Sep 13, 2018 at 12:00am ET By Alyssa Walker

A new school year can mean a new beginning. Make it one. You have probably learned by now that there is always room for improvement, especially when it comes to school. Even if your grades are perfect and you show up to every class, you can always find ways to do better, be better, and feel better. Ready to improve your academic year? Let’s get started.

Determine where you are falling short

Before you design your action plan for improvement, you should take some time to figure out where you need to improve. Take a look at all the areas of your academic life and ask yourself what you want to see differently.

Are your grades low across the board, or maybe just in one or two areas?

Identify those academic areas where you may need some help. Is it the content? Or is it your study skills? Maybe you struggle with writing or taking notes.

Isolate those problem areas and then think about how to solve them.

Need help isolating those areas? Consider meeting with an academic support specialist on campus. Make an appointment with Student Services and put yourself on a path to identifying those areas where you need the most help.

Establish a routine

It is no secret that structure helps you focus. Develop a workflow for yourself. Figure out when you are going to work on homework, where it’s going to happen, and when you have time for extra things, like hanging out with friends and exercising. Make sure your routine allows flexibility, but also holds you accountable to what you need to get done.

Consider talking with that academic support specialist to help you develop a routine. Also, make use of a calendar.

Show up to your classes

It's hard to know what you are missing if you don’t show up. Go to your classes. All of them. All the time. That should be your goal.

Of course, children and family commitments can prevent you from showing up, but your plan is to show up, be on time, and participate as much as humanly possible. 

Find a proper study place

Your study area should be consistent and free from distractions.

If you don’t need the internet, turn it off.

Studying in an area that’s too noisy? Move.

The study area, library corner, home office, coffee shop, wherever it is, make sure it’s comfortable, free from distractions, well-lit, and that you have everything you need. If that means making sure you are close to a pot of freshly brewed coffee at all times, make that happen.

Open yourself to new adventures

Yes, we know it is about academic improvement. Part of that means exploring new things. Be open. Sign up for that outing club hike you’ve had your eye on, or volunteer to take therapy dogs to the nursing home. Go to game night. Try out for a play.

These might be things you have wanted to try but haven’t. Push yourself a little. Go for it!

Look for study buddies

Be careful with this one. A good study buddy isn’t always a good friend, although it can be. A good study buddy won’t distract you. You need to make sure of it.

Collaborating with your peers is a great way to learn. Seek those In your class who want to succeed, and are open to study groups.

The best study buddies are the ones who challenge you, who get you to explain complicated concepts that you didn’t realize you knew -- and who can explain things to you.

Don’t procrastinate

One culprit in academic underperformance? Procrastination. When you find something too challenging, it is easy to put it off because you don’t want to deal with it. 

But by putting it off, you make it harder and that much more unreachable.

The other problem might be workload -- when it gets too big, it is easy to put everything off and label it all as overwhelming.

Don’t delay the inevitable. Stick to your routine. If you need help, get it.

Set goals for yourself

Write them down someplace visible, like on a sticky note posted on your bathroom mirror. These don’t have to be big, but they need to be specific and measurable. “I’m going to get at least a B in History,” for example. “Doing better” is a less measurable goal. “I need to write for an hour every day” and “I’m going to earn at least a 3.5 this semester” are specific, measurable goals.

Welcome back. You can do it. Make it happen.

 

Alyssa Walker is a freelance writer, educator, and nonprofit consultant. She lives in the White Mountains of New Hampshire with her family.

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