How to bounce back after a bad first quarter

Archive/HIGHLANDER
Speaking to your academic advisor, managing your time and staying organized can help you recover and start off the new quarter right.

Transitioning from a semester to a quarter system can be difficult. Time flies fast in the quarter system with just 10 weeks to learn a subject. For first-year and transfer students, fall quarter may not have gone as smoothly as they hoped; a bad first quarter, however, does not mean that you are doomed to fail for the rest of your time at UCR. With a new year comes a new quarter which means an opportunity to improve academically.

Here are some ways to help you improve on a not-so-great first quarter.

Time management

The first step to succeeding in the quarter system is to manage your time wisely. It is not easy to learn how to manage your time, but there are ways to do this. Using a planner or Google Calendar is one way to achieve this, by allowing you to write in time to study, to eat and to take a break. In both, you can add your schedule, test dates and allocate time for other activities. An advantage of Google Calendar is configuring it to send you reminders.

By this point, you may have noticed that having a gap in between classes is a lot of time to kill. One way to improve academically is to take advantage of the free time that you have. Those hour gaps in between classes can be used as study time. To help motivate you to study during those times, try going to a place with no distractions, such as the library or computer lab. By going to a quiet location, you will be able to focus on the assignment at hand.

By planning your time, you will be able to stay organized and not fall behind in classes. By making time to eat and take a break, you will be able to focus on studying and allocate enough time for your needs.

In order to plan out your time wisely, you need to start doing so early. Week one is a great time to start gauging how much time you will need to dedicate to a class. As the quarter progresses, make sure to check that you are adding more study time if you need to.

Create a to-do list

With the quarter system flying by and a packed schedule, it is easy to forget stuff. If you have found yourself forgetting to do assignments or study for tests, then perhaps consider creating a to-do list. By having a to-do list, you will be constantly reminded about the stuff and assignments that you need to get done. So that you won’t forget about your list, make sure to keep it in a place that you will check often, such as a planner or your phone. You also don’t need fancy stuff in order to create a to-do list. A sticky note with important assignments or things to do is enough. Just remember to place it in a spot where you will see it often.

Don’t take on too many tasks at once

Sometimes multitasking is not always the best strategy. Most of us try to multitask as much as possible. The assumption is that this will help us finish more assignments in a shorter amount of time. Yet, this is not always the case. When multitasking, you will begin many assignments at once and as a result this can make you feel overwhelmed. Although you may begin multiple assignments at once, chances are that you will feel too overwhelmed that you will not finish any assignments at all. In addition, multitasking also causes people to not dedicate enough attention and energy to each task. The result will be assignments of low quality.

Instead of multitasking, try to do an assignment one at a time. Finish an assignment before moving on to the next one. By working on one task at a time, you will be fully focused on that task and be able to do your best. Additionally, finishing an assignment will motivate you to keep working on to the next one.

Learn to say ‘no’

Learning to say ‘no’ is something that will help you manage your time. While you cannot say ‘no’ to classes and studying, you can say ‘no’ to social activities that will make you push your study time to the last minute. If you know you have a test or an assignment due soon that you are not prepared for, then it would be a great idea to say ‘no’ to a night out or going out with your friends until you have completed your assignments.

Learning to say ‘no’ can also motivate you to work on getting your tasks done as soon as possible. The earlier you begin studying for that test, the more confident you will feel about it and not feel guilty about going out with your friends.

Stop procrastinating

It is easy to tell yourself that you will do an assignment later or the next day, but putting off assignments until the last minute will impede your success. If procrastination was a big reason why your first quarter did not go great, consider ways to stop procrastinating. It’s not easy to stop putting things off to the last minute, but you can practice by starting assignments earlier than you usually would. In addition to starting assignments early, work on the assignment a little bit at a time each day until it is due. This also ties to managing your time efficiently. By starting assignments as soon as you get them, you are saving yourself from a possible all nighter. Starting assignments early also gives you enough time to ask for help or clarification to a professor or TA. Doing a little bit of work at a time can also help you not feel overwhelmed with a big assignment at once.

Use your resources and ask for help

When in doubt, turn to your professor or TA to ask for advice on how to do well in the course. It would be best to ask for help early rather than later. Use week one as an opportunity to talk to your professors and TAs before their office hours start to fill up with other students.

If you are unsure of what to ask a professor or TA, you can simply ask “how can someone get an A in your class?’ or something similar; their answer may often help you learn what is expected and how to best allocate your time and energy. This will help prepare you for the rest of the class and to start planning accordingly as to how much time you will need to dedicate to this class.

If you have yet to go to the Academic Resource Center (ARC), this is also an opportunity to use those resources to help you in classes. The ARC offers tutoring for a variety of subjects and classes.

Sign up for the ACE program

Apart from tutoring, the ARC also offers the ACE (Assistance, Coaching, and Encouragement) program, an academic support program. One misconception is that you need to be in academic probation to sign up for the program, but you don’t need to. Both students in academic probation and in good standing sign up for the program. Many of the students who sign up do see an increase in their GPA.

So if you want help but have already tried tutoring and going to office hours, try the ACE program.

Rethink your path

It is normal and understandable to rethink your major after a bad first quarter. If you find yourself not enjoying your classes and not looking forward to your career, then it might be better if you take time to explore other majors and careers. Many students change their majors after fall quarter for a variety of reasons. Many of them have also gone from BCOE to CNAS, CNAS to CHASS and vice versa.

If the subject you are majoring in does not interest you anymore, use winter quarter as an opportunity to explore other majors through breadth courses. You can also talk to other students who you know are in that major to get an idea of how the classes are.

It is still possible for you to get to your dream job after changing majors. It is possible, for example, to do your undergrad in CHASS and go to medical school. If medical school is your goal, try going to the Health Professions Advising Center, located in the ground floor of Rivera Library (B03), to ask for advice.

Overall, the quarter system is not easy, but with motivation you can learn to adapt to it. Don’t let a bad quarter discourage you from succeeding. Use winter quarter as an opportunity to learn from the mistakes you made last quarter. Whether you are a first-year or a transfer student, one bad quarter won’t define the rest of your life. While it can be frustrating and discouraging, it is something that can be overcome.

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