You get your grades back and watch your GPA plummet. Maybe you weren't prepared for what freshman year would bring, overloaded your schedule, or had a personal tragedy. Most students have a semester where their grades just don't reflect their potential. In a world where numbers can mean so much for your future, a bad college semester can seem like the end of the world. While one bad semester can hurt your GPA, the way you bounce back can say more about you than a perfect record. Don't freak out!
Currently, I am a rising senior. Although I may be sitting pretty resume-wise, there is quite the hiccup on my transcript. My freshman year was a ROUGH one. The day before heading off to college an unhealthy relationship ended in a terrible way. Leaving the next day, I tried to stay hopeful that I could make friends and stay strong. Unfortunately, my roommate transferred, I didn't make many friends, and I began to battle anxiety and depression. A year of failing classes later, I made changes that saved both my life and my college career. Although this is not the most uplifting story, it is unfortunately similar to many other students.
College can be hard, it is the time we learn about ourselves, and how to exist in the real world where things can and will go wrong. Making these mistakes is important in the process of learning, but can be overwhelming and confusing. It may seem like you have ruined your chances of getting into grad school or getting that dream job because of ONE mistake. You're not alone, and you defiantly CAN make a comeback. You may even be able to bounce back stronger than before.
While my transcript is imperfect, I have worked hard to show who and what I really am. There is more to a person than a number. Whether you've had a bad semester, or are trying to keep up your hard work, having good study habits and a positive mindset can make your life easier and improve your chances of success.
Here are some of the ways you can bounce back from a bad semester or keep up a healthy college lifestyle.
1. Practice self-care
Check in with yourself at all times. College is about finding yourself and setting up your future. This can involve clubs, sports, classes, research, internships, volunteering, working…with all of this self-discovering you can lose sight of your own wellbeing. Stress can seem like a common factor in college, but being sure to check on your mental health is a major factor determining your grades. Be sure to schedule "me" time when you can. Take advantage of college campus counseling services, they are usually free to students and should be taken advantage of whenever you feel you need them! Be sure to take a break from study mode to make sure you are healthy and don't be afraid to "treat yo self!"
2. Get organized & don't procrastinate
A key to college success is organization and time management. This is a huge struggle, particularly for an incoming freshman. There is no one to tell you deadlines, little if any extra credit and no second chances. Be sure before the school year starts to get a planner or organization app, get all your school materials and class lists down ahead of time, and stay ahead of deadlines.
3. Get involved, but don't overload
Make sure you find a community and get involved. Even if that group is a study group, a yoga club, or sports team, find people with similar interests that will MOTIVATE YOU TO BE BETTER! You can keep your party friends, but be sure you have people in your life who push you to achieve your goals. Employers and grad schools will also look at what you did during college. While yoga club won't make up for failing grades, if you get involved and get leadership positions on campus it shows that you weren't just drinking or sleeping through college. Being an involved member of your community can help improve your mental state too. That being said don't overwhelm yourself with twelve clubs, be sure to make time for class, study, and self-care.
4. If you're offered “EC" take it
It's not often you get extra credit opportunities in college. Even if you are sitting at an A, there is never "bad" extra credit. The extra assignment may come back to help you for a bad test score or a missed assignment down the road. That extra assignment may make the difference between an A and a B, or a B and a C, and that can change everything.
5. Be the “teacher's pet"
Never be afraid to talk to your professor. Even if you're in a class of 300 people and think you have nothing to say, going into office hours shows that you CARE about your grades and that could help your grade and get a great recommendation letter. When your letter grade is on the edge, that personal relationship with your professor may lead them to boost it up that last percent!
6. Show up and study SMART
Half the battle is going to class. While you may feel you can study better on your own, going to class will never hurt your chances at a better grade. Studying is a huge determining factor of how you will perform on tests. This can often be difficult, the methods learned in HS for studying often don't work in college and leave many freshmen feeling helpless. There is an art to college studying, and it differs for each person. Personally, it helps me to listen to lectures without note-taking. I take a video of the lecture and go back and take notes at home and making outlines every week of the most important material. Often the outlines I have made are practically the tests I take and takes far less time to go over test day than skimming five chapters in one day.
7. Don't dwell on the past
Many students get a "bad" grade in college. Straight-A students in HS find they receive their first B's and C's in college. This is not because you are unworthy, not smart enough, or not capable of attending college. The saying is "C's get degrees." The motto should not be a mindset to slack off and pass college with C's. I take it simply as a sign college is hard, and you should be realistic when it comes to grades. It's normal to get a C and is not the end of the world. Aim to get the best possible grades, whether for you that is A's, B's, or passing but don't dwell on one bad grade. Take responsibility for your mistakes, learn from them, and become a better student.
8. Finish strong
Maybe you had that bad year or semester, but one thing colleges and employers look at is what happened after that mistake. Having a strong academic record after that bad semester shows that you are hardworking and learn from your mistakes. Improvement in a transcript is much better than grades that decline as graduation comes around.
Get involved, apply to internships, take care, and finish strong. Your grades do not solely determine your self-worth. Aspire to be the best you can be, not perfect. Use your downs to inspire your ups because college, like all of life, is a learning experience.
Keep calm, study on, and most importantly have faith in yourself!