What to Do When You Feel Like You’re Falling Behind in College

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falling behind in college

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.

 

GIF via Giphy

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.

Ace Your First College Paper!

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Educators are notorious for giving essays at the beginning of the school year.  It’s the ideal way for them to screen everyone in the class and assess their individual strengths and weaknesses. Most of us would prefer to fall to have more (if not all) strengths, but the truth is, we all could use a little extra advice! These a few tips that are guaranteed to help you write a solid essay, and they aren’t the least bit difficult. Just remember that a huge part of your grade comes from your effort, and there’s no writing trick that can teach you that!

Essay-Made-Easy

1.  Make An Outline:  Students usually hate making outlines because they’d rather get straight to the writing. Take those extra ten minutes by putting together an outline. You might be tempted to skip it and save some time, but your grade may suffer because your essay will lack flow and organization.  Having an outline allows you to organize all of your thoughts into one fluid essay.

2.  Use A Thesaurus Moderately:  Wanting to impress the teacher with some unconventional vocabulary is typically a smart move on your part.  However, it’s best to limit your use of thesaurus words to less than four words per paragraph;  if you use any more, your teacher will notice an odd trend.  Also, make sure you know the exact definition of a word before using it (otherwise, it could come back to haunt your grade).

3.  Write Introductions Last:  If writing introductions gives you undue stress, just wait until you’ve finished all other components of your essay before tackling it.  Since the introduction is essentially a summary of your essay, it will be much easier to write when you have the entire essay in front of you.

What are some of your tips for writing the best essay?

–Tori A. from Prep For A Day

Mental Health Awareness – What College Has Taught Me

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MeganMentalHealth

Growing up I knew something was different about how I coped with stress and dealt with my emotions. I have very vivid memories of waiting outside by the mailbox almost an hour before the school bus was expected to arrive because I was so afraid to miss it. On bad weather days I would stare out the front window instead, nerves building and building, just waiting for the bus to show up. Who even does that?

Fast forward to today, a year out of college and I feel that I have just now figured it out… and I’ll be the first to tell you that college was not at all easy living with these illnesses. Starting in 2009 when I had my first visit to any kind of therapist, I have been diagnosed with both anxiety and depression. I feel that during my four years in school I have learned SO MUCH, both about myself and about the illnesses so many people misunderstand and oftentimes fear.

MeganMentalHealth2

 1.  “Seriously, It’s NOT That Serious!”

This is a big one for me – anxiety makes mountains out of mole hills (what are mole hills anyways?) The problem here is that ‘sweating the small stuff’ adds up and can affect our overall mental health. Daily negative feelings of stress coupled with the inability to cope with minor events can have a long-term impact on mental health. The worst part? You’re stressing away the best days of your life… take a few breaths, find humor in things and try to enjoy it! Trust me, you’ll thank yourself later!

2.  Take Time Out For Yourself

Don’t forget about YOU! Whether you’re working three jobs on campus, president of your senior class council or just a little overwhelmed by your workload; take time out to just relax and do what YOU want. Being busy is a nice way to keep your mind off reality but let’s be honest – you need time to kick back and relax. Your body needs it and will thank you for it.

3.  Don’t Feel Ashamed – Challenge the Stigma

Three out of four people with a mental illness report that they have experienced stigma. Stigma can be defined as a mark of disgrace that sets a person apart in a negative way and can bring feelings of shame, hopelessness and distress. Hanging your head because you feel ashamed can be a normal reaction, but it doesn’t have to be. Everyone is different, everyone has their own story… and this is yours. Whether it’s with your boss, your professor, your significant other, your roommate or your parents… we all know honesty is the best policy! If something is bothering you about anything in your life, speak up and let your voice be heard. Be open and honest about your feelings and don’t bottle it up – because we all know that only causes more problems.

4.  Know When to Seek Help and From Where

Signs that you’re suffering from depression or anxiety are not always recognizable at first glance. For depression it could be loss of interest or pleasure in normal activities, tiredness and lack of energy, slowed or trouble thinking, and sudden disturbances in sleep. For anxiety it could be feeling restless or on edge, tiring easily, experiencing muscle tension and prolonged irritability. If you feel as though you may be depressed or suffering from anxiety, but are reluctant to seek treatment… talk to a friend, a loved one, or someone else you trust. This is the first step to getting help! Seek professional help (like your school’s counseling services, public safety, or even 911) if you feel as though you are in crisis, or have thoughts of suicide or self harm.

I remember the first time I sought professional help for my mental illness and can recall almost every detail about that appointment, because of how traumatic it was for me. I was SO reluctant and toyed around with the idea for months – I felt like I was being judged and that seeking professional help wasn’t “normal”. It’s not like anyone actually wants to go see a therapist or psychiatrist. It’s not the type of thing someone wakes up in the morning and says “Wow, I’ve been missing something in my life. I’d love to chat with a stranger about my innermost personal fears, thoughts, and feelings and see exactly how screwed up I really am!” Instead of fighting these feelings, it is best to just accept them as part of the process of getting better.

