As distressing as it may be, getting a poor GPA from your first quarter of college is not
irrecoverable. Trust me, I understand it’s a tough blow, but it’s important to remember that
success comes differently for everyone. Cut yourself some slack; it’s your first quarter of
college and, although it may seem like so many others are already flourishing in academic glory,
you’ve only had a couple of months to adjust yourself. For many, I’m sure this was a huge wake
up call. High school may now seem like a complete breeze in comparison to the amount of
work needed to do well in college and the A’s don’t come as easily as they once did. In a way, I
personally felt as though who I thought I was as a student was forced into reevaluation after this
quarter, but I just have to keep reminding myself that this is not the end, but merely the
beginning. For those of you feeling similarly, bear in mind that the UC system can be extremely
rigorous and accelerated, so it comes down to how you pace yourself in the midst of
If you don’t think you have developed efficient study habits or time management skills, there is
always room for improvement. I’m sure you’ve heard it all before about how “you have to find
what works best for you,” but if you have had a rough quarter, just remember that you’re still
trying to figure it all out. Try new techniques and be resourceful when it comes to taking the
time to learn material and study concepts. Being organized is key in college and I cannot stress
that enough. Keep your planner/calendar updated, create a routine for yourself, and take good
notes in class. I’m confining my advice to generalities because I know that every student is
different, but we all relate as students at one level or another. With that said, here are some
different strategies and pieces of advice to (hopefully) lead you in the right direction for
improvement and redemption next quarter:
Realize how you waste your time.
Let that sink in and start by making minor swap-outs to what is consuming valuable study time.
This is one of the biggest beasts to tackle, because you truly can be your own biggest
distraction, so you need to be a better gatekeeper of what you’re allowing into your schedule.
I’m not saying to always deprive yourself of fun social events or dedicate hours on end of
straight studying instead of grabbing a meal with some friends because you’re entitled to fun as
well; just learn how to say “no” when you know you should.
When and how do you work best?
Ask yourself what is the most efficient way for you to study, because that’s not always what you
may prefer. Many people would prefer to study in groups with friends, but fail to notice what
may actually be more of a distraction and lack of productivity. Some people want to have the
TV on in the background while studying, which can also be a dangerous distraction, especially
when you find yourself more interested in the plot of an episode rather than taking in the
material. Some people resort to cramming the night before to make the most out of the
daytime, but if you already know that you’re not a night owl and coffee won’t be as there for you
as you think, then set aside time in the day. Carry little study tools like flashcards to maximize
study time while you, for example, are on the bus, have a few minutes to spare before class
starts, on break at work, and so on. Try different methods to find what suits you best –
flashcards, color coding notes, repetition, or verbal explanations like teaching it to someone
else. Again, it’s just about being honest with yourself and finding what will result in optimal
Make time for what is important to you.
Don’t let yourself be redefined as only a student of your major, but keep your roots planted in
the other aspects of your character. Whether that be in things like sports, the arts, cooking –
whatever it is, just fight for it. Finding time to do what I enjoy leisurely was also a big struggle of
mine this quarter. I must say that everything becomes more enjoyable when you remember
what makes you so uniquely “you.” As stressful as academics can get, don’t forget who you are
and that you owe it to yourself to embrace other outlets of identity and self-expression.
I’m trying to spare you all from cliches, but truly, sometimes we all just need some cheesy
motivation to remind us that everything will be okay – and in the end, it will be. I firmly believe
that. It’s crucial to realize and accept who you are, the good and the bad, in order to be able to
make adjustments accordingly. Take the time to find out what your biggest monster was during
your first quarter. Break it down into subproblems and address each one with potential solution.
Don’t give up and don’t beat yourself up too much; you’re learning, you’re transcending, and you
will make it. Remember that you are not in this alone, remember your goals and your dreams,
and remember that your struggles are a valid part of your path to success.
Lead image: William Landry via Flickr Creative Commons