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College Exit Strategies: Five Academic Resolutions for the New Year

Spring is here! It’s another chance to improve your GPA, adopt new habits and to make up for the excessive fun the fall semester brought.

As a learning consultant, I see many students wanting a fresh academic start this semester.  Some want to improve their GPA to get into their major college, some want to get off academic probation, while others want to reduce their stress.  No matter their goal, I suggest five resolutions they should adopt for a great semester:

  1. Find your motivation.  What’s going to push you to power through the semester? Be specific. Once you find it, write down. Keep it as a reminder when things get tough.
  2. Become an accountant of your time. Write down all tests, assignments, projects and social events on a monthly calendar. Put all classes and work hours on a weekly planner. Identify gaps in between classes and designate them as study time. Monitor your time wasters like sleeping in, watching TV or playing video games. Prioritize your time commitments by their contributions to your semester goals.
  3. Take advantage of your/your parents’ investments. There is a good reason why textbooks cost as much as they do (at least for the purpose of this blog).  They are extremely valuable as they are a primary source of information. It contains more things than your professor can teach in a single lecture or a single semester. So make sure you both buy AND use your textbook this semester in every class for every exam.  Do this even against your professor’s advice of textbooks being unnecessary for the course.
  4. Be a professional student.  Pretend someone was paying you 70k per year to complete your degree.  If being a student was a salaried position, what would you do? How would you act? The same way you would (should) treat your dream job, is the same way you should handle college.  Set your “work” hours to be up and ready by 8AM.  No sleeping in until your first class of the day.  Fill in your 40-50 hours per week with everything related to academics: class, work-study, office hours, studying, study groups, and tutoring.  If you really commit to doing these thing between the hours of 8:00AM-4:30PM, then the rest of the day is yours.  Use your evenings to reward yourself.
  5. Get rid of the Drake mentality. "No new friends"? “No help…that’s all me”? That may work in the music industry (I doubt it), but that mentality definitely won’t work when you’re trying to improve your academic situation. Make sure you use your resources before you desperately need them.  Go get tutoring even if you don’t think the material is difficult.  Visit your professors and teaching assistants to discuss your initial course concerns. Begin a study group to begin studying weeks before the first test. Yes, you may have to take an exam by yourself, but that doesn’t mean that you have to prepare for it alone.

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