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How to Bounce Back From those Unwanted Low Grades

Edited by: Vlada Taits

Just last January, around this time, I was sitting at my computer taking a look at my very first final grades from my first semester in university and I at the time was disappointed. My grades like many other first-year students were lower than prior grades we had received in high school and I was not used to harsh grading which led me to my disappointment. Getting grades I was not happy with made me discouraged about continuing my university studies but thankfully I was given advice from upper-year students around me that made me want to bounce back and in the end looking at my grades this year showed me that making a comeback was possible.

The first thing as an incoming first-year student that you need to accept is that you are going through a major life transition both socially and academically. I realized within the first week of being at my University that it was very different from the high school environment that I was used to. From an academic standpoint, in high school, I was taking all of these mandatory classes in order to learn the basics to move forward, whereas in University it felt like I was left alone with all of these different options and told to create my own path. This in itself can lead to you having a difficult time academically which can, in turn, lead to lower grades. What I can say is that over time you will get used to this new environment which will make you more confident in your studies which will then lead to getting higher grades.

Another way to overcome the first wave of unwanted lower grades is to accept that being in University is a learning experience. As a first-year student, I was taking courses in subjects such as political science and sociology, two fields that I had never studied before. It’s no wonder that I found it a challenge to get used to the new level of material and assignments because I was learning topics that were brand new. So when you get a lower grade than you wanted in a first-year course that is on a new subject in a brand new field, take it as a learning experience in order to learn and improve from your mistakes rather than being too hard on yourself. If we came into University already knowing everything about the programs we were in, there would be no point in having this level of education. Learning something new at every stage is a challenge which is why we all need to embrace it and persevere.

A final piece of advice is to not be afraid to embrace change. After the first semester in University, you may realize that the study habits you used in high school are not giving you the results you are expecting. Don't be afraid to learn new habits and make changes. You may realize after being in an English course your first semester, that although you have always loved reading, being an English major is not your thing. Don't be afraid to take a look at all your options and switch to something more suitable to your liking. One thing that I have learned is that when you have consistent habits that suit you along with classes that you are passionate about, your grades will naturally improve because of your passion and hard work. Remember that change is not always a negative thing!

Your first semester grades as a first-year student will not reflect your entire University career. You will notice that most people around you also have a difficult time with the transition which is why there are so many resources that are made to help you on campus. So as a first-year, do not be afraid to embrace new challenges, make interesting changes, and try new things. Embracing this new experience will in turn show you that with perseverance, getting better grades is possible. 


Zoë Grossman

U Toronto '22

Zoë is a fourth-year student majoring in Political Science and Sociology. With a huge passion for world events and culture, Zoë is excited to share her ideas and thoughts with a new audience. In her free time, you can catch her listening to music, spending time on Netflix, and at a local coffee shop.
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