Academics and Mental Health

Academics and the demands of college can impact mental health, and mental health can impact academics. This webpage is meant to help students who may be struggling academically or mentally navigate the university system. Mental health is an important foundation for academic success. It is always best to be proactive, if possible, about any difficulties you are experiencing. For example, at the first signs of not passing a class it is a good idea to seek advising from your academic advisors (BASC/Engineering/CA&ES) or your Dean’s Office advisors (L&S and CA&ES). 

While there are many different resources available at UC Davis for academic success, the resources below are specifically mentioned throughout the FAQ. 

  • Success Coaching at OEOES
  • Office of Educational Opportunity and Enrichment Services has a success coaching program. Success coaches can help you with personal, professional or academic goals. They can also help you strengthen your study system by assessing your current learning strategies and habits. If you are struggling with nailing down a study routine or need help developing good test taking strategies, this is a good place to start.  
  • Counseling Services
  • Counselors can help with a variety of mental health issues including things that directly and indirectly impact academics. For example, if you continually struggle to manage your time and turn in assignments there may be an underlying issue that is impacting your day-to-day functioning. Talking with someone about these patterns can help you pinpoint stressors, triggers and past experiences that impact how you are thinking now. Identifying these things can be very helpful in strategizing how to work through them. 
  • Case Managers in the Office of Student Support
  • The Office of Student Support and Judicial Affairs have a team of staff that are there to help students navigate the university system. While they are not trained mental health counselors, they have connections with other offices at UC Davis and are trained to help students with many different issues that may arise during their time in college. If you are struggling mentally and need help with coordinating communication between many different offices, this is a great resource. Check out the referral form (self-referral is an option) to get connected with a case manager.

FAQ: Academic Difficulties and Mental Health

Managing Anxiousness when Responding to the Dean's Office and Advisors about Academic Probation/Dismissal

  • I got an email from the Dean’s Office/Academic Advisor, and I am scared to open it. Do I have to read it?
  • It is important, and often time-sensitive, to understand why they are emailing you. Consider asking a trusted friend to read it over with you if you are feeling stressed or fearful about opening it. Make sure you are in a space that is comfortable where you can process the information fully.
  • What happens if I don’t open emails or answer calls from the Dean’s Office/Academic Advisor? I am very nervous about their emails and calls. It feels easier to avoid it for now.
  • Not reading or responding in a timely manner to emails from your Dean’s Office or Academic Advisor may limit your options on what you can do to resolve academic issues. In other words, avoiding this issue might make it worse. Facing it head on, while scary, can open up more options for you and ultimately make it less stressful in the long run. Talking through these situations with trusted people in your life can help tremendously.
  • I have been told I have to make an appointment with an advisor. Do I really need to go to academic advising? I rather do this on my own.
  • Academic advising is there to help you create a graduation plan that supports your well-being and career goals. They are there to help guide you through barriers to remaining in good academic standing. Navigating academic difficulties on your own can cause delays with progressing towards your degree and associated costs may be incurred, such as loss of financial aid, taking more time to graduate, higher distress adjusting to changes in your major, negative mental health impacts and taking on more debt to earn your degree. Seeing an academic advisor will only help in the long run!
  • How can academic advisors help me with academic difficulties? 
  • Advisors help students stay on track with campus policies and graduation requirements. They can help make a formal plan to tackle academic difficulties, help you seek readmission if you have been dismissed and refer you to campus resources to help with academic difficulty. 

    The most important thing is to go and see an academic advisor and ask good questions to fully understand your situation. Taking small steps like seeing an advisor should be celebrated. Facing things head on is difficult!

Academic Difficulties, Withdrawal and Seeking Help

  • I am struggling with my mental health and I failed a midterm. I don’t think I’m going to pass this class.
  • At the first sign of academic difficulties, seek advising through your college. Utilize your campus resources: go to office hours, use tutoring, get academic support from the Case Managers in the Office of Student Support and Judicial Affairs. 

    If your mental health is significantly impacting your academics or vice versa, look through your options for counseling (crisis counseling, individual counseling, group counseling, CAN counseling, etc.) and pick the option that will work best for you. 

    An academic advisor will be able to help you understand what options you have moving forward if you do end up failing a class while a mental health counselor will be able to help you navigate mental health challenges that impact academics.
  • The quarter is almost over and I am worried about failing all my classes. Are there any options to withdraw from my classes for the quarter?
  • Before the last day of instruction of each quarter, you have the option to withdraw from the quarter. Seek academic advising through your college to talk about all your options. 

