Great news! You’re almost done with your first semester of the year. How are you feeling? Are your classes going well? Are your grades what you hoped they would be? I am sure some of you out there are shaking your heads ‘no’ to both of those questions. Feeling like you’re falling behind is pretty common, even for overachievers. Figuring out how to recover in the middle of a rough semester can seem impossible. These steps will help you make a plan to get back on track and get the grade you want.
Step 1: Audit Yourself
To begin, you need to know what you’re facing. This means figuring out your current grades ASAP — if you can, by percentage. Take out a notebook or grab your whiteboard and write each and every one of them down. That way, your current situation is out there, in full, so you can strategize on what you need to work on and what classes you can put less time in.
Step 2: Talk It Out
When you feel like you’re failing (or you know you are), there is no time to waste. You need to get your professor or academic advisor involved. Showing that you recognize your problem and that you’re proactive puts you in such better standing than someone who waits until the week of finals to ask for help. Set up a time to sit down and evaluate together so that they can help you pinpoint what is the problem and maybe give you some personalized solutions on how to make it better.
Step 3: Plan Your Calendar
For most colleges, you have about five more weeks until break. That seems like a ton, but in the grand scheme of things, there are midterm reviews, project deadlines, meetings, and final study sessions to take up your time. Grab your syllabus and go through each class. Mark on your calendar, planner, or phone important deadlines along with reminders a week, 3 days, and 1 day in advance. You’ll feel less overwhelmed when the days ahead are spelled out.
Step 4: Goal Set
Now that you’ve got a realistic picture of what you need to do and when it is due, it’s time to set a goal for yourself. The most important part of goal setting is to be realistic. Unless your professor is really lax on grading, you’re not going to go from a D- to an A+ in half a semester. But passing with a C or even a strong B could be in reach. Use that calendar to write in check-in marks each week where you see how you have progressed on that goal line.
Step 5: Reward Yourself
You need to reward yourself for when you do hit those goals. The grade and the relief are enough, but you may also want to treat yourself to a celebration dinner or a new poster for your dorm room. Adding a reward to the goals doubles your chances of success and helps you establish good study habits for future semesters.
Step 6: Cut Yourself Some Slack
Finally, Rome wasn’t built in a day. If you get to finals week and you’re still feeling crushed, take a moment and think of what you have accomplished, what you have learned, and how far you’ve gone (even if it doesn’t seem like a lot). Then, decide what it was that you did wrong. Maybe the class was too advanced or you took on too much this semester. While you don’t want to make excuses, knowing why you feel like you’re falling behind can help you pick yourself up for next semester.