It doesn’t take long after the start of a semester to feel like you are falling behind, especially if you are going back to school as an adult and have other things on your plate to juggle on a daily basis. Here are a few tips to help you get into a routine that will set you up for a semester of success and a GPA to be proud of.
1. Where are you in the semester and what do you have left to do?
Making lists will be your best friend, and learning to prioritize those lists will set you up for long-term success. Do you have assignments that need to be submitted? Are you just needed to take the final exam? What are the deadlines for all of these tasks? In order to get the big picture use a calendar to mark due dates and exam dates.
2. What is your current studying technique?
How have you been studying? Has it worked? If it hasn’t, what could be holding you back from mastering the material? This is a great opportunity to do a S.W.O.T (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats) analysis. If you are finding that certain places or people are distracting, change your scenery!
3. Talk to your teacher.
Most students underutilize one of the most powerful tools they have for success. Their teacher! The most obvious, yet sometimes intimidating thing you can do is ask for advice on how you can improve. Make sure you approach them sincerely and actually follow through on their advice. Avoid listing off excuses for why you may be falling behind. In this circumstance, actions speak louder than words. You might also want to ask for additional work you can do for extra credit if your grades are not where they need to be, offer to hand in assignments that are late, ask for the opportunity to re-do an assignment that you didn’t score well on and ask if they have any suggestions for what to focus your studying on. Most teachers are there because they want to see you succeed.
4. Find an accountability buddy!
This could be a friend, family or classmate that you have a strong connection with. Share your goals with them and ask them to hold you accountable. Plan a date or time that you would like them to check in with you ongoing. It is great motivation for getting work done because you know someone is going to be asking you about it.
5. Create a study schedule and get organized!
Most of the time, smaller chunks of studying across a few different subjects are more effective than a huge cram session or two. When you do feel like you have the most energy to study? Is it before you have to go into work, is it while the kids are at school, is it after dinner and the house gets quiet? You decide where you will excel and have the most focus. You should plan 2-3 hours per week for each credit hour you’re enrolled. So, if you’re in a 3-hour history class, you should plan on studying an additional 6-9 hours per week for that one class. That may sound overwhelming, but in order to master the material you need to put the work in. Plan a small reward for meeting your goals. This could be as simple as getting to watch your favorite TV show, or meeting a friend out for coffee. Save the big rewards for when you end the semester with fantastic grades.
6. Buckle down and stay focused.
While it is not recommended, if you are down to the wire on something, cram! In the long term it is not a manageable way to maintain good grades, but if you are behind, have a big exam coming up or need to fit all of your work into a small window of time then do whatever it takes. This may mean you have to give up on some sleep, chug a couple more caffeinated beverages, and give it your all. Avoid all distractions during these cram sessions. Turn off your phone, TV, music and get rid of all other outside distractions. You have limited time, so use it wisely!
7. Don’t repeat the cycle.
Take these habits and start utilizing them at the beginning of your next semester. Get an organizer or calendar, get your syllabus, complete work ahead of schedule if you find that you have extra time, and plan for your exams. You may feel like you are drowning in work at the moment, but with time and perseverance you can turn it all around.