How to Recover From a Poor Start to the Semester

For incoming freshmen, adjusting to college has been a breeze-- finally escaping high school, living with friends, going out every weekend, and school hasn’t even been that difficult. Until now, as that first wave of exams, papers, and presentations hits campus and your heart drops when you see that 75 on the top of your test.  But I had a 105 in this class in high school, you think to yourself.  You have to remember college is completely different, it may be true that you have less homework and assignments, but that's because the free time should be replaced with studying.

So here are some tips to do better next time:

Study your mistakes.  Congratulations!  You've probably just taken several of your first college exams and submitted some of your first papers.  While you may not have done as well as you wanted, use these first tries as learning experiences.  Now you know how the teacher tests and how he or she grades.  Think about this for your next paper or exam.


Read for your classes and take notes (with page numbers!). This will definitely help you with your next paper, and it will help you learn the material better.  If you are having trouble focusing on readings and/or you want to read faster, check out the Learning Center's free Speed Reading & Study Skills program, which can, according to their website "double or triple your reading speed and dramatically improve focus, comprehension, and retention."


Study your notes periodically.  Try to look over your class notes once a week, if not more, to help reinforce the material.  It may be difficult to set aside time for this at first, but even just fifteen minutes a day spent reviewing notes will help.  Rewriting notes can also be useful. For vocabulary-heavy courses, consider using Quizlet or making flashcards and reviewing them frequently.


Take your next paper to the UNC Writing Center.  Not only will the tutors help you to improve your writing, but a notification will be sent to your professor that you went to the Writing Center, which will show that you care.


Ask questions and go to your professor's office hours.  Everyone hears this one and as freshmen, going to a professor's office hours may seem intimidating, but don't be afraid.  The professor will be glad to see you, and seeing them during office hours gives you personal, one-on-one help while also showing that you care.


Stay focused.  If staying focused is your problem, then you will need to change your habits.  Try downloading the free application called Self Control for your laptop.  You simply put in a list of distracting websites (I'm looking at you Pinterest) and set a timer, and the application will block all of those websites from you.  If you are still having trouble studying, try a different study space.  Venture out of your comfy dorm room filled with food and other distractions.  Don't be afraid to leave the study lounge filled with chatty friends.  Even if you don't like the library, Carolina has many great places to study.  South Campus residents may want to check out the study areas located on the first floor of SASB South.  Other places worth checking out include the Genome Sciences Building, the FedEx Global Education Center, Graham Memorial Hall, and the basement of the Student Union.

What are some study techniques that have helped you?  Share them in the comments below!