Mid Semester: Are You on Track?

At colleges and universities it is the 2nd semester and we are right in the middle of it. I make it a habit to meet with students to discuss their writing but also their goals for the course and their other courses. The first day of school, you heard your professors outline the subjects and explain briefly what you would be studying. For the past 7 weeks we have been following that outline and you have not only witnessed this but taken part in it. You have been doing readings, attending lectures, taking notes, studying and hopefully passing tests and assignments. If I were able to meet with right now I would ask you some of these questions – not so much for my own information but rather to get you to examine your own process. You are the one that determines what grades you will achieve and what you will and won’t do during your education experience.

1. Are you on track with your schedule? Are you balancing the amazing juggling act that most students must perform between school, work and family not to mention social life? Are you able to do this? You can not say yes if you are not passing. What could you change? I understand that you can not probably just quit your job – but maybe could you ask for less hours when you know you have exams or tests that week? It doesn’t seem wise financially – but wouldn’t it be awesome if you could obtain grades that would put you in scholarship position? Then your tuition and books would be paid for.

2. Are your grades in the high B’s or A’s? I ask you this because you may not even be aware that you are eligible for a scholarship. The due dates are probably right about now( for next year) so go to your school website and search for “Financial Aid”. Usually, you can fill out one application, right there on line and – what if you get it? Tuition and Books and maybe more….It is certainly worth your efforts.

3. Are you in the right career path? Most of my students are only in their second semester of school and they have some idea as to whether or not they like their current field of study. Are you in the right place? Is there some other area of interest you would rather pursue? I highly recommend you speak to your coordinator or department head. That person would be more than happy to speak with you. Prepare several questions to ask that would help give you information you want to know such as ” What types of jobs are available to graduates? What transfer agreements do we have with other colleges or universities? ” Of course if it is a matter of “will next year’s courses just be more in depth of what we are studying this semester?” You could ask those types of questions as well. Before you guve up or quit or transfer – make an informed decision. Get some information from your department and from any department you may want to study.  A career counsellor at Student Services would also be happy to go over information with you should you not know what field you should go into or what your aptitudes are.

4. Are you giving your subjects your best effort? Considering I have already spoken about other time commitments – I do not mean that. I mean – when you are studying, are you doing your best? Are you applying yourself? Let’s put it this way: If you were running a race would you be pressing towards the finish line or jogging or walking at the back of the line? Are you really trying? If you are trying your best and not making grades that show it – either you are not studying well enough or not the right material. Let’s narrow that down. Is  either true for you?

5. If you are not studying the right material – you may get a complete BLANK when you see the question. That is an indication you should ask your professor for some chapters of the book to study – try to get pages numbers and possible topics or questions. If you are studying the right material but do not have complete information, it may mean you have to integrate new ways of  studying: writing out notes – my own fail-proof method is to write one definition per file card so that you have about 200 or more file cards to study. This is good for memorization of facts, data, specifics etc. I would also recommend a variety of modalities – that is write it, read it, say it – sometimes sing it – use a variety of ways to help you learn the material. If you have not already done so, get yourself into a study group. How? Ask 2-3 (or more) people in the class if they want to get together to study for the test. Each of you compose some sample questions that cover the readings. This is an excellent way to help you be accountable to others – to motivate you to do your best. It’s also a pretty good way to make studying more fun.

6.  If you are concerned that your mark is low – let me encourage you that it is not too late to succeed. I would recommend that you meet with your professor during his/her office hours to ask specific feedback of how you can improve (assuming you do not know after my list of other suggestions). Professors do their job because they love teaching their students; if you show you are interested in improving, most professors would be glad to spend some time helping you – giving you specific tips to improve.

It is mid semester. It is rather cold and windy; it is winter. It is a time for inventory. I would ask you to take inventory of your current studies. Are you on track with where you want to be? What adjustments do you need to make to make this a successful academic year?

All the best to you.

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