into failure. By this time in the semester, almost all first-year students have taken a quiz or two. It’s not uncommon to get a lower grade than anticipated because you’re still figuring out how to read and how to prepare for quizzes at King’s (and for varying classes and professors). If you’ve experienced a failing grade, don’t let it pass you by. It’s a ripe opportunity to learn. For example, a failing quiz grade could prompt questions like, “How could I have read differently to notice these details?” or “How might note-taking during reading help me recall these details for next time?”

After you’ve considered how you might adjust your approach moving forward, it may also help to talk with your professor or the Faculty Assistant for the course. Ask them to look at your quiz together and to give you advice about how to prepare more appropriately for the next quiz.

Second, notice procrastination. It’s not uncommon to feel like you might prefer to do something else rather than sit down, by yourself, and tackle something that’s difficult and required. This inclination to avoid occurs for many of us from time to time. (Leaning in to this challenge is great practice for  future career responsibilities.) What matters is not that you are inclined to avoid; rather it matters what you choose to do with that inclination to avoid a task. What can you do about it? Notice it. Catch yourself and call it to your attention.

Once you’ve noticed you’re avoiding a reading assignment or a paper, ask yourself “Do I know what’s required of me?” and “Do I know all the steps involved in this assignment?” Sometimes you’ll find you were avoiding the task because you weren’t sure how to get started or because you needed more clarity for the assignment. If you need clarification (after checking the syllabus), you can reach out to your professor or the Faculty Assistant for the course– as long as you’re discovering your need for clarity at least a couple of days before the deadline.

Third, be mindful of stress. As an emotion, stress is a helpful signal that we may need to look at what’s happening in life and at what we can change. Like with procrastination, noticing is the first step, but the questions that follow are different. After you’ve noticed stress, consider why. If there is an assignment that’s especially weighing on you, consider why. Do you need clarity? Do you know how to get started? Or perhaps you could ask yourself questions like, “Have I ever done an assignment like this before?” or “How did this go last time?” to get a better sense of the source of your stress.

Depending on what you realize, it may make sense to reach out to your professor or the Faculty Assistant for the course. If you know it’s related to your academic life but aren’t sure of the specifics, come talk to us in Student Success. Or if you’re noticing the sources of your stress are related to relationships or bigger concerns, reach out to your House Advisor or to the Counseling office at counseling@tkc.edu.

Part of the beauty of the King’s experience involves these layers of care for students, so practice leaning in and noticing this week. As you practice noticing and reaching out, know that we are happy to help.

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