5 (Unfortunate) Truths About College

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Yes, it’s true that college is going to be the greatest time of your life. You’re independent, living with your newfound friends, and studying something that (hopefully) interests you. However, there are some unfortunate realities you should brace yourself for before you get there, because let’s face it, living with hundreds of other freshman in a tightly-packed dorm on a campus with thousands of other people is probably not anybody’s ideal setting. Here are a few facts you should take into account before you get to college:

  1. You aren’t the smartest anymore-The bottom line is that college is much harder than high school. I’m sure you think you already know this and think this is common sense, but you won’t fully understand it until you’re actually there. If you went to a private high school, you might have a better understanding of this because of the application process. You were accepted to the college you’re attending because you met the credentials for the school. However, so did everybody else. Some, maybe even you, surpassed these standards and were rewarded with a scholarship. Ultimately, you may not do as well as you had expected, but don’t worry, it just takes time to figure out how to excel in more challenging classes.
  2. You have to put yourself out there– When I was going through the college process, I was looking at relatively smaller schools. I remember at each tour that I went on, they would always mention in the information session that because they’re a smaller school, it’s easier to get in contact with professors and get involved in clubs. However, just because it’s easier, doesn’t mean that it’s going to automatically happen. You really have to get aggressive and go out of your way to talk to professors and stand out in clubs and organizations, not matter the size of your school.
  3. Naps will become your best friend– I never took naps in high school. I always got my eight hours of sleep, woke up, went to school, went to a club, did my homework, and went to sleep. Unfortunately, that’s not how college works. You can have classes at any time of the day, depending on when they’re offered, and you have to deal with it. That could mean waking up for an 8 a.m. economics class and staying up for a 7 p.m. lab that runs until 10:30 p.m. Plus, you have to get your work done (which can’t be put together last minute like it could in high school) in your free time, make it to clubs, and still maintain a social life. If you want to get your work done, you may have to stay up late sometimes, or if you’re a morning person, wake up early. Basically, power naps are the best way to go.
  4. What is privacy again?– One of the biggest transitions into college is living with a roommate. If you like him/her, then it can be a great year. You’re basically living with your best friend and you have somebody to help you whenever you need it. But on the other hand, everybody wants their own alone time. I know I tend to study by talking out loud and you can’t really do that in a library or when your roommate is trying to read a book. Luckily, the University of Rochester had a library dedicated to people who want to talk while they study, but not everybody has that advantage. My best tip for you would have to be talk to your roommate and find times where you can have the room to yourself and he/she can have the room to his/herself. Basically, communication is the best way to go.
  5. The Freshman 15 isn’t a joke/Nothing beats a home-cooked meal– When you have unlimited swipes into the dining hall like I did and when you have homework to procrastinate, what’s better than eating your way out of boredom? When you’re on your own, you don’t have your parents to watch what you eat and they ultimately have no way to control it. So what’s the best way to fight the Freshman 15? Going to the gym is a great way to be social and burn calories. Speaking of food, no matter how good (or possibly even bad) your dining hall food is, nothing will ever come close to a home-cooked meal. Luckily for you, there are several long-term breaks that you can go home for every once in a while. Your parents will automatically see a drastic change in your appreciation for their food as soon as you get home.

So college may have a few problems here and there, but I promise you that you’ll figure out how to deal with them if you just know them beforehand. Remember to be agressive, communicate with others, and stand out from the crowd, and you won’t have to worry. Don’t be embarrassed to go out of your way to talk to a professor or even your roommate because in the long run, it will be worth it. Oh, and if your parents offer to take you out for dinner this summer, just say yes, you’ll be glad you did.

Research Paper Don’ts

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Research papers are amazing and fun to write! Said no one ever.

In all honesty, research papers can kind of be a pain. Depending on your class, your professor may have assigned topics for you to research, or ask you to pick one to be approved. In my opinion, I find picking my own topic is more rewarding as I can pick a subject that I’m interested in but can still be used academically. On the other hand, having a topic be appointed by your professor saves you the hassle of picking a topic with adequate resources and information. Whichever the situation, a research paper takes time and concentration. If you want to get a good grade on your paper, here’s a few things you should avoid:

1) Plagiarize – I know it sounds silly that I even have to make this a point but sometimes people plagiarize without even realizing it. Those who completely steal chunks of information off of the Internet and paste them into their papers are not only going to get a bad grade on their paper, but also could get themselves expelled from their school. Plagiarism is a common problem that is dealt by colleges often and let me say, they aren’t going to be friendly about it if they catch you. You’re better off just asking your teacher for another day to do your paper than copy and pasting an amazing piece of writing. They will catch you, and you will get in trouble.

If you’re trying to cite a source for your paper and aren’t sure whether or not you’re doing it correctly, you can follow a few steps to make sure that you don’t get in trouble. The first thing you can do is head to a site such as www.easybib.com or citationmachine.net/. These websites help you learn how to properly cite a source depending on the channel in which you got your information. If you are citing work from a book or published piece, you would cite the information differently than if you were citing information from an online journal or website. Make sure you have all of your information handy such as the date the work was published as well as the copyright information. These pieces of information will come in handy when it’s time to write your bibliography. Similarly, you can take your finished works cited page or bibliography to your campus library and schedule an appointment to have one of the staff members go through your work to fix any problem areas. A third step could be submitting an example or two from your bibliography and checking with your professor ahead of time to see if they meet standards.

