We often start each semester full of hope and excitement that this time will be the time we do everything we set out to do. When we get close to (or achieve) those goals, it’s a great feeling!
There are, however, semesters that end up being way more difficult than we anticipated. Sometimes you find yourself puzzled about why your grades are the way they are, and even more confused about how to fix things before it’s too late.
Here’s a list of 4 items to help get you back on the right track:
Take stock of the situation.
You can’t fix anything until you know what it is that needs to be fixed. Figure out which classes you are struggling in and try to isolate the reason(s) you are having difficulty. Are you just not on the same page as your professor? Is the reading schedule too difficult for you to keep up with? Is the material simply not clicking for you?
Grab a notebook and draw three columns. Fill the left column with the names of the courses that are causing you trouble, and fill in the middle column with the reasons you think are causing this to happen.
Once you’ve taken the time to write all this down, see if there are any common threads between these classes. Is your schedule something that keeps on coming up repeatedly? Are you noticing that all of your classes have material that is more difficult to master than you thought?
Highlight any reasons that are the same or somewhat similar in nature.
Come up with solutions to the reasons that are preventing you from doing well.
Now that you’ve isolated the specific reasons that you aren’t doing as well as you should be, it’s time to figure out what specific actions you need to take.
If the material is too difficult, this is the time to consider tutoring, or at least meeting with the professor during office hours to develop a better plan to deal with it. If you’re having a tough time focusing because of too much going on in your personal life, figure out ways to change your schedule or look into therapy if your emotions are getting difficult to manage on your own. Basically, come up with realistic first steps to solve whatever the issues are.
Write the solutions down in the right column.
Take the first steps to resolve the issues you’ve identified.
Now that you’ve taken stock of the situation and come up with actionable ways to improve it, the real work starts.
Actually going through with declining social engagements to free up more time for studying won’t be fun, but it will be necessary if that’s what it’ll take for your grades to improve. Meeting with a professor to admit that you’re not doing well will be intimidating, but keeping them in the loop and showing that you are willing to put in the work to fix the situation may allow them to connect you to resources you otherwise wouldn’t have thought of.
Break up the larger overall solutions into small, bite-size items… and start doing them!
Monitor your situation and be ready to adjust your plans as you uncover more information.
After doing the first few items on your list, you may start to feel a bit better about your situation. That’s the beauty of breaking down large ideas into smaller “to-do” items.
As you continue ticking off more and more items on your list, remember to periodically take a step back and reassess the situation. Is your adjusted schedule resulting in better homework grades? Is therapy allowing your mind to focus on the class material better?
If you’re seeing positive results from the steps you’re taking, great! Continue doing what you’re doing and check in with yourself in a few days. However, if you’re still not quite grasping the concepts you need to understand in order to do well, or if you still seem to have a tough time keeping up with your classwork, this is the time to revisit your solutions and figure out why they aren’t working like you expected them to.
It’s important to start taking steps to get the situation back under your control as soon as you realize that your grades are slipping. As you go through these steps, remember to be realistic and not be too hard on yourself — everyone has difficulty at some point in their college career. The important thing is that you are recognizing it and coming up with a plan to deal with the situation.