Struggling with coursework? Can’t explain your low marks? We’re here to clear up any classroom pitfalls you may encounter
The first month of your first year is over. Your initial fears of rigorous coursework, endless studying and impossible exams have subsided a bit and you’re slowly starting to think you can maybe handle the whole uni thing.
As you jump into the swing of things, different academic problems might crop up but you can easily solve them with these top tips.
Sticky jam: you’re falling behind
You’re in summer mode, and uni, let alone school in general, is casting out a large reality check in your direction. After three weeks, you’ve managed to fall behind in homework problems, reading and studying for a test. You don’t understand the concepts so you’re scared things will snowball and you won’t pass the course because of poor first year marks.
Clean it up: don’t worry too much—there’s still time to get back on the right path. You could find a friend who’s taken the class before or buddy up with someone who’s feeling more on top of things. And before it goes too far, speak with your lecturer. They might surprise you and offer extra help, and even if they don’t they’ll recognise you care about the course and are willing to put in the extra work.
It’s also a good idea to have a think about why you’ve fallen behind. Is your social life too busy? Are you feeling homesick? Getting to the root of the problem is the first step to help you catch up.
Sticky jam: unexplained low marks
Sometimes you deserve poor marks, and can own up to it. But sometimes you’ve spent three weeks writing a paper and sent everyone you know drafts to edit, and it comes back with terrible marks.
Clean it up: sometimes lecturers are understanding and sometimes they aren’t. Either way, it doesn’t hurt to speak with him or her as long as you’ve developed a rational argument based on the grading criteria used. Ask for clarification first, before starting to defend your answers. Make sure you completely understand the reasons why you received the grade you got to strengthen your own points. Back up any errors with quotes from textbooks or lecture notes. Don’t ever plea, argue or get defensive however, because not only will the lecturer be less likely to bump up your grade but may also mark you down further in the future. But don’t be afraid to question.
Sticky jam: you don’t like your lecturer
Teaching styles vary as much as students’ learning abilities. Therefore, you’re bound to run into at least one lecturer that you don’t mesh well with during your time at uni. Perhaps you can’t understand a lecturer with a strong accent, or the droning all-period lecture isn’t the way you learn best.
Clean it up: you’re probably not alone, especially if it’s a large lecture. Reach out to your classmates and start a study group. You can compare notes, ask each other clarifying questions and go through the material at your own pace. Make sure the group is committed and takes the class and meetings seriously.
In class, be bold and ask questions. It’s intimidating to admit you don’t understand to an entire lecture hall of people, but remind yourself there’s no way you’re the only one with the question. If you have a study group, then you have proof that others don’t understand. It can only help your relationship with the lecturer as well, because he or she will recognise your eagerness to understand what he or she is teaching.
Sticky jam: the dreaded group project
It’s hard enough for you to finish a big class project with your other coursework, after-class activities and job. Add in several other busy, stubborn or unmotivated classmates and you’ve got a recipe for disaster. You have standards you want to see in the project, but everyone else also has different visions they’re determined to incorporate into it.
Clean it up: more brains thinking and working on a project often produce the most quality results—but only if everyone is working together effectively. The trick is to find that elusive balance between sticking to your ideas and accepting the suggestions of others. What you consider a great idea might not sound as appealing to everyone else, just as some of his or her ideas sound terrible to you.
Communication is key. Be clear on meeting times and responsibilities, as well as when each member needs to have their part finished.
Don’t get disheartened if time in the classroom isn’t always your cup of tea. You’ll be able to get through it with a little perseverance and hard work.