Have you ever had a semester that you took for granted only to end up cringing at your grades, wishing you could redo things? It’s typical for a lot of students to fail to regulate their study habits when they transition into the majestic university life – often attempting a juggling act between social life, sleep, clubs and work.
Fast forward to four months down the line, after a semester of great sleep, 233 new Facebook friends who you met at a complete stranger’s party, chairing an executive board of a social club, you begin to feel a deep sense of unrest clicking on the “Get Grades” button on the Rutgers Portal. If there’s something I‘ve learned from students who regretted their final grades, it’s that a change in a letter grade makes all the difference to your GPA.
1) Don’t just go to class, walk into class with the willingness to learn
What can make all the difference in the world to your grades is walking into class optimistically. You will exude a vibe of readiness, professionalism and enthusiasm if you participate in class discussions and ask meaningful questions.
This can be a harder task to accomplish for introverts, but get rid of that voice in your head that tells you your questions are redundant, boring, or unnecessary.
Make your voice heard. Let your passion for that class reflect in your actions. From experience, professors are more likely to give you the benefit of the doubt in determining your final grade if they have seen you put in continuous effort.
Attendance by itself is a very important component, but make it about more than just the compulsion of going to class.
2) Make regular appointments with the Dean of the school you’re enrolled in
Degree Navigator is helpful, but it is sometimes better to meet with a dean to talk about your requirements. A sit down session with the Dean can be especially reassuring for students who are just embarking on their academic journeys and figuring out what major they want to pursue.
Be prepared with your current unofficial transcript, research on future classes you plan on taking, and a possible double major or minor you are thinking of exploring. Since they have dealt with a great number of students (and possibly students who might have faced the same dilemmas you are facing), they can help you map out the rest of your journey, warn you of the roadblocks you are likely to hit, and offer realistic solutions.
3) Take advantage of office hours
This connects to tip #1 in the sense that it establishes your willingness to go the extra mile and address your concerns one-on-one with the Professor. Professors like knowing you care enough about the class to spare your free minutes outside of your class schedule to speak with them.
In a class we might consider “small” of even 30 students, the Professor might be too overwhelmed with sticking to the syllabus, that your personal growth in the class could be compromised. The only way to fix that is ensuring they know you as more than your RUID or your last name. More importantly: try not to go to office hours just to say “hey”. Have a sense of purpose by coming in prepared with a planned list of questions, and incorporate an introduction of yourself into your purpose. Remember to optimize that one-on-one time because there will most likely be several people behind you in line.
4) Form study groups
This essentially kills two birds with one stone: socializing with people who you might take classes with in the future (go networking!) and comparing your progress with theirs, can form a mutually symbiotic relationship when one of you has an overly exhausting week or has to remind the other that class is canceled.
While it is important not to be too dependent on people you sit with, it is equally important to know reliable people who could give you feedback on the reflection paper you wrote, or people with whom you could have an incredibly productive study session with before the exam.
Having a reliable study group leaves you feeling reassured about your progress and relieved when you need last-minute suggestions or advice about homework or an upcoming exam.
5) Commit to a schedule of priorities
Having an actual visual representation of what your weekly calendar looks like does two major things: it reminds you of appointments, homework and projects you shouldn’t be forgetting about. More importantly, you get an estimation of activities you have been over-emphasizing and allotting too much time for.
You tend to start crossing out recreational activities and trips to the gym when you see the amount of study time you allot is paling in comparison. Prioritizing is extremely important. Prioritizing does not mean eliminating a social circle or time towards a club permanently, it means learning to balance your time with your academic goals.
As simple as these suggestions may seem on the surface, to have the determination to follow through with your academic goals is a challenging task. Having these 5 mantras personally applied to my life has benefitted me enormously. Go forth and be confident, even excited to push the “Get grades” button at the end of the semester.