Get on Track for the New Semester II: Getting Real

So, grade-wise things did not go as you hoped last semester. Let’s start to get things back on track as you begin this new semester.

The first thing to tackle when reflecting on what happened last semester and planning on how to improve things in this coming semester is yourself. That’s right: Y.O.U. You must sit down with yourself and ask what did I do that contributed to the state of my grades?

When I ask students what went wrong, often times the answers involve other people’s issues:

  • My professor was: boring/confusing/too fast/too slow/expected too much/would not accept late work…etc.
  • My computer was not working for most of the semester
  • My dorm is too loud/my roommates are too distracting
  • And on and on…

Guess what though: none of these are good reasons, they are blame deflected onto other people and things to avoid taking personal responsibility for unfavorable consequences.

Here is the life lesson: things go wrong and situations are not always ideal.

Solution: find a way to deal with it and make the situation better (or at the very least work for you).

No matter how bad the professor or the class, your professor is not responsible for your poorly done work,  not handing work in on time (hate to break it to you: your prof is under no obligation to accept late work from you at all), being bored, or having to read, write papers, take quizzes, and complete exams.

Your computer is on the fritz? Your school has a computer lab, use it. Forgive me for going old school but if you have two (or one) functioning hand: write with it. Technological fails are not a reason to forgo handing in an assignment.

Your dorm is too loud and/or your roommates are too distracting? Are your dorm and your dorm room the only place on campus to study? There are libraries, coffee shops, bookstores, empty classrooms…why not use one of these?


If you truly want to improve, here Ten Tough Questions to ask yourself:

If your professor refused to accept late assignments, what was happening to make those assignments late?

  • Were you procrastinating? Why?
  • Did you forget about the assignments? Why?
  • Did you feel that the deadlines given to not apply to you? Why?

If you were confused regularly about information you needed to understand to do well on assignments, what steps did you take to make things less confusing?

  • Did you speak to the professor (and/or teaching assistant) on a regular basis?
  • Did you get yourself a tutor?

If non-attendance of class was an issue, why did you skip class regularly?

  • Did you feel like you did not need to be in class ever? Why?
  • Was something going on that caused you to skip class regularly? What was that?

How were you actually using your time during the week?

  • How many hours a week did you spend on social network sites?
  • How many hours a week did you spend socializing and partying?
  • How many hours a week did you spend watching TV (streaming or otherwise)?
  • How many hours did you spend do anything and everything except work?

If, for some reason, you never got any of the reading material required for class, why didn’t you?

  • Did you look for the readings at the library?
  • Did you ask the professor for help in locating the material?

What was happening in your personal life during this semester?

  • Was there a family/personal issue that interfered with your ability to complete work?

Did you actually like the class in which you did poorly? Why/why not?

  • How did your dislike of the class play a role in you final grade?
  • How can you work in a class even if you do not like it? (This question is not a license to write a list of ways your professor is the cause of your grade, this is a chance to reflect on how you can overcome a bad class/professor and succeed.)

How did you prepare for class, assignments, tests, quizzes, and presentations?

  • Did you prepare at all?
  • Did you just read stuff over and think that was enough to help solidify difficult concepts in your memory?

And here is the biggest question of all:

If your grades are really in the dumps: do you really want to be in college?

  • Why are you at the school?
  • What do you honestly want out of your college experience?

After asking yourself the above questions and writing down truthful answers to each of them, answer this question:

What are you going to change to make sure these things do not become obstacles that prevent you from receiving the college education you want?

Sometimes the blanket answer I get to questions like this is: I am paying money for this education, I should not have to change anything, I should be able to get what I what.

Um, no. Wrong answer. That answer reflects entitlement, not a productive perspective on education.

Try thinking about the question this way: you are not buying acceptable grades from the school to which you pay tuition. You are investing financially in yourself and your future. How much is the future life you want to create for yourself worth? More to the point, how much of the financial investment in yourself are you willing to waste and fritter away?

Download the worksheet and answer each of the ten questions honestly. Bring them with you to your advising meeting if you want to discuss these issues more in-depth with your advisor.


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