2) Write a 5 Page Paper with No Structure – I think this was the hardest part for me when writing research papers. If you have a hard time organizing your research papers by your information in order of which the dates occurred or the supporting examples for an argument, it would dramatically help you to create an outline first. Most professors will ask you to submit an outline before you even start writing your paper. If this is the case, make sure you spend some time organizing to get your outline in a clear format. The earlier you make it, the easier it will be for you to jot down notes and sources in the right order. It will also give you a clear insight to any gaps or holes in your argument where you may need some more information or examples. A common rule of thumb is to always start with an Introduction paragraph, then lead into the background of your topic. From there you can start going into your points of argument or start informing your readers. Make sure you keep your paragraphs flowing together and end them with a conclusion paragraph and bibliography or works cited page.

3) Don’t Use Cited Information For 4/5 Pages – Sometimes this can be tricky if you have a lot of great material that backs up your argument. The problem with this is that the teacher doesn’t really get a feel for your understanding and opinions on the topic. The whole point is to show your professor what you’ve learned through your research and how it applies to your argument. If you’re trying to make a point about video games and the effects of gore on children, try to cite sources from both sides of the argument and then use your own words to refute why you think one side is wrong. The key to doing this is by not bashing the author or their ideas, instead bringing up new points of interest to make readers think a little differently.

Whatever the case may be for you research paper, always remember that you can reach out to your professor for help. If you don’t think that your professor has time to meet with you, try heading to your library or finding a tutoring program on-campus. There are tons of outlets available to you on-campus that can help you succeed in any assignment troubles you may be facing.

Leveling Up; School and Video Games

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You’ve gone away to school and you’re on your own for the very first time. Your parents are no longer checking in on you every hour after 8:00 PM wondering if you’ve brushed your teeth and washed behind your ears. They aren’t there to make sure your rooms clean, your homework’s done, and that you’re in bed early enough to wake up for class the next day.

You are a free man.

You’ve set up your dorm room just perfectly with all the luxuries of a mini fridge stocked with Mt. Dew, Cheetos and Zebra Cakes. You and your roommate both have your XBOX’s linked up to the TV’s you brought and you’re playing endless matches of Call of Duty until the wee hours of the night. You feel great, and alive. You’re amped up from all the sugar and caffeine you’ve been living off of, and excited that you have your own place where you can play video games all night long. Could life get any sweeter than this?

Probably not. Unless they installed a Chipotle into the downstairs cafeteria.

But before you get too hyped up on your sugar high, let’s take a look at freedom and responsibilities. Now, to make sure I don’t sound like your mom back home, let me simply state that I am one of the biggest gamer nerds I know. I can’t complete a day in life without sitting down and playing at least two hours of video games. No matter what my day consists of, no matter what hurdles I’ve jumped over (or dreamt of jumping over during my epic couch potato nap) I always find at least two hours of crucial game play time. I’m talking full headset, knees tight to my chest, teeth grinding, play time. Due to this, I am one of the best people to understand how hard it is to maintain school and play.

Being on your own gives you the freedom of coming and going as you please as well as doing what you want, when you want. The important thing to remember is that the reason why you have your own place is because you’re away at school to get good grades and to study hard. Although playing video games is fun and time consuming in all the best ways, you have to remember that your games aren’t going anywhere, but your school deadlines are. Your vacation away from home could be over just as quickly as it started if you fail to do your school work and get good grades.

The best thing to do is make sure you set a schedule for yourself ahead of time. And trust me, I know how fast things can come up in both school work and gaming. You come home from a long day of class, it’s been raining all day and you’re tired and ready to relax. You have a paper due in two days, but you’re so spent that you figure you’ll just knock it out of the park tomorrow. You stay up all night playing video games and don’t get in bed until the early morning. You wake up, groggy, and go to your classes. You come home tired, spent and just want to relax. See the pattern? Pushing off deadlines and not mentally preparing for them ahead of time makes it all too easy for you to just succumb to the ease and accessibility of your gaming system.

The other thing about video games is that they can make you a bit anti-social. If you’re away at school and living on campus, the best times to meet people is when you’re out socializing. Instead of coming home after classes and diving right into your zombie slaying, try finding an activity on campus to take part in or going to grab a bite first with your roommate. College is all about the experience, and you’ll miss out if you’re always hermit-crabbing away in your room. Not to mention, you’ll run out of Cheez-its eventually and will need to make it to the grocery store for more gaming snacks and soda. You might as well get out and meet people while you’re doing it. Then you can come home, plug in and play all you want.

While I’d never suggest leaving your gaming console at home (I could never do it), I do suggest setting boundaries for yourself and making sure that your school work comes first. Leveling up your level 80 character and logging on to get the one time item available for that week isn’t as important as getting your degree and bettering your career. Turn off your console (or PC) and do your paper. You’ll feel so much better after you get it done and then you can game your face off for hours after you get home from class and turned in your polished, finalized paper.