Watch out! It’s the end of the semester, a few weeks before break, and it’s not uncommon for things to fall apart seemingly at the last minute. Unfortunately, many students fail classes they could have passed if they took certain actions.
The end of the semester arrives before you know it, and sometimes it’s too little too late. Next thing you know you’re signing up for summer school or retaking classes… Not fun and very discouraging.
Usually this happens with students who feel overwhelmed much of the semester anyhow. These are students who always seem to be swimming upstream. It’s a very difficult pattern to overcome, but it’s certainly doable. Here are some insights that should help.
What’s going on?
There are many factors that contribute to the downward spiral. Here are a few:
1. Teachers are scrambling to catch up on grading. They’re often overworked, underpaid, under-resourced, burnt out and ready for a break too. Missing assignments are factored in at the last minute, often pulling grades down. It’s the straw that breaks the camel’s back.
2. Many students struggle with executive function and are overwhelmed by the details. Digging yourself out of a hole is extremely unmotivating.
3. You often feel so overwhelmed that you don’t even know where to start. Avoiding, procrastinating, making excuses is your default.
4. Your grades often don’t reflect your effort or ability. You actually have learned a lot and are trying more than most people understand. You may have started many assignments and lost them, you may have redone assignments, you may hate busywork but got started on a lot of it, you may have intended to be more organized but it just didn’t happen.
5. You’re frustrated and legitimately don’t know what needs to be done for various classes. You are not a concrete thinker, you are more abstract, and even though this is a strength in your life, it is a detriment when it comes to managing this work.
What can you do about it?
1. If you have access to an online grade program, bookmark it and check it daily.
2. Write a proactive advocacy letter to every teacher. Begin something like this: “Hey, I am working hard to pass your class and want to find out if there is anything I am missing or anything I can do to make sure I finish the semester as strong as I can. Can we meet for a few minute tomorrow to discuss?”
3. Study for finals EARLY. Do not wait until the last minute. Believe it or not, even 10 minute study sprints, when done for several days, are incredibly effective (and much better than cramming).
4. Overhaul the backpack and locker. Go through every single paper you have, preferably with an organized friend or family member. Make piles for recycling, keep, finish and turn in. Flag important papers with huge post-its and keep them in plain sight until they are complete and turned in.
5. Ask a parent or a highly organized friend to turn things in for you. If you know you will probably forget, just ask them to help you out in that way. There’s no shame in that at all!
6. Decide that you’re going to make school your primary focus for the next couple weeks. Write this down somewhere and post it where you will see it daily (a mirror, door, light switch, etc.)
7. Use apps like “Self Control” or “Stay Focused” to block distractions like Minecraft, Facebook, etc. Turn off your cell phone and eliminate other distractions.
8. Plan your night every night and prioritize the work that needs to get done. I know, you don’t like to plan. Do it anyway. You need it.
9. Unitask rather than multitask. Work on one assignment at a time and work until completion.
10. Take frequent short breaks to move, not to get distracted by your favorite escape though.
11. Use a standing desk-they are incredibly helpful with focus.
12. Turn it in anyhow. This is key. Even if an assignment is not done, get.it.in.the.teacher’s.hands. A 50% is always better than a 0%, so do your best and get everything in. Yes, even if your best doesn’t feel like your best, just do it anyhow. Sometimes you just have to move on.
13. Make study parties. Chill, have fun, test each other. It works.
14. Ask friends and family to support you by bugging you to focus on your priorities. Do not get annoyed with them, but thank them for caring, even if you feel annoyed. Chances are you really do need the reminders and they are just trying to help.
15. Show up at office hours, be open and honest with your teacher.
16. Finally, learn from all of this. Have patience and compassion for yourself, and when the semester is over, reflect. Take a good look at what you can do to improve rather than repeating the same patterns. Ask people for help even if you don’t want to, because THAT is what mature and successful people do all the time. Asking for help is one of THE hardest things, but it’s actually harder when you refuse to get help.
You got this! Now get moving. Go do something good for yourself.