Imagine being dead last in a race during PE. Everyone else has gone ahead in front of you – and despite sprinting harder, you get tired easily and fall behind again. The race isn’t over, but in the middle of the track, you feel a gnawing anxiety that a poor result is inevitable for you.
If in the middle of the semester you’re feeling the same anxiety about your grades, then give yourself a light pat on the back for at least realizing that you have a problem that you need to work on. It is as they say – the first step to solving a problem is admitting that you have one.
Now that that’s out of the way, don’t fall into despair thinking that failing grades are inevitable. Here are ways in which you can catch up and never get left behind again.
First things first: Build the right mindset
Before you spill the contents of your schoolbag onto your study table and start cramming like a madman, you need to take a deep breath and prepare yourself both mentally and emotionally in order to make the most of your efforts.
Think twice before giving up on school
You may justify poor performance in school by saying that school is not for everyone and that there are people who succeed in life even if they’re dropouts. While the likes of Bill Gates (who never finished college) exist and you might very well be following in his footsteps, you might want to read the popular manga “Assassination Classroom” first before giving up on school altogether. In that manga is a very wise analogy between planning an assassination and planning in life as a whole: In an assassination attempt, the assassin never relies on his first plan to work – in fact, he anticipates that that plan will fail and will therefore make Plans B and C as back-ups. What this means is that even though your Plan A is to set up a business without a diploma, having an education opens your life drastically for Plans B to Z.
Hold in your heart who you’re studying for
Fear of failure can be a great motivator, but it doesn’t energize the spirit as much as imagining what success will look and feel like. With that said, you must ask yourself: for whom are you studying in the first place? Are you doing it to please your parents? To look good in front of your classmates? Or are you doing it for yourself? Please don’t fall into the trap of thinking that doing things for yourself is selfish and therefore the wrong thing to do. Think of it this way: if there are people hanging on the edge of a cliff and are in danger of falling, how could you help lift them to safety if you yourself are clinging on for dear life? You must realize that you are worthy of the life given to you, and that you are worthy of your own dreams and purpose in life, just as much as everybody else in this world is worthy of his or her dreams and purpose in life. With that said, begin studying with the end in mind – and follow the subsequent tips along the way.
Build Better Study Habits
Insanity is defined as doing the same things over and over but expecting different results every time. In order to put an end to failing marks and start racking up those A’s, you need to look into what isn’t working and what can work better for you.
No more TV
Focus is an important factor in retaining the lessons taught by your teacher. Barring learning disabilities like ADD (for which you’ll most likely need outside help with and will be tackled in a future article), you must identify the things that distract you from reading your books and doing your homework. It can be such a pain to do away with TV or Facebook, but if the goal you set for yourself is to consistently get 90%+ in your homework, quizzes, and exams to pull your running average up, then you must devote both high energy and focus into your studying efforts to achieve that goal.
Follow the 50-10 rule
Another good thing to do to keep precious focus is to relocate to a place that’s conducive for it. It can be the library, the neighborhood café, or the attic. Wherever you decide, remember to set your smartphone face-down on silent and follow the 50-10 rule. That is, study for 50 minutes straight – and start the timer over if at any time you get distracted. After the 50 minutes has elapsed, you can check your phone and go to the restroom during a 10-minute break. Then, have another 50-minute block of studying. Clinical studies have shown that intense focus when reviewing leads to improved retention of knowledge as opposed to being half-minded about it.
Ask questions and seek help
It is the job of teachers to teach you, so if there’s something that you’re finding difficult to grasp, don’t be afraid to raise your hand and ask questions about the lesson. Don’t be afraid of looking bad – the only truly bad question is the one that isn’t asked. It’s not like you can ask them when you’re already in the middle of a quiz, right? If you’re feeling particularly shy, look for your teacher after class – though do keep in mind that whatever you’re perplexed about, your classmates might be wondering about also, and having your teacher answer your question can be a great help to them as well.
Additionally, don’t be afraid to ask your classmates for help – or even get the aid of a professional tutor, for that matter. Never think that getting help means that you’re a dumb loser – everyone including winners stumble, but what leads winners to succeed is that they never quit, and that they build a strong support system around them to help them succeed. Your own academic support system can be a study group consisting of your fellow classmates, your elder siblings, or your parents. Do note that teachers are happy to hold remedial classes for students who are lagging behind, but sometimes they’ll want a minimum number of attendees, so you might have to convince your fellow classmates to join in order for the remedial class to happen.
Set a study schedule
If cramming has been your style and it hasn’t been working out, then a consistent study schedule may lead to improved results. Whether or not you have a test coming up, spend a certain amount of time every day to review your notes (or a photocopy your classmate’s notes if you don’t have your own) or even do advanced reading. The best teachers normally relay the breakdown of their syllabus at the start of the term so that you can anticipate and better absorb what the next lesson is.
Last but not least, get enough rest
Setting a study schedule also allows you to set enough time for sleep. Studying while feeling sleepy is an exercise in futility since the brain won’t be able to hold the information you’re putting in it. However, getting enough sleep gives you a fresh mind to learn with for the classes the next day. In this way, good habits beget good habits, all of which can lead to improved grades over time. No more sleepless nights feeling anxious about failure – you’ll be catching up soon enough, and maybe gaining the lead along the way.
With a firm grasp of worthiness in your heart, never be ashamed to seek help when you need it. When we trip and fall, we can get back up, dust ourselves off, and go back on our way. However, doing that on our own is not easy if we sprain our ankle or break a bone in our leg. Sprawled on the ground, sometimes the only thing we can do is ask for help