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This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at MSU chapter.

A big goal of mine for this upcoming school year is to improve my grades. This is a fairly common goal, especially for those coming out of their sophomore year of college. The sophomore year is typically the time when students become burned out. I definitely felt that way and have taken some time to develop new goals and motivations for this upcoming year, and I am hoping my grades will, in turn, improve. The program I am in (neuroscience & pre-med track) is known to be rigorous, so adapting to manage stress better and become a better student are important parts of achieving this goal. My goal is to have higher grades and, in turn, hopefully better understand course material, develop better time management and study habits, be better prepared for the MCAT, and then increase my chances of admittance to medical schools.

Anxiety and burnout are the terms I’d use to describe this past year academically. It’s been hard to figure out what exactly happened due to my control: “Was the class insanely difficult, or could I have been better prepared?” Yes, and yes. Pre-med requirements like organic chemistry and physics are known to be hard. But could I have developed better study habits? Yes. Early on in the semester, I would be very organized and highly motivated. After getting a couple of poor grades after preparing a lot, I would lose a lot of hope and feel that I wasn’t capable of achieving the grade I wanted. I gave up. It’s frustrating because I often wanted to do well in a class but didn’t know how or what worked for me. I’ve also noticed that the transition from completely online to in-person was a big challenge. I wasn’t socially and academically developed for college as I normally would be. The pandemic definitely stunted growth in a wide variety of ways.

As I enter into my junior year of college, I wanted to share some ways to improve as a student, especially for someone who is dealing with stress and anxiety that is affecting their academic performance.

Frequently dedicate time specifically for an assignment or a lecture

The most important thing to do when trying to become better at studying is routine. You can’t expect to become a better student after cramming an assignment. You need to frequently allocate your time to each class. Sit down, get rid of distractions, listen to good study music, get something to drink, and work on what you need to do for one class! It’s easy to think about the millions of other things you have to get done, but you never will get things done if you’re just overwhelmed the entire time. One thing at a time!

Create a method for taking notes

My method for taking notes depends on what classes I am taking. I just finished taking physics this summer. My notes were typically the homework problems explained in depth, as well as concept definitions and formulas I needed. In having the homework problems as a reference, I was able to use that material to prepare for future quizzes and to better understand the formulas and principles we were learning in class. Notes should cover key concepts and examples used in assignments so that you know how to apply the material you’ve learned. Each class is different, so try to stay on top of things so that you understand how to study for that class!

Join class group chats or make one

Getting connected with fellow classmates is helpful, especially when you’re working on the same assignments. You also get to know other students in the class. If you’re ever confused on an assignment, you can ask a classmate for help and vice versa. Join a group chat or make one and share it!

Maintain Good Time Management

Like I mentioned before, routine is everything. It can be so intimidating to start working on an assignment. Trying to focus on studying or other school tasks can be challenging when something else is weighing on you. Learning how to develop healthy coping mechanisms or giving yourself breaks from something stressful is helpful. Try to focus on the task at hand, like working on an assignment for, say, an hour. Once you simplify what you have to do by doing one thing at a time and focusing on that, it gets so much easier! Otherwise, you’ll just be procrastinating getting things done and it will end up hurting you in the long run. Take it one step at a time! With that being said, school-life balance is so important. Make sure you’re taking care of yourself as well!

Last but not least…

Do not be so hard on yourself

This is a big thing I am trying to learn. When you dwell too much on the past, you tend to prevent yourself from being successful in the present. Accept what has led you to this moment, whether that be success or failure or somewhere in between. Do the best you can at the moment, try to maintain a healthy and consistent study/work/life routine, and give yourself breathing room. You are fully capable of being a successful student. You don’t actually become one until you genuinely believe in your own capabilities. You got this!

Elizabeth Cordill is a graduate of Michigan State University having studied Neuroscience with a concentration in Behavior and Systems. Upon graduation, she hopes to work during gap year(s) prior to pursuing medical school. A wide variety of specialties interest her: from OB/GYN, neurology, and pediatrics, just to name a few. Elizabeth is passionate about improving patient care, an interest she has furthered with research involvement on campus. On campus she has been most recently involved with epidemiology research in gynecological health. Outside of being a writer and member of the design team for Her Campus MSU, she enjoys spending time with friends, cooking, scrolling on Pinterest, spending time outside, working out, working with kids, and traveling. She has loved writing since taking Writing as Inquiry (WRA101) here at MSU. She has loved her experience in Her Campus!