Falling Behind in Your Classes? Here’s How to Get Better Grades | Career Training | The Salter School
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Falling Behind in Your Classes? Here’s How to Get Better Grades

Category(ies): Student Life

You can get back on track by following these steps

Young male student receives a graded test paper back from his professor in a lecture hall.Whether you’re in college or a professional training program, being in school can be a challenge. The workload can be heavy, with lots of reading, surprise quizzes, and difficult exams. If you’re also trying to work at a job, take care of a family, or even just have a social life, it’s easy to fall behind. Before long, you might see a dip in your grades. If you’re facing this situation, don’t despair! You don’t need to drop out. If you hang in there and work on how you’re handling school, you can get back on track and improve your grades.

What will it take? You’ll need to approach school and some of your study habits a bit differently, and devote some effort to making things better. Spend the next few weeks on these strategies, and you’re likely to be in much better shape:

Step 1: Attend every class

It’s essential that you not miss any classes, going forward. This is the foundation of full participation in your schooling, and you can’t let yourself make any excuses. It might seem like missing a single class isn’t going to set you too far behind, but that kind of thinking probably contributed to the situation you’re in now. You can turn things around, but only if you’re present in class to hear all of the information your instructors are presenting.

If you’re genuinely too sick to attend, or there’s a true emergency preventing you from being there, email your teacher as soon as possible and explain the situation. Be proactive in asking about how you can make up any of the work you may have missed. Talk to a classmate who takes good notes and ask if you can borrow their notes. This will help you make up for the absence.

Step 2: Reach out to your instructor

A crucial step is to ask for help. The instructor is an essential resource if you’re struggling. And chances are, if you’re having a hard time, they already know it. But believe it or not, teachers want you to do well! It’s up to you, however, to reach out and let them know you want to do better. You should:

  • Schedule a time to speak with them—ideally, meet in person—to talk about where you’re having trouble.
  • Let them know that you’re committed to making a change and will work hard to improve.
  • Ask what they need from you in order for you to get a higher grade.
  • Have them help you come up with a plan to help you catch up and learn material you’ve missed.
  • Find out if they can suggest a tutor who might be able to help you.
  • Inquire if they offer regular office hours when you can come and ask them questions.

When your teacher knows you’re serious about improving your performance, they can work with you to turn things around. Don’t be too proud—asking for help simply shows you know you need to make a change.

Step 3: Be more active in class

This starts with where you sit. Sitting in the front of the classroom will make it easier for you to avoid distractions and focus on the instructor. Try to maintain eye contact with the teacher for the entire time they’re talking, focus on what they’re saying, and take lots of notes. Ask questions as soon as you don’t feel you understand the material. When it’s time for class discussion, raise your hand to participate when the instructor wants to call on people. The more active you are during class, the more you will get out of it. (Here are more strategies for how to improve how you participate in class.)

Step 4: Create a study schedule—and stick to it

Just like other people go to a job on a certain schedule, you should set aside a specific time every day to get your studying done. Schedule at least two hours when you’re devoted exclusively to this task. Don’t expect to squeeze in your studying after you’ve taken care of your other responsibilities—you won’t get to it. Studying needs to be a priority. It can be at a different time each day, as long as you don’t let other aspects of your schedule interfere. Mark the time in your calendar, just like you would with any other appointment. This is an appointment you have with yourself, to work towards building your future, so show up and do your best! (Here is some advice if you need study tips or help preparing for a test.)

Step 5: Go over what you got wrong

Whether you’re doing homework or preparing for a test, it’s understandable to get some of the answers wrong. The important thing is that you learn from these mistakes. That’s why the instructor gives you a test in the first place—to see what you know and how well you know it. Once you get feedback about your performance, you know which areas of a subject need more of your time. When you didn’t understand something, or didn’t express well what you know, this is an alert that you should focus on learning more about it. Do some research about the correct answers, and make sure you understand your mistake. If you need to, ask the instructor to explain it to you again. The key to improving is doing things differently this time.

Step 6: Don’t give up

Being in school is hard, and the subjects you’re learning can take some time and effort. Don’t be afraid to try again, and again. Be confident that you’ll improve your grades and succeed in your studies. It’s okay if it takes you extra time to learn certain aspects of your work—we all have areas where we need to try harder. The essential skill is hanging in there and working through the hard parts. You’ll come out the other side with more knowledge and better study habits! And remember that all this work is in pursuit of a profession you care about, so you can make a contribution and earn a salary doing it. Keep that in mind when you feel like giving up.

It’s never too late to turn things around. What you need is a strategy, hard work, making time in your schedule, and determination to follow through. If you give it your best, and make some positive changes, you’ll succeed. It will get easier over time, so don’t get discouraged—get proactive! With these suggestions, you can get better grades and pass your exams. It will be worth the effort!

This article is part of the weekly blog of the Salter School. We care about our students doing their best in school so they can meet their career goals. Learn more about the professional training programs we offer, including Medical Assisting, Medical Billing and Coding, and Massage Therapy. Reach out to one of our two campuses in Massachusetts, either in Malden (781-324-5454) or Fall River (508-730-2740) for more information or to schedule a campus tour.

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