Many college students believe it’s wise to coast in the beginning of the semester, so they can have more fun. Their plan is to work hard later to make up the ground lost, and everything will be fine.
But, really these students set themselves up for a nightmare near the end of the semester that leaves them with future problems—some they can never fix.
If you want to have more fun and more peace this coming semester, simply get off to a good start in your classes. Then you’ll have breathing room to be lazy (if you want), get crazy with friends, watch Netflix, sleep well during finals week, and experience an amazing semester.
The Gaping Difference In Two Semesters
If you’re Student 1, who slacks in the beginning with the hopes of working hard later, your semester will look something like this:
You don’t make any effort to understand the foundational knowledge and you’re confused about what your teacher expects. Entertainment is your priority, so you only do homework 30 minutes before class. You tell yourself the first exams don’t carry as much weight as the midterms, so you procrastinate and barely study one hour for each exam.
Exams don’t go well as you receive mostly Cs, and even fail one exam, so now you’re discouraged. These results cause a strong negative opinion about your classes and teachers. So, you miss class regularly to avoid thinking it.
Next, you justify that the midterms aren’t as important as the final exam, so you choose short-term pleasure over studying again. Poor preparation leads to flopping on your midterms, too. Then you make the argument that although you’re doing bad, once you actually try, you can pull it together.
During finals week, you bust your butt pulling three all nighters in a row. The stress and anxiety are overwhelming. Then you realize you’re so far behind that it’s impossible to save your grades. Over winter break, you go online to see your final grades and a cumulative 1.2 GPA hits you in the face.
However, if you’re Student 2, who works hard in the beginning, your semester will look something like this:
You focus the first month or two to understand the material, what your teachers expect, and how to succeed. Since you do your homework after classes when the material is fresh, you gain extra time with your friends. You plan in advance and study hard for your first exams, knowing you want to do well now and potentially coast later.
Your first exam grades consist of As and Bs. This motivates you to keep performing well in the classes you received an A, and to adjust your strategy a little to turn your Bs into As.
Now that you know more of what to expect on the exams, you prioritize the more important material, don’t review what isn’t being tested, and spend less time overall studying. Because part of the cumulative midterm is material you know from the first exams, you get As on these ones. Your semester gradually becomes easier and you have more free time, without any guilt of putting off work.
Then you calculate that you can get Cs on your final exams to get As as your semester grade, or you can even fail your finals to get Bs for your semester grades. So, the weeks leading up to and exam week are a breeze without pressure. You go out with your friends, watch movies, and get as much sleep as you want during this time. Then you finish the semester with a 3.8 GPA.
What semester sounds more enjoyable to you?
A Good Start Makes For An Easier College Life
Although I created the miserable story for Student 1, it’s based on the reality of many students who get off to a rough start. Let’s further examine the difficult the semester for the student who back loaded all their work.
From midterms to the end of the semester, Student 1’s academic problems most likely brought on intense, negative emotions. This person probably felt stress about school, guilt of letting their parents down, overwhelming anxiety, exhaustion, and maybe depression that they’re failing.
There are also other future problems the student with the low GPA may face. Academic probation and not being allowed to rush are two issues that could come up. Depending how bad it gets, failing to graduate, not getting into grad school, and being unemployed are bigger concerns.
While there is time to turn around their bad GPA and unhealthy study habits, that’s an extremely difficult battle when no discipline is established.
College doesn’t have to be this way. I promise if you put a little hard work in your classes to start the semester, your life will be much easier overall.
Let’s look at Student 2’s semester, who finished with a 3.8 GPA. Since they started strong to get their classes in order, they gained more free time to hang out with friends, join a student organization, and experience college activities. When many students had terrible weeks leading up to exam week and the week itself, Student 2 relaxed and enjoyed the reality of possibly failing the final and still achieving a high GPA.
For Student 2, academic probation, eligibility for greek life, and limited future options are not even a thought. This student is ready to have an even better time in the spring semester.
Why Maintaining GPA Is Easier Than Improving It
It’s significantly easier to maintain a high GPA than turn around a low grade point average. The individual with the higher GPA has already developed study habits, discipline, and time-management that works. However, the student with the low GPA most likely doesn’t possess the qualities above.
So, the low GPA student has the difficult challenge of learning effective study habits and discipline, while also needing to excel in their classes—essentially taking on double duty.
Plus, each semester GPA raises or lowers your cumulative GPA to a lesser degree over time. Your first semester GPA equals your cumulative GPA. But, as a senior, semester grades usually only effect the hundredths place of your cumulative GPA. This marks another reason why it is easier to maintain a high GPA than improve a low one.
Because of this, I’m convinced that the strategy to start strong should be followed by both the less motivated students and the ambitious students.
Take Proactive Action To Get Ahead
If you’re a freshman about to start college, you’ll never have another opportunity like you do now with your cumulative GPA in perfect condition.
If you’re going into your sophomore, junior, or senior year, a new semester awaits to make Dean’s List, or improve your grade point average.
So, take the easier route of front loading your work, and you’ll avoid one of the most stressful aspects of college, falling behind in school.
Whatever your situation is, now is the time to get off to a good start. The links below are resources that work to get As: