by Bolton Morales, M.A.
Bolton Morales, a third-year doctoral student in the Southern Illinois University Department of Communication Studies, shares three tips for managing your GPA related anxieties after transitioning into your first year of college.
Earning bad grades as an undergrad, especially as a first-year student, can be disappointing and make one feel inadequate. . I know from experience. In my experience, poor performances do not define who you are nor do they limit your potential. In fact, because you learn from hardship, it may improve your chances of being admitted into internships, research programs, graduate schools, or hired for jobs. Assuming, of course, poor performance is not habitual and forms a learning experience that translates into future successes.
As a third-year doctoral student, I cannot help but look back with some embarrassment at my performance as an undergraduate student. Coming from a small town in Texas, where school always felt like it came easy to me, I was under the false impression that I could embody the same habits (or lack thereof) that I had in high school. Cheap beer, late nights, couch surfing, and cramming for exams, I nearly ruined my chances of completing my degree before I really got started.
In her U. S. News article, Briana Boyington, a senior digital producer, highlights a quote from Fiona Doyle, Dean of the Undergraduate Division at the University of California—Berkley, who explains, “the freshman GPA, whether weak or very strong, is a poor predictor of subsequent performance, and reflects more on the preparation that the student had in high school than on their innate academic ability.” Keeping this idea in mind, how do you actually bounce back from having too much fun your first year?
For students who have lost all hope in saving their GPA I have three recommendations to help ease your GPA related anxieties and get you back on track based on my experience and a little additional research:
1. Don’t be so hard on yourself!
Mistakes happen, but often times it is our responses to these mistakes that determine the actual impact these moments have on our lives. Typically, we tend to be our biggest critics. Not living up to our own (or others’) expectations can lead some to additional destructive behaviors. Mackenzie Koehler, a contributor to The Odyssey, suggests taking advantage of the counseling services on campus. For those at Southern Illinois University, Saluki Cares and Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS) are two resources readily available whose purposes are to develop, facilitate, and coordinate a university-wide program of care and support for students who experience any type of distress—emotional, physical, financial, or personal.
2. Know your habits (and if you need to change them)!
Many articles that focus on bouncing back after a rough first year, semester, or class discuss the necessity of building your organization and time-management skills. However, I would rephrase this and suggest you learn your study/work habits. You may find that your habits adjust as you progress in your education. While I still rely on older habits from time-to-time (I’m not a procrastinator, I just prefer doing all my work in a deadline-induced panic), I’ve added various approaches to organization, studying, and time-management. Feel free to mix-and-match different methods and approaches; study and work habits are not one size fits all. The worst thing you can do is try to hold yourself accountable by using methods that don’t mesh with your style, so find what works best for you!
3. Communicate (No, really…)!
Keep in mind that almost everyone understands that life happens (and quite relentlessly at times). In this way, if you feel yourself beginning to lose control or if something comes up that might derail you from your coursework don’t be afraid to reach out and explain what’s going on (at a level that’s comfortable); who knows, they might allow the grace to put your mind at ease.