With the winter semester now officially underway, the struggle to maintain good grades while keeping low stress levels has once again begun. Whether last semester was great, just manageable or absolutely terrible, it’s a new year and a new opportunity to make those necessary changes and implement new strategies to make the next 15 weeks as stress-free and academically successful as possible.
Brock University’s A-Z Learning Services operates as part of the Student Success Centre and supports students throughout the year as they identify and work towards their personal and academic goals. Maggie Whitfield, a curriculum development specialist who functions as the lead developer for the department’s instructional programming, outlined a non-exhaustive list of seven tips to help students get through the semester with good grades and little stress.
“Seven tips…seems like ‘lucky 7’ except, it’s not about luck. [Succeeding] is about making specific plans, making choices that support our goals, and embracing a positive mindset,” said Whitfield.
- Reflect. “What went well last term? What didn’t? Everything involves a set of skills that can be developed,” said Whitfield. Reflection helps identify the areas in which improvement is necessary and highlights both strengths and weaknesses. In order to actually move forward, however, students need to make a plan and remind themselves of their goals.
- Create SMART goals. “The more specific our plans are, the more likely our success. Make goals specific, measurable, action-based, realistic, and time stamped.” Clearly defined, well thought out goals allow students to prioritize a lot easier. When goals are set in place, they serve as a guide in the decision-making process and allow students to reflect on the outcomes that are desired to be achieved and subsequently focus their choices in order to achieve those outcomes.
- Plan in writing. Whitfield recommends making a weekly calendar in order to maintain a high level of organization throughout the semester. “Every Friday make a calendar for the following week. Before bed, make a ‘to do’ list for the following day. Include a list of 10-minute tasks so you can make the most of those ‘in between’ times of the day when you have no scheduled classes.”
- Talk to your Professors and TAs. “There’s no better way to improve your grades than learning from those who grade your stuff,” said Whitfield. Professors and teaching assistants offer a wealth of knowledge that sometimes goes untapped because students might neglect asking for help or advice for a number of reasons. It’s always better for students to ask questions that can help them to achieve understanding and success rather than not asking at all and running the risk of not comprehending course material.
- Celebrate success. Don’t wait for the big things, like finishing a major research assignment or even graduating. Acknowledge small successes like starting an assignment earlier or reading a chapter before going out with friends. Oftentimes students place great emphasis on their shortcomings and fail to acknowledge the things they get right. This behavior adds to the stressed and depressed feeling that many experience as the semester progresses.
- Create a weekly challenge. Whitfield encourages students to get out of their comfort zones every now and again to find new joy and help alleviate stress. “Be it social or academic, create a weekly challenge that makes you feel just a little uncomfortable. Talk to someone new in your class. Attend an event. Start an assignment earlier. You will surprise yourself.”
- Reach out. Asking questions and trying something new takes courage. Embrace the unknown.
The following resources, recommended by Whitfield, are always available to students of the university to help put the seven tips into action:
A-Z Learning Services offers free workshops and drop-in academic support. Workshops start on January 9 and Drop-In will resume on January 14. Thousands of Brock students are known to take advantage of their resources every year. Information on the department can be found at: brocku.ca/learning-services/
ExperienceBU is Brock’s online involvement portal and events calendar. Students can always see what is happening on and off campus by checking the ExperienceBU website at: brocku.ca/experiencebu/
SWAC (Student Wellness and Accessibility) promotes accessibility, fosters resilience, health and well-being by creating inclusive, supportive and collaborative environments. The department offers personal counseling services, health services and accessibility services to students. Additional information about SWAC Services can also be found at: brocku.ca/swac/