Every college student, at some point, faces an overloaded schedule and the prospect of getting poor grades.
For some students figuring out how to get good grades determines whether they remain in college, which in turn dictates their entire future.
Luckily there are a few secrets that can help any student make it through college unscathed.
Here are the things you need to know about balancing classes and getting good grades!
Here are the 6 Secrets to Balancing Classes and Getting Good Grades
1) Attend the First Week of Classes As if Your Life Depended on It
Think of this first week of classes as an audition.
Analyzing the professor, the class, and your own ability to do well in it is easiest during the first few classes.
It is essential to do this before you develop your interest in the topic or feel invested in the class.
During this first week, it is still possible to change classes, and add something else instead.
Better to do so early, and catch up quickly in a new class, than risk getting poor grades by sticking it out in one that isn’t the right match for you.
Objectively, analyze both the class and the professor. Here are some key things to look for:
Is the professor organized?
Is the professor engaging?
Is the professor really young and too interested? Sometimes new professors will demand an unrealistic workload; does the syllabus reflect this?
Does the professor cover the material extensively? Superficially?
Does class drone into the next period, or wrap up too quickly?
What is the size of the class?
Are you comfortable learning in a class of this size?
If the class is huge, are there TAs available?
Do you have a clear idea, on the very first day of class, which direction you’re heading in terms of the material you will cover, the assignments you have to turn in, and knowing who to reach out to for help?
Usually, in that first class, you’ll get a pretty good idea of how the rest of the semester will go.
That first impression will help you set your own expectations for the course, about how organized you need to be, how much initiative you need to take, etc.
2) Examine the Class and Your Ability to Do Well in It
Look at the material. Is it completely new, or is some of it familiar to you?
Examine the vocabulary.
Some classes, like picking up a new language, might be fascinating.
But memorizing hundreds of French words and their assigned genders will require additional study compared to taking an English class, or a language you already know.
Science classes such as anatomy can be similarly demanding.
Some students learn and recall vocabulary easily while others don’t.
What type of student are you?
After analyzing the class and the professor, assign a number from 1-10, estimating the projected difficulty of the course for you.
A full course load can be anywhere from 4-6 classes depending on the units and quarter or semester system.
Try to keep the total difficulty number no higher than 50.
Additionally, every student has a different difficulty threshold. Keep track of these numbers and reevaluate them again throughout the semester.
Doing this evaluation makes it possible to quantify and track the types of classes that you do well in and your ability to estimate your difficulty threshold.
Next semester this list makes choosing classes much more manageable.
3) Don’t Forget Drop and Pass/No Pass Dates
Pass/no pass and drop dates are some of the most important dates on the academic calendar.
For many reasons, a class can turn out to be a nightmare.
When this happens, ask yourself: Can I pass it? Can I learn something even though I’m doing poorly?
Provided the answer is yes, go and sign up to take this class pass/no pass.
If you find there is no hope, and you just can’t see yourself passing, drop it quickly, and focus your energy on the remaining courses.
This is preferable to receiving a poor grade and hurting your GPA.
4) Stay on Track from Day One
It’s not unusual for students to take it easy on the first day of classes.
After all, it’s just the beginning; things are not going to get too intense that quickly, right?
Unfortunately, this kind of thinking might lead you to become complacent.
Which in turn might end up in a bunch of work piling up and leaving you stressed out, sleepless, and unable to deliver the quality work that you could if you had enough time to work on them.
So hit the ground running on day one itself.
Keep a planner handy.
You can use the in-built one on your laptop or your phone, or one that you physically write in.
Every time your professor mentions an assignment, quiz, test, exam, etc., input the deadline into your calendar straight away.
This way, you can see how closely or widely your deadlines are at a glance, and it will give you a better understanding of how much time to allocate for each assignment.
Other things you should keep track of include recommended texts mentioned in class.
Some professors may explicitly assign reading, quizzes, discussions, or assignments from specific books.
See if you can find them in the library as soon as you have the opportunity.
Better you check them out early than find out the day before the assessment is due that there are no copies available.
Familiarize yourself with your college facilities early on.
How to use the databases to find the books you need, where you can print things out, which computer labs are typically not too crowded.
Knowing these things off the top of your head can make all the difference when it comes to all the little emergencies of college life that one can never account for.
They can save you valuable time to focus on finishing a paper or quiz, rather than worry about how you’re supposed to submit it through an unfamiliar student portal, or where you’re supposed to print it out.
5) Balance College Life with Classes
College is a lot more responsibility than just studying.
Laundry, feeding yourself, having fun with friends, and a part-time job all consume time and energy.
Every student has a unique ability to manage and prioritize all these different things with school work.
A large part of the college experience is learning to prioritize and make sound decisions.
It is easy to over-promise and under-deliver, and then become stressed out.
When this happens, step back and look at the parts of the schedule you can compromise on to provide more time and emotional sanity.
6) Pay Attention to Emotional and Physical Balance
Schools teach many things but rarely do they teach good emotional and physical care.
Many students will find college classes very difficult.
Away from home, surrounded by additional stresses, junk food, and strangers, many students just give up or fall apart.
Getting unsatisfactory grades can be a product of poor emotional and physical care.
A strong mind can only function when the body is healthy, and the mind is in a good emotional space.
Do things to take care of both the body and mind to ensure that studying is as easy as possible.
This includes exercise, a proper diet with plenty of protein, keeping hydrated, and taking time to enjoy the company of friends and the hobbies you love.
This might be your first time staying away from home; if you get homesick, keep in frequent contact with your family, and bring things from home that will make your dorm or student flat more welcoming.
Remember, college is the period where many young adults learn vital skills, which will last them the rest of their lives.
This includes being able to look after their diets, maintaining a healthy daily routine doing things like waking up on time, getting enough sleep, stocking groceries, etc.
All while balancing studies and work.
As hectic as it can get, sometimes, it’s crucial to let these skills develop instead of postponing them to when “things are less busy.”
There will be some trial and error, but you will be able to pick up valuable life skills along the way.
Now that you have these 6 tips for balancing classes and getting good grades, which advice did you find the most helpful?
Which strategy are you going to start work on first?
Write in and let me know!
Jen Thames is the Brand Manager for RHL.org, committed to helping students make a home away from home when they’re going through the important chapter of life called college.
[ Updated – October 7, 2020 ]