“Pain is temporary, but GPA is forever.”
Generally when people look back on how their grades started to flop in the last stretch of the quarter, they rarely ask themselves what they could have done in the early weeks to help their grade. College can be excruciating at times and finding ways to dramatically boost your GPA in a relatively short time isn’t always viable either. So before you find yourself in a position where your grades are on life support, make an effort from the first week of the quarter to safeguard your grades so you aren’t scrambling to repair something that can’t be fixed.
During the first week of the quarter you may find your professor intimidating based on their course workload and lecture style. But as I’ve learned throughout my college experience, judging someone’s overall disposition and personality from a few hours of academic lecture per week is reductive. Professors urge you to come to their office hours for a reason. When class sizes number in the hundreds it’s an impossible feat to ask a professor to be able to tailor their style to something that suits your academic wishlist. We all have our preferences for how we want our professors to teach, but college is not a “Build a Bear” factory. We are given the hand we’re dealt and we must play that hand and salvage whatever we get out of it.
Familiarizing yourself with a professor as early as week one will show agency on your behalf and establish you as a student who is serious about their performance in the class. Office hours permit a certain intimacy that is not possible to replicate in large classes. And in the professor’s case, they don’t have to adhere to a standardized teaching pace. You can control the ebb and flow of a scheduled meeting and hone in on what you truly need help in. Some professors end up being leagues apart from their in-class personas when you get to know them in a less stressful environment. Once they know you by name, they will begin to take a personal stake in your academic efficacy. Then you’ll be able to visit them as often as you need to throughout the quarter with questions regarding the material or issues about grades without feeling as though you’re talking to a stranger. Building rapport with your professors is the only way you’re going to feel comfortable with them challenging you in a private setting. There are a good percentage of professors who want to see their students succeed, but you’ll never know that unless you make the first step toward unearthing that truth.
Another salient method to save your grade is to book a session at the Academic Resource Center (ARC). Many people groan about not understanding difficult material when there’s a plethora of resources on campus readily available to invest in. Our tuition fees are paying for the center, so it seems counterproductive to stay in a powerless position knowing very well that there are easily accessible tutors. If your schedule constantly conflicts with your professor’s office hours or their personality in close proximity is still off-putting, there are tutors who are happy to step into the fray to help you achieve academic salvation. Tutoring sessions can be solo or in groups, and not only can they explain the material to you in a more grounded fashion, they push you to contextualize the material so that it becomes a permanent occupant in your mind and not some fleeting footnote that will be forgotten once the quarter is over. A fully realized scholar is one who can weed through their inhibitions and identify their inability to grapple with tough concepts before the quarter gets too hectic.
The last key method to help guard your grades is to form study groups. Study groups are a good way of breaking up the course load so the chances of becoming overwhelmed during the quarter are minimized. Once every school week has ended, make sure you compile and communicate the advancements on a Google doc or some other sharing mechanism. This allows you to keep up with the material at your own comfort. Make sure whatever material you decide to be in charge of is something you can teach to other people in the group. A study group enables each member of the group to embody the role of a teacher as they cultivate knowledge that is accessible to them and then facilitate it to others. After all, you really don’t know the material unless you’re able to relay it to someone else in a sensible way. Once you have all of your bases covered, it’ll be a lot easier to approach heavier concepts knowing there’s a group to back you.
Whoever said there’s a quick method of saving your grades is a bold-faced liar. Instead of relying on extra credit that may or may not be provided at the end of quarter, or desperate gambits by choosing to pull an all-nighter on the eve of a test, do yourself a favor by establishing connections from the beginning of the quarter. Many of these connections are often finite and only last a quarter, but as long as they get you through a class then the effort is always well worth it. And who knows, you may bond well enough with a professor and one day reap the benefits of your relationship when it’s time to garner letters of recommendation.