A Scary Thought for Students

Only Six Weeks Remain in the Fall Semester

Posted Oct 31, 2016

Today is Halloween, which means Fall is waning.  Besides the leaves that are increasingly falling off trees (at least here in the Northeast), the college calendar is also shedding days and weeks. For most students on a traditional semester calendar, there are roughly six weeks left in the semester. For those on a quarter system, there may be even less time. That is a scary thought.

Why is it scary? Because midterm is in the review mirror and Thanksgiving is on the horizon, along with many final papers, projects, and then final exams. Many students are in control of their classes and on top of their course work. But others are not and they hope there is still time left in the semester to rectify things, especially their grades. The problem is that there is not much time left.

What should psychology majors—or any college students for that matter—do now? Take stock of where things are headed and get started dealing with them. Here are some steps to take right away:

List what is left to do. Create a list of all the remaining assignments that must be submitted, including papers and projects, as well as all exams, including any finals. Everything: Nothing is too big or too small. Put dates next to each item.

Assess how much time each item on the list deserves. How long (hours or days) will it take to write the long term paper in your Child Development class? When can you start? How much time do you need to study for the third exam in Personality? Can you draft the book review for Western History this coming weekend?

Tackle the big items bit by bit. Never try to do the major term paper all at once. Start by doing your library research, collecting materials, and outlining the paper. Write your thesis statement and so on. Work consistently and gradually on big projects. Try to do an hour or two a day on the big project, then turn to the smaller, briefer ones. Those you should do at one or two sittings.

Do a course grade audit. Be honest with yourself and review the grades you’ve received in each class so far this semester. Where do you really stand at this point? If you’ve consistently done B or C work, don’t assume you get an A on the final or your transcript. The best predictor of future behavior is past behavior.

Are you going to pass all your courses? If the answer is yes, then get to work. If the answer is no, then you need to do some thinking. Is it worth staying in a course where you might get a D or even an F? Probably not. Can you afford to drop the course and take it again at another time? Do you need the course? In many cases, it’s best to drop a course where your performance is sub par so that you can put more attention to those courses where you are doing well.

What if you are performing poorly in more than one course? You should speak with your academic advisor and the course instructor immediately. You may not be able to drop two courses, but if you drop one then you might salvage a decent grade in the other course if you spend more time studying. Again, talk to your adviser and the course instructor ASAP.

Are you using all of the available resources on campus? Are tutors for your various courses available? If yes, then make certain you make use of them instead of trying to muddle through. Are you making use of your college or university’s writing center or academic advising center? If not, then make an appointment at one or both ASAP.

Are you in the right major? If you are not doing well in your academic major courses, then that may be something to seriously revisit. Is the major you have chosen the right one for you? If your grades are mediocre to poor, then you might consider switching to another major.

So, there is still time for you to take action this semester in order to improve your course performance and your grade point average. But remember: It will be Thanksgiving break before you know it, so get started! By the way, some of the above steps are good ones to take even if you are doing quite well in your courses—it never hurts to do a serious list of what is left to do and where you stand grade wise in your classes. Good luck.

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