Midterms are over and you are now confronted with the state of your grades. Maybe you did okay or even more than okay but it was high stress all the way. Or maybe you didn’t do as well as you could or as well as you need to if you are to be competitive for grad school or the job you want after graduation.
Either way, it may be time to rethink the way you are doing college. It doesn’t have to be so high stress. If you were bright enough to be admitted, you’re bright enough to earn decent grades. But it may require a major shift in your schedule, your attitude, and your work ethic to get there.
10 Tips to Make The Rest of the Semester Work
- Recommit. If you got a string of C-minuses or lower, resist the tendency to give up. However discouraged you may be, letting yourself get overwhelmed will ensure a GPA-busting semester. A new commitment to your studies could bail you out, or at least bail you out enough so that you have something to build on next semester.
If, on the other hand, you did fine but were so stressed you’re still recovering, you have a different challenge: Resist the tendency to collapse in a grateful heap and coast for a few weeks. You’ll be setting yourself up for another anxiety attack when finals roll around.
- Understand that school is your job right now. If you aren’t putting in a solid eight hours a day Monday through Friday for classes and study, you simply aren’t doing it. That eight hours does not include meals, hanging out with friends, cruising Facebook, or watching Grey’s Anatomy. A workday is just that – a day of working. The upside is that if you really do schedule a respectable eight hours a day, you’ll probably have most of your evenings and your weekends free to do what you want without feeling guilty.
- Schedule your time well. Plan out each of your weekdays as seriously as you would an assignment for the most important job of your life. Get out a calendar or planner. Write in blocks of time each week for study for each course. Make sure you schedule time for your toughest class and most demanding papers when you are the freshest.
- Meet with professors. The time to get clarification for things you don’t understand is now, not in the last week before finals when you (and all the other procrastinators) are in a panic. You will get more attention and respect if you’ve done required reading and formulated your questions before you meet. Most professors really do want to help students who are serious.
- Form study groups for the classes you find most challenging. That means finding a study partner or a few other students who are at least as committed to doing well as you are and who will stay focused. If someone in the group keeps distracting the rest with comments that are off-topic, suggest another time for hanging out and politely ask him or her to leave the group. If that doesn’t work, make a polite departure and find another study buddy. Don’t waste your time trying to make a group work when it’s clear it won’t.
- Work with your own learning style. If you’re a visual learner, make those flashcards, charts, and study notes. If you are a kinesthetic (hands-on) learner, figure out some ways to manipulate the material to help you remember it. If you do better with listening than with reading, consider recording your professors’ lectures and then listening to them again on your own time. Or record yourself summarizing the material and listen to that a few times.
- Be honest about where you need to study. As tempting as it may be to nest in your room, it may be a setup for distractions. Friends may drop in. The TV is beckoning from the corner. It’s too easy to wander back to the kitchen for a snack or to decide you need a nap. The library or an empty classroom might be just the kind of spartan atmosphere you need to keep yourself on task.
- Schedule in breaks and rewards. No one can stay focused forever. Know yourself. If you’re the kind of person whose mind begins to wander after half an hour, legitimize it. Give yourself permission to have a five- to 10-minute break every half hour. Just don’t let 10 minutes become 15. If you’re the type who can go full out for several hours, make sure you then schedule a lengthy recovery time.
- Sober yourself up with threats. Think about what life will be like if you don’t stay focused. Can you really get the job you want without your education? Are you really willing to be paying off a $25,000 loan that paid for a lot of sleeping and a few good parties?
- Take care of yourself. That means getting enough sleep, eating well, and taking some time to stretch your body as well as your mind every day. Healthy people simply do better at almost everything than people who abuse their bodies and stretch the limits of their endurance. Yes. You do need eight or nine hours of sleep a night. You do need to eat your vegetables. Time at the gym or a run will do wonders for your state of mind.
Whatever you do, when it’s time for final exams, don’t plan on a week of allnighters and cramming to make up for lack of systematic study. It simply doesn’t work reliably. Yes, you may have done it or done it more than once. That proves nothing. As you move to upper-level classes, there’s less and less chance for an A grade in the wake of C- studying. More to the point, your teachers are trying to teach you material that is important for your field. Let’s remember that school isn’t just a grading game. It’s also laying down the foundation of information and skills you’ll need to be successful in your career.
You have at least a month to pull it together and get ready for final exams and papers. A person can do just about anything for a month or so. It’s not forever. It’s doable. Stop making excuses. Give yourself a pep talk. And get down to business.