As many of you know, I didn’t do so hot my first semester of college. I spent way too much time worried about hanging out with my boyfriend 24-7 with all our newfound freedom, and not enough time doing homework. This was also the semester that I learned the damaging effects of Seasonal Affective Disorder (winter depression), and lost interest in absolutely everything.
Needless to say, my classwork took a major hit, and I barely scraped out with a 1.93 GPA. It was in this very moment that I decided this wasn’t the student I wanted to be. I didn’t want to be the student that just got by. I didn’t want to be the student that used depression as an excuse. So over my winter break, I created this wildly detailed graphic, outlining every strategy I was going to undergo to make sure I excelled. It covered such things as writing my notes three times to make sure I remembered them, copying all of my professors’ contact information into a master spreadsheet to use when I was in a jam, and taking advantage of every extra credit opportunity that came my way. (If that graphic ever manages to surface again, I’ll post it.) So I got back to school in January, and I did absolutely none of those things.
Instead, I started a blog, became a Chapter Advisor for Her Campus, joined the Stout Film Society, rejoined Stout Swing Club, and started taking Zumba classes. Ask me how that solves my problem, because everybody else sure did. But sure enough, I finished the Spring semester with a 3.67 GPA, and a lot more respect for myself and what I had accomplished. Now how the heck did I pull this off?
1. Asking Questions.
I stopped telling myself that I’d look stupid if I asked for my professor’s to clarify something I didn’t understand. I made it my goal to ask more questions than the other students, and even the prof. I asked how far I could work ahead on assignments, and if I could review drafts of essays with them ahead of the deadline. It leaves a positive impression on your peers and mentors, and you’ll never settle for “kind of understanding” your work.
2. Taking Notes.
I suck at it. I cannot fully understand the discussions and the lectures when I’m trying to scribble down important materials for tests or projects. Rather than settling for listening in class and hoping I’ll remember important dates and deadlines, I embraced my shortcomings and asked a classmate if we could share notes. This alone helped me improve on exams by a whole letter grade.
3. Finding My Fuel.
With any form of depression, it’s really important to figure out what makes you feel good about yourself – what makes you want to keep going. I figured out that I feel ten times better about my day if I’ve accomplished something, big or small. Usually that’s enough to keep my productivity going all day long. If I can convince myself to do one blog post, or a small reading for a class, I’ll be motivated enough to finish my assignments for the whole week!
4. Prioritizing My Time.
My mom always told me that I needed to get my priorities straight and I never understood it. But once I thought about it, mine were all out of sorts. I decided schoolwork needed to be my number one, and everything else would have to fall behind it. It got to the point where I would whip through my homework no problem, because I knew it would bring me closer to the things I was actually excited to do.
5. The Right Supplies.
I never used binders in primary school because I hated how trashy they would look in use. The rings would bend, or catch on papers and rip them, or the edges would break. Now that I realize how useful they can be, I made an investment in the best binders known to man. The Staples Better View Binders have sturdy rings, a clean design, and rubber lined edges. And because they are so well designed, they last forever, and they still look brand new a year and a half later. Thanks to this investment, I’m able to keep my papers organized and clean without feeling like it’s a hassle to do so.
Well I hope this has been helpful! I know that I’m not perfect. But each semester of working hard brings me closer to that 4.0! What are your strategies for keeping your grades up? Please share!