6 Reasons You’re Not Doing Well in Your Classes

So let us guess. You did really well in high school and are excited to make your parents proud in college as well…except your grades aren’t reflecting that. Your final grades resemble alphabet soup more than you’d like to admit. What happened? You were a stellar student not too long ago. Have you suddenly become inept? Or are your classes just that much harder? Truthfully, there are a multitude of changes going on in college that can affect your academic performance in college. We’re getting to the bottom of why you may not be doing as well as you’d like, and providing tried and true tips for doing better academically. Your habits from high school aren’t paying off in college, and here’s why.

1. Not going to class

Not going to class seems like a blatantly obvious reason for doing poorly in college, but you’d be surprised at how many people believe going to class is optional. Whether or not your teacher enforces or suggests attendance, it is in your best interest to go to class. And yes, you will one day be tempted by the indulgent thoughts of taking a nap instead of attending only to get notes from a peer later, but ultimately, this cannot be your primary source of education. Copying down notes is not a substitute for actually learning the material, studying and applying the concepts. Missing a class or two because of extraordinary circumstances is quite different than purposefully relying on loyal friends to do your work for you. And if that’s not enough motivation to go to class, remember: college is not free. In some capacity, someone is paying for your education, and it is wise to take that as a sign of privilege and actually reach your full potential.

In addition to hearing the lectures, it is also wise to attend classes to get to know your teacher. Eventually, you will need recommendation/reference letters that will come in handy once job interviews come around. In high school, you’re probably familiar with small classroom settings in which you’d see your teacher every day. They know you by name and you become close with them unintentionally. This is not necessarily the case in college. In college, your success is ultimately up to you. Whether or not you want to get to know a teacher is entirely your decision.

2. Not making time to study

This is definitely a common mistake the first semester in college. Most kids are used to studying the night before an exam and receiving an A. This is close to impossible for college exams (depending on your major, of course). For most exam-based courses, it is in your best interest to begin studying a week or two before the exam. This means re-reading your notes from the class and following along in the (expensive) textbook. This may seem like common knowledge, but you’d be surprised by how many people don’t take this crucial step. When you’re trying to learn chapters of information a couple days before the test, it will seem impossible— because it is. You’re supposed to be learning information over a prolonged period of time, not in a couple hours before the test.

Coordinators at Lehigh University’s Center for Academic Success include “studying as you go, and using your daytime hours to study” as tips for acing exams. Most universities have centers such as this one that are there for your intellectual benefit.

3. Poor study habits

So you may be telling yourself, “I go to all of my classes, I do what’s expected of me, why am I not getting good grades?” And the answer to that question is simply that the quality of your study sessions is poor. Spending hours and hours highlighting the textbook and re-reading notes is only one aspect of successful studying sessions. Once you are accepted into college, it is clear that you can learn, memorize and recall information. Professors are no longer looking for the student that can spend the most time memorizing facts, but the most hardworking student that puts in a valiant effort to analyze information, apply skills and fully grasp material outside of a classroom’s context. This is where the discrepancy is. According to experts at Lehigh University’s Center of Academic Success, “forming study groups and setting hourly study goals” are some of the most time effective ways to study so you’re not spending hours in the library with little work done. You should also be “testing yourself” on the material because it “helps [you] learn to recall information, and gives [you] practice for the real thing.”

Many people either don’t know about these strategies or don’t have the motivation to implement them. However, the countless hours motivated people put into their degree is worth the struggle.

Related: What to Do If You're Failing a Class

4. Procrastinating

We’ve all been there. Instead of finishing an upcoming assignment, people choose to socialize, catch up on shows and take quizzes on Buzzfeed. Nia, a freshman from Lehigh University says, “With so many fun things to do on campus, it is very easy to avoid doing work. The availability of Netflix makes it that much harder.” Many students can relate to the problem Nia is facing in college. Procrastinating is a dangerous habit that most students are well aware of having. It is the most intelligent student’s kryptonite. You can acknowledge what must be done in order to receive good grades, but not have any motivation to do it. Studying is hard, and we totally agree that it is not nearly the most fun activity you can think of doing. However, education is all about the long term goals. The ability to put off immediate gratification for long-term success is a rare quality in young students today. College is not about being the smartest person on campus, it’s about being the most hardworking and motivated. You’re going to be tempted to do fun, ridiculous and scandalous things because you’re young, and the consequences seem tiny in comparison to your entire academic career. We’re certainly not here to tell you to give up on adventures and happiness, and no one should. But don’t let late nights and partying become your entire life. Think of something you can do today that you would thank yourself for tomorrow. College is the time to figure out how to achieve a social and academic balance, and what works best for you. Your grades are somewhat of an indicator of how much time and effort you may have put into your classes. Think of that next time you start to type Netflix in your search bar.

5. Having too many distractions

You’re finally setting out time in your day to get shit done. You’ve made the right decision to study rather than go out, but now you can’t help but stare at your phone and have major FOMO over all the excitement you’re missing out on. Next thing you know you’re switching between every form of social media and the hours you set aside for schoolwork have just been wasted on liking and commenting on memes. Our advice to you is to turn your phone off and set it in a place it would be a hassle to reach. I know, the horror. If you’re truly that serious about studying and you know you’re the type to get distracted, you’ll thank me later for this one. And if you’re one for loopholes, I’m sure you’ve already thought about the fact that a giant version of a phone sitting in front of your face won’t be much help either. Yes, I’m talking about your laptop, computer or tablet. Often, school assignments are posted online and when you realize that the boring reading passages your English teacher assigned are just a click away from puppy videos, you spend just as much time scrolling away on your Facebook account.

Josh Newton from Rowan University says, “You have to remove yourself from enjoyable activities. When I’m in a more public environment, like a library, it encourages me to do my work instead of when I’m home surrounded by electronics.”

Hooray! We have a solution for you serial scrollers. The first step toward curing your online addiction is to download a Google extension on your browser called StayFocusd. You can find it on the Google Chrome Web Store. It basically allows you to set time limits on certain distracting websites so you can actually get work done. This takes a lot of motivation, but it will be so worth it when you pass that exam with flying colors.

6. Not going the extra mile

If you’ve truly tried all of the steps above in order to get good grades and are still struggling, this is when I’d suggest you go the extra mile concerning your grades. You can ask for help. No one said you’d have to do this all alone. We get it. College is hard and the massive textbooks you’re staring at just seem more and more intimidating the longer you look at them. The final step is to look up your professor’s office hours. Attend those hours, or schedule an appointment to meet individually with your teacher. Address your concerns and bring up any questions you may have asked while you were studying. Another option is to get in touch with your school’s tutoring department. Sometimes having a peer there for you to answer immediate questions is more useful than doing it all alone. This step is all about reaching out and asking for help before it becomes too late.

If you’ve done all these steps, it’s safe to say that you have truly tried your best to be successful in school. And at the end of the day, knowing you tried your best is a much better feeling than regret. Good luck and enjoy your better grades!

About The Author

Stephanie is a sophomore at Lehigh University in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania where she is currently studying international relations with a minor in psychology. She is also a member of the Kappa Delta chapter. Stephanie hopes her future consists of making the earth a more sustainable environment, helping underprivileged children, and lobbying for women's rights. Additionally, her interests include dogs, green tea, and traveling. You can find her on Instagram at stephanie.huynh_