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The Fall semester is officially in the past, but maybe you still just can’t get your grades off of your mind.  If you didn’t do as well as you would have liked during the first semester, especially if it was your first ever semester of college, a few bad grades can be pretty depressing.  Fortunately, with the Spring semester comes a new chance to improve yourself, and start bringing up your GPA.  The first semester of Freshman year can be tough, because not only are you adjusting to a new level of educational challenge, you also have to adapt to a whole new life style, especially if you are living away from home for the first time.  Hopefully by now you’ve gotten a lot of the frat-party every night behavior out of your system, and will be better able to focus on school.  After all, you are probably paying a lot of money for school, and you don’t want to keep flushing it down the drain.  If you play your cards right, you can eventually find the balance between school life and social life that is right for you, you just need to work at it a little.  Here is some advice for getting your grades up during the new semester:

1. Go to Class. And Take Notes.

Taking Notes Notebooks

Even though it seems blatantly obvious, I have to say it.  You probably don’t do too well if you don’t show up to class. Even if you have all the cheap college textbooks you need.  Even if you are a super genius and can still get As on tests if you miss class a lot, skipping too much can hurt you in other ways.  Each Professor has their own attendance policy, and many of them do not appreciate, or tolerate, excessive absences.  I had a professor once who docked an entire letter grade for every class you missed after 2.  I missed 3 classes, and that dropped by grade all the way down to a B.  Moral of the story is, go to class.  Even if you are dog tired or a little hungover, you still need to show up.  And once you get there, you should probably take notes.  Often, professors base all or a lot of the test on class notes.  Even if the notes are derived from the textbook, there will be clues about what you should ignore and what you should focus on when studying for tests.

2. Take advantage of office hours

Student Professor Talking Office Hours

Contrary to what you may believe, most professors are actually there to help you, most people don’t enjoy having to fail students.  Not all, but most.  Most schools require professors to hold office hours, so you showing up at the times marked on the syllabus probably won’t piss them off.  They have to be there to help you, so you may as well give them something to do.  Professors generally appreciate when you show interest in their classes, so attending office hours and asking for help could have tremendous pay-off in the long run.  Building solid relationships with professors can also be helpful down the road if you ever need letters of recommendation, and you probably will.

3. Sleep more, or at least enough

College Student Asleep

Often, college students think that in order to get better grades they need to sacrifice sleep and spend more time studying.  Not getting a good nights sleep is probably the worst thing you can do, both in terms of your school performance and your overall health and well being.  There is a huge body of evidence, that keeps growing, showing that we should do everything in our power to not miss out on sleep.  So next time you think about staying up until 5am to finish a paper, maybe you should skip your 8-10 TV watching period, and do your paper then instead so you can get to sleep.  Surviving college is all about priorities and making choices, and sleep shouldn’t be the first thing you cut out.

4. Stay Organized

Clean vs Messy Dorm Room

There is nothing worse than sitting down to write a 10-page research paper that is due the next day and realizing that you lost the assignment guidelines, or trying to study for a test and not being able to make any sense out of your notes.  Even if 3-ring binders and color-coordinated notes aren’t for you, you should try figure out some sort of organizational system that does work for you.  Even if it is something as simple as having a notebook for each class, or creating a folder on your desktop for each class if you prefer to work on the computer, can go a long way.  You can save yourself a lot of stress if you know where everything is.  I also suggest trying to keep track of the dates of all your assignments and appointments in one place, whether it is a physical datebook or the calendar on your iphone.  Even better, do both.

5. Find Time to Relax

College Students Hanging Out Relaxing

This doesn’t mean you have to go out and rage 3-4 times a week, but it also doesn’t mean you should spend every night in.  Even around midterms and finals when your workload is high, you should still set aside some “me time” so you can relax.  If all you are doing is stressing out about all the work you have to do, the quality of that work may suffer.  Instead of staying up all night watching Netflix and procrastinating, and then panicking.  Get some work done, and reward yourself with a Friday or Saturday night off.  You will feel refreshed and your thinking may be a little clearer.  And who are you kidding, even if you stay in that Saturday night before finals week, you probably didn’t do that much studying anyway, so you may as well have been out with your friends.  As I said a few times already, finding balance is crucial.

What are your strategies for doing better in class?