Thursday, November 14, 2013

Ask Isa: "What do I do when my 4.0 is in danger?"

From the Ask Isa inbox:

Dear Isa,

I'm having such a hard time in two of my classes this semester. I'm a full time, straight-A student but I can't seem to get higher than a 88 on my exams in both courses. They happen to be with the same professor also. 

This is my second to last semester and losing my 4.0 is not an option for me. I'm not doing anything different from previous semesters. I work hard, study hard, and attend class regularly. I have mentioned my concerns to my professor and she said, "tests were not meant to be easy." 

I don't know how to correct this problem and turn things around to improve my grade. Can you please offer me some advice?


Heartbroken, Devastated, and Worried

Dear Heartbroken,

Congratulations on getting such stellar grades so far and for being so concerned with doing well. That desire alone will take you far, but it's important not to let it overwhelm your desire to learn and grow. 

I too an am overachiever and worked hard to keep my 4.0 throughout high school, college, and graduate school. And I'll never forget my first B's.

In high school it was pottery and geometry.

In college it was qualitative analysis.

And I agonized much in the same way you are. I looked at my habits and asked myself if any of these grades were because I wasn't working hard enough. I came to the same conclusion you did - I was doing everything I could. 

It's vital to recognize our academic strengths and weaknesses, and remember that your effort, not your grades, is what will take you the farthest in your life.

Your grades do not define you, and while I think it is a good thing to work as hard as you can to get a 4.0, getting anything less does not mean you are a failure.

Use any B's (or any grade less than an A for that matter) as a chance to learn. Ask yourself the following questions:

1) Did I do everything I could to do well on this?
2) Was there more time I should have spent studying or seeking a tutor?
3) Did I seek the professor's feedback multiple times throughout the process of studying or doing the project to be sure I was on the right track?
4) Is this class similar to something I'm majoring in?
5) Do I want to continue to take classes like this in my future?

When I got B's I asked myself these questions, and usually came to the conclusion that those subjects were not in my strength areas, and thus allowed myself to actually be proud of my B's, versus letting them get me down.

I really am horrible at pottery. My spatial intelligence is pathetic (never ask me to read a map for you). And qualitative analysis was just a really tough class.

I used this information, however, to my advantage when making choices in my future. For example, I decided to focus on algebra and statistics when I had math choices, I focused on drawing electives instead of pottery, and when it came time for me to do my undergraduate research, I chose rhetorical analysis instead of qualitative. 

Use the knowledge about yourself that you're gaining to your advantage and be strategic. 

And finally, when talking to your professor, do not lament over your grades (do that with close friends or mentors), but instead use your time with your professor to ask for honest feedback

Go over the questions you missed on the exams and identify the problems. While it's helpful to focus on your strengths, you can also improve by focusing hard on those weaknesses to help improve your grades in those classes. 

Also ask your professor for advice on what you can do to improve. Your professor will be much more apt to help you improve then to comfort you when you're sad about your grades. Use that advice to your advantage.

Best of luck, and remember that your grades do not define you. A 4.0 is a wonderful goal, and aiming high will take you far. But do not let it limit your confidence or your potential to learn from every grade and appreciate your efforts.

You are doing a great job, and don't let any letter ever make you feel less than what you are - a successful and dedicated student.

Keep up the good work!



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