    Academic advisors may refer you to counseling for support or you can schedule an appointment with Counseling Services. Making a decision about enrollment can be stressful and talking through the pros and cons with a counselor may help you reach a decision.

    It’s also important to keep in mind that withdrawing may have an impact on your financial aid. It’s best to check with the Financial Aid Office to see how you might be impacted. 
  • I failed most of my classes in the previous quarter as I was dealing with a serious psychological problem. Can I withdraw after the quarter ends?”
  • After the last day of instruction you cannot withdraw or make any late changes, but there is a process called “Retroactive Withdrawal” that allows you to submit a petition that requires supporting documentation.

    If you were experiencing a serious psychological problem during the term that you would like to withdraw from, schedule a counseling appointment. Even if you weren’t in counseling during that past term, a counselor may be able to assess and determine the extent to which your psychological health interfered with your academic performance and provide supporting documentation. 
  • Do I have access to counseling services after I have been academically dismissed?
  • For former UC Davis students, please contact 530-752-0871 to discuss options for getting connected to mental health services. If you are still a UC Davis student and you think you may be dismissed soon, get connected with a UC Davis counselor or other support services as soon as possible so they can help support you.

Connection Between Mental Health and Academics

  • What does mental health have to do with my grades? 
  • Grades reflect academic performance in each course and good mental health is critical to performing well academically. Mental health factors like planning and organizing your time well, following through with your plans, sustaining focus and concentration, believing you can succeed, and having supportive relationships are all crucial to performing well academically. 
  • What if I don’t like asking for help? 
  • It can be difficult for many students to ask for help. If you have more experience figuring things out on your own, then you may favor doing that instead of asking for help. 

    Perhaps you have not had much help available, so you have not had any opportunities to practice asking for and receiving help. Those who have gotten used to figuring things out on their own might feel bad about themselves or otherwise see themselves negatively when they are struggling to do things on their own.

    Delaying getting help can make a problem worse over time and can contribute to feelings of loneliness. Practicing asking for help now will help you in the future! Consider talking with a trusted friend or seeking out a resource you are comfortable with to talk about this more.
  • All of my friends are getting good grades. What’s wrong with me?   
  • It’s common to compare yourself to others. If you feel you are falling short by comparison, reflect on what is working and is not working for you to earn good grades. If you notice areas where you’re struggling to improve, ask for help or meet with a success coach

    If you’re struggling to sort out what is working and not working for you, talk with a trusted friend, mentor, academic advisor or a mental health counselor. If you’re thinking a lot about what is wrong with you, a mental health counselor would be the best place to start accessing support.

    Some mental health conditions can impact how we think and feel about ourselves. Check out these tips from other students on how to enhance academic success. 
  • Someone in my close network died.  Do I need to tell anyone at the university?
  • It is normal to feel sad, down, or depressed after losing someone. You may not be able to do things you usually can do while you grieve. Campus has many resources that can support you after the loss of someone close to you. The Office of Student Support within OSSJA has case managers that can help coordinate communication between you and your professors. 

    If your academics have been impacted, check in with an academic advisor to understand your academic options such as using the Planned Educational Leave Program (PELP). 

    If you’re struggling to meet your basic needs, attend classes and do your schoolwork, it might be a good idea to make an appointment with Counseling Services. You are not alone in processing and grieving. Visit the Resilience Through page to see how other Aggies coped with losing someone close to them. 
  • Is your major affecting your mental health or motivation?
  • What you are learning in your major should be exciting and interesting to you. Ideally, your major should be helping you reach your future goals! If you are finding that the major that you are in is not interesting or useful to your future goals, it may be affecting your academic performance. Students who switch majors often find that their new major is more aligned with what they want to learn. Therefore, they are more motivated and their academic performance improves. 

    We know that switching majors can be stressful and comes with cultural and societal pressure that can be difficult to navigate. We suggest you talk to someone about it, whether a friend, an advisor or even a counselor to help sort through your thoughts. You can also check out this webpage “What Should I Major in?” if you are looking for more resources pertaining to changing your major.

For all questions regarding academic dismissal, probation and advising, please refer to your colleges academic difficulty information linked below: