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Staying Afloat in Stormy Classes

It is also important to be present in more than the physical sense.

Kristen Lemaster

December 10, 2012

Staying Afloat in Stormy Classes
As college students across the nation lock themselves in their dorm rooms and curl up in bed with a spoon and a jar of Nutella in preparation for final exams, many of them will realize they are in over their heads. After all, there is a difference between stressing over an important final because there is a lot of information to recall and legitimately panicking over the last opportunity to prove that you deserve a good grade despite not keeping up with the schoolwork all semester. Let this semester be a lesson: sink or swim. Sinking, in some ways, is easier. Some classes will be hard from the beginning, and it is okay to drop a class that you do not think you have the time for or that you know you might not do well in. The withdrawal period alleviates problems caused by these classes.

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But what about classes that turn out to be difficult with no warning in advance? What about classes that seem impossible but are also completely unavoidable and necessary for your degree? For these classes, the important thing is to keep your head above the water. Go to class. It can be tough to break the habit of skipping class – embarrassing to think about showing up one day and feeling like a stranger, stressful to sit in class and not know what was talked about last time – but it is always worth it to make the effort to be in the classroom. It is also important to be present in more than the physical sense. Taking notes, participating in discussion, and paying attention will instill in you the virtues of attending class and remind you of those benefits when you are debating whether to sleep in or show up.

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Study smarter. Outside of class, make the most efficient use of your time by knowing your study habits and doing what works for you. Try studying in groups, where other students can hold you accountable and fill you in on themes or theories or anything else you may not have fully understood in class.

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Go to office hours. When none of your classmates can help, go directly to the source. Be brave enough to ask questions, no matter how silly you think they might sound. Be honest if you are having a problem, from personal tragedy or family trouble to working at your job more than usual. More than ever, college is about more than class, but your professors need to know that you are prioritizing and truly want to succeed in academics before other areas. Some teaching assistants (TAs) even have the flexibility in their schedule to meet with you on a regular basis and check up on your progress. Look for the light. Everyone feels down and discouraged sometimes. The secret to success is being able to find motivation in unlikely places. Catch up with an old friend who is doing really well in school. Watch an inspirational video to reinvigorate yourself and reinforce why what you are studying and achieving are important. Find academic assistance. There are lifelines offered by the university if you know where to look for them. Tutoring locations can help in specific subjects like chemistry or a foreign language, and writing centers are really helpful in improving your papers and writing skill. On a more personal level, there may be an upperclassman that you admire in an organization (like a fraternity or sorority) who can share with you what works for him or her. Stay realistic. Maybe you will not be able to magically pull your C up to an A, but you will survive this class. You will make it to the shore in one piece, shake off the mistakes you made, and dry yourself off – then you can celebrate with big globs of chocolate hazelnut goodness and some well-deserved rest.

Have you ever felt in over your head in a class?

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