Going into college, I only accepted the best academically. I worked tirelessly throughout high school to ensure that I did well, and if I did not my confidence was often blown. Coming to college, it became much harder to do well academically while still maintaining a balanced life. In my first semester of college things somehow worked out: I was able to do well in my classes and still stay involved outside of the classroom extracurricular and socially. This semester, though, things have been different.
Coming into the semester I was confident that I could do well academically and was excited to take classes in new subject areas. However, after the first round of midterms, I realized I needed to change my standards. Two of my classes: Economics and Calculus were giving me trouble. Despite studying a lot for the midterm exams in these two classes I did not do nearly as well as I had hoped. I was devastated and felt like I was putting in effort without achieving the results I deserved. Even though not doing well when you work hard is never fun, I learned a few things from academic pitfalls this semester that I want to share here. So whether you’re in high school, college, or grad school check out these tips for how to move forward the next time you’re struggling academically.
- It’s okay to be frustrated and vent it out when you don’t get the academic results you hope for, but DON’T overreact. It is a perfectly natural to become frustrated when you don’t do well on a test or paper you worked hard on. If this happens, vent to a friend or your parents (trust me, they’ll be happy to help!). You have a right to be mad. At the same time, though, it is paramount to not get caught up in your bad results. After all, you will have other chances to redeem yourself.
- Don’t avoid dealing with the result. It’s easiest just to hide your exam or paper in your desk draw and pretend it never happened. This is far from the right thing to do though. You MUST be proactive and seek help so you can do better on the next assessment. Your professors and teachers want to help you and hearing from you directly shows you truly care. Don’t just email your professor or TA once about the bad grade, but develop a relationship with her by going to her office hours. That way, you’ll be able to ask personalized questions about the material you are learning continuously, helping to ensure you understand the material all along.
- Overworking/ over studying is a real thing. In high school I always thought that the more I studied, the better I would do. This semester, though, I realized that overworking can have diminishing returns. Sometimes shutting the books and going to bed is better than staying up to go over material. You should always prioritize your body and mental health over academic success.
- Study in groups. I think of myself as an independent learner and for that reason don’t love studying with others. I let the idea of getting distracted in a group hold me back from studying in one. However, if you can find a good group to study or review with, you should at least try to work with them. Preparing for an exam in a group or reviewing together helps you because you can get your questions answered from peers instead of trying to understand all the material yourself.
- Choose your classes wisely. One mistake I made this semester was taking a class I knew I would not like. It was not a requirement for my major, but I thought it could be helpful based on the fields I am interested in. While this is true, I don’t think you should take a class you hate. In my case, this class turned out to be really difficult, making my dislike for it grow even more. If you are pre-med you are going to have to take some science classes you won’t love, but otherwise everyone should be taking a lot of classes you are truly interested in.
- Use your resources wisely. There are many people you can talk to when you feel like you are having academic troubles. Beyond your professors and TAs, most college students have advisors (sometimes both peer and faculty advisors) and various deans they can talk to about academic issues. These deans and advisors are trained to know how to give advice on dealing with the stress and loss of confidence that may emerge from not doing well academically. Furthermore, your friends and family are great resources and can provide personalized strategies to move forward.
- It’s ok to get a C or drop a class if need be. In the end, the world will still go on if you have to drop a class or get a C on your transcript. Your own happiness, balance, and mental health should be more important than your academic performance, so if you think dropping a class will improve your well-being immensely then it’s ok to do it. Each college has a different policy about dropping classes but even if you get a W (withdrawal) on your transcript, it’s not the end of the world. We are all human and mess up sometimes.
- Keep things in perspective. Honestly, there are far worse things that could happen to you than doing poorly on an exam or in a class. If you are really down in your worries and frustrations, talking to others or even just turning on the news will make you realize that while your frustrations are valid, things could be much worse.
I hope some of these tips come in handy for you. The biggest thing to realize is that everyone fails sometimes. When you do not do well academically, there’s always room for improvement. Stay positive and you will likely be able to recover from a bad midterm grade! And if you can’t just remember that messing up in one or two classes one semester is ok. College is about learning and learning how to recover from failure is one of the biggest lessons you can learn.