I just finished the third year of my degree. It was such a whirlwind of a year and it left me with a lot of thoughts about how it could have been better or even worse. I am trying to be more positive so I want to think about how lucky I am, even if my third year didn’t really go to plan. As a student, it is really easy to fall into unhealthy habits. I have found myself befriending bad habits that ruined semesters and classes I should have gained a lot from.
I know that a lot of students really care about grades, I am one of them. No matter how many people and even teachers told me that grades do not reflect my abilities and skills, I still obsessed over the bad marks. These “guiding numbers that are just there to let me know if I am understanding the content” started defining how smart I percieved myself as being. If I got a bad mark, I would assume that I was dumb and not as good as my peers. If I got a good mark, I would be shocked and think that they teacher was going easy on me. I obsessed over numbers that don’t really mean anything, they are just there because teachers need to give you something.
That’s why I am here today, providing some tips I wish I knew before starting College. These tips will help you protect your mental and physical health, which is the most at-risk during College/University. There are a lot of things that are changing uncontrollably, so it is important to find ways to use your pent up energy and find control again.
Like I said before, I fell into a bad trap with my grades. I would cry almost every time I got back a mark. This was not because I was failing (well Finance was a struggle), but because I set really high expectations for myself and started to beat myself up when those expectations didn’t come true. To put into perspective how bad my expectations were, I was getting 70-75% on assignments and started bawling because my usual grades are around an 80-83% every other semester. I was not willing to accept anything under and 85, even though my average was usually just under that. A 70 is still good because that means I understand what I am learning and practising, but it was a foreign grade for me in College so I didn’t want to accept it.
I wanted 90’s but wasn’t willing to put in the work and create realistic goals.
Here is an unrealistic goal with grades: My grades are usually around an 78- 83, depending on the class and content. My goal is to only get marks that were 85-95 on every assignment. Nothing less than that.
This is pretty unrealistic and creates unhealthy habits because if I am usually getting 80’s on projects, how can I expect to jump to a 90 on EVERY assignment out of the blue. This isn’t impossible, but I needed to realize that there will be projects I won’t do good on. I am in school and learning means failing (or getting lower marks) and trying again. An 80 is a really good mark, I didn’t need to aim for more when I was way over average. I needed to readjust my mindset first. We are taught that high marks are seen and rewarded in school, but for myself, I just needed to focus on becoming the best I can be while in school.
Realistic grade goal: To aim for grades around 80 in each class. I will put more focus on classes where my grades are lower to find what I can improve on and increase those lower marks by 2-3% by the end of the semester.
So, I still want around an 80 in every class, not every project. I also changed my mindset with this new goal. I put a number I would like, but I understand that each class is different and I am supposed to be improving my skills. So, if there is a class that I am not super happy with, I can focus more on improving my skills in that class. Also, note that I said “aim for grades around 80”, I didn’t say all of my grades have to be 80 or up. If there was a class that wasn’t around my goal I wanted, I wouldn’t beat myself up. I would just try to work hard in that class to increase that percent by 2-3%. It isn’t about getting the highest grades, it was about improving and getting better with my skills and abilities.
It is okay to have expectations and goals, but they need to change each year. School is supposed to get more difficult, that is how you learn. Don’t allow yourself to get caught up on grades, focus on improving your skills. Especially when you’re supposed to be learning and growing in College/University, that’s the point of school. If you’re passing, then you’re getting the content and doing fine! Grades can be just as dangerous to obsess over as weight.
Utilize School Services
You can’t have a positive school experience and focus on doing good in class if you don’t take care of yourself first.
Most schools have services that can help you, like tutoring, editing and counselling services. If your need help with writing an essay, there are people that can help you with that. If you need to be tutored in finance or stats (don’t let yourself drowned if you don’t get math very well, get help and pass the class!), there are tutors that are willing to help you. There are more services than most people think at their school, I was shocked when I found out everything I could get help with.
So, you’re getting help when you need it but that is just one part of taking care of yourself.
I think it’s insanely important to have a good morning routine. I know most students don’t want to wake up early and you don’t have too! Just find a realistic time that would give you at least an hour of time to do whatever you want. If you have afternoon class, why not set an alarm everyday for 9:00am? It helps your internal clock which helps your body and your mind function better. I always set an alarm for 7-8am, on weekends it’s set at 8am and during the week it’s set at 7am. I do this so I have a set time my body naturally wakes up at and I have enough time to do my morning routine.
Now that you have your wake up time set, you can figure out what you want to complete every morning. For me, I want to wake up and eat while I have my orange juice on non-caffeine days or my Matcha Green Tea on caffiene days. Also, yes, I limit my caffeine intake because it messes with my sleep so I only allow myself to have caffeine 3 days a week. Then, I check my social media while I chill for a little, plan blog stuff, check school stuff and make a mental to-do list, After I have eaten, had my orange juice/green tea, and checked everything I need to, I workout. I try to workout every single day. If I can’t fit in into my morning routine, I do it before dinner. But, being active and working out is essential for my health.
Use your school gym if you can! I know it’s probably scary at first, it was for me. But, even if you just go and walk on a treadmill for 30 minutes while you figure out where everything is, you did something good for your body. I tell every student to get a good workout routine down as soon as school starts, it will help you release stress, get your blood moving and keep your body healthy. One thing that really effected me in first year was my confidence and health, I hated the way I looked and felt because of weight gain. I didn’t get to know new people, attend networking events or want to present because I was so unconfident. That feeling wormed its way from how I felt about my body to how I thought about my abilities, I didn’t like my body and I started to think I wasn’t smart enough either.
So, what have we learned here? You need to use the services your school has when you need help with projects, create a healthy morning routine, and get into a workout routine asap. You can’t reach you goals in school if you’re not taking care of your mind and body. You’re one giant system and you need to take care of every part of it to ensure everything runs smoothly.
It is really important to focus on setting healthy goals in school. If you really want to get high marks, focus on increasing your grades by 2-3% each semester. This is a time to be realistic and focus on the skills you can acquire, not how high your average needs to be to classify as “a good and smart student.” Have a goal but be lenient, school is all about growth. Just don’t forget to take care of yourself. Four years goes by really fast so try to make the best of it, think positively whenever you can and use the negative as a time to learn.