The notification comes in with the final grade. With sweaty hands, you fumble your way to the grade book. Please be an A, please be an A. Eyes wide you scroll to the bottom of the page and…F. Your heart sinks and panic sets in. If you can’t pass one exam, then passing the class seems impossible. Failing is like another piece of the college puzzle, but it doesn’t have to determine your future in the class. Professors and other on-campus resources are designed and provided to do just the opposite, they’re there to help you succeed.
Here are 10 expert tips to help you go from failing to flourishing in your classes.
1. Don’t Freak Out
When you see that failing grade it’s so easy to fall into the thoughts of the worst-case scenario. “I failed this exam which means I’ll fail the class which means I’ll have to drop out of school and become a hobo.” Stop. It’s a slippery slope that digs you further away from your goal of passing a class. Instead, take a deep breath and remind yourself that failing is a part of life. It doesn’t make you a bad student, it makes you human. Learn from the mistakes and soon pass the class. “It is important to understand the standards and expectations in a difficult class,” said University of Missouri Associate Professor Peter Pivovarov. “A student’s perception of the amount of work needed to get a particular grade may not align with the standards of the class, e.g., ‘I will only put enough effort in to get a C.’ This can be a recipe for failure from the beginning. Strive for an A and if you fall short, you can still get through it.” Keep calm and strive for your best.
2. Go to Class
In every article ever written about how to succeed in a college class, going to class seems to be the first tip. Why? Because going to class is like getting the golden ticket to Willie Wonka’s Chocolate Factory. Not only is there an abundance of information that often appears on the exams but the best way to understand the material is to learn from a profess(or)ional. For classes like finance, understanding the material is key. “In class, we generally go over examples that are very similar to the homework, so understanding class examples is the first step to a good start on homework,” said the University of Missouri Assistant Professor Kateryna Holland. So, grab your backpack and a cup of coffee on your way to class as your first step to success.
3. Do Your Homework
Way back when life consisted of school and sports practice the cliché of “practice makes perfect” was said as frequently as a corona joke today. But even while some of the homework seems more like busywork, it too holds a key to passing a class. Homework caters to students by way of an avenue to practice the skills talked about in class (so go to class). “Practice is always important, especially for linguistics classes. For example, if you want to do well in phonology, morphology, and syntax [for languages spoken around the world], practice will really help the students,” said University of Missouri Assistant Professor Rebecca Grollemund. Homework provides a way for students to understand the confusing parts of a subject or class as well as the parts that make sense.
4. Read the Textbook
Within the quest for passing a class, navigating the jungles of knowledge can seem impossible. But you have the map where X marks the spot to success. Right now, the map rests on your bookshelf, hides in your backpack or lays buried under the pile of laundry in the corner. Your textbooks are an ocean of knowledge that can flood into your brain. It seems that most professors agree that reading the textbook (and going to class) hold the key to success in a difficult class. “When studying for Sociology, the best way is to read the text, look for the bold word,” said the University of Missouri Visiting Assistant Professor of Sociology Dr. Christopher Conner. These bold words are like billboards on the highway telling you what’s ahead. Not to mention textbooks often come with more tools than just information. Practice problems and discussion questions turn into a compass and flashlight to find the X (or A) quicker.
5. Take Notes
Notes from the textbooks, class lectures and handouts act as clues to understanding the information. “Most of the material in my classes comes from my lectures, and most of my exam questions come directly from my lectures,” said Dr. Conner. Our brains are a whirlwind of information and if you tell yourself “Oh I’ll remember this later” chances are you’ll forget. The solution is to write it down. Even if it’s just a few notes, you’re better safe than sorry.
6. Ask Questions
I don’t know about you, but it seemed that in every classroom I had growing up was a poster that read “Ask Questions!”. For shy kids like me asking questions was like kryptonite touching Superman. My stomach would turn, my palms would sweat and I’d sit in uncomfortable agony never knowing the answer to the question that burned inside my head. “It is important to create an atmosphere in class where students are engaged and encouraged to ask and answer questions,” said Assistant Professor Holland. This ties back into the old saying that someone else may have the same question as you. So, ask questions and you may end up as the shy kid’s hero.
7. Visit Professors During Office Hours
Often times questions pop into our heads the second we leave the classroom. Those questions can also pop up days before an exam or quiz. Emails aren’t always reliable for getting easy to understand information. So, what do you do? Many universities require professors to hold office hours where students can come and ask questions and get clarifications for difficult concepts. For many classes the sooner you ask questions and go to office hours the better. Office hours provide that one on one time with the professor to really understand the difficult areas. If the professor’s scheduled office hours don’t fit in your busy student schedule, send them an email. Many professors will work around time constrictions to give you the help you need. “The earlier they come to me the better. I can’t do anything for the student who waits until after midterms for help,” said Dr. Conner. Concepts only build on each other as the semester goes on, meaning the ideas later in the year tend to be more challenging than those during the first few weeks of school. Memorize those building blocks and you’re one step ahead.
8. Tutors and Study Groups
Picture this: there’s only fifty minutes between you and freedom as you step into yet another morning lecture. The professor opens his laptop and begins the lesson; the words flowing out of his mouth move slower than molasses. What’s the solution when the professor only seems to make your understanding of the concepts harder to grasp? Tutors and study groups swoop in to save the day. Tutors from each department and college can be found on school websites and social media platforms. Through these platforms, study groups form and “A’s” are earned. People who really understand a subject or concept make understanding as easy as baking cookies. So grab your study buddy, your notes and get ready to understand the mystery.
For many universities, foreign language fits under the Gen Ed requirements. Learning a language–among other complex Gen Ed courses–doesn’t come easy and as a result. This right of passage often turns into a fat fail. In language, it’s not the structure or the concepts that trip people up but rather it’s the vocabulary. “Studying the vocabulary list every day,” said University of Missouri Associate Teaching Professor Megan McKinstry. Reviewing vocabulary lists, formulas and concepts help strengthen the building blocks instilled in your brain during class. Like building a muscle, exercise and repetition help the brain get stronger with any subject.
10. Use your resources
Within the billion and one fees that students pay in order to go to school many of those fees are for resources such as writing centers, tutoring centers and more. If you’re like me and understand the ideas but aren’t sure how to communicate them, then make an appointment at the writing center. With many different time slots available, you can swing by before or after classes at your own convenience. They’ll help strengthen your understanding of the assignment as well as get you excited about your paper. You’re paying for the resource so don’t be afraid to use them!