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Advice for a student who did poorly in their first semester?

  1. Jan 4, 2016 #1
    I'm not going to lie, I didn't perform very well this first semester.
    Used to being the cocky, "smartest kid in his physics class" in high school, I made a few mistakes that I regret pretty badly.

    Mistake #1: I insisted that I could handle the workload and I jumped straight from Algebra 2 into Calculus 1.
    I had virtually zero knowledge of trigonometry, limits, and anything else you might find in a pre-calculus course.
    Mistake #2: I underestimated the demanding workload of a college education altogether.
    I spent a lot more time partying and wasting time than I should have. What really didn't help is that it was really easy to go through half of a semester without knowing exactly how bad I was doing until mid-term grades came in, and by then, I had no idea how I would catch up. (Of course, I spent a week or so pulling all-nighters and pulled through just well enough on finals to have low Bs and Cs in most of my classes.)
    Mistake #3: This is an extension of mistake #2 - I didn't take advantage of the resources I should have. The other freshmen were taking advantage of office hours, tutoring, and doing homework days before they were due, to name a few things. Naturally, I only started doing these things during the last few weeks.

    Is there anything that you think I should be doing as I go into my second semester?

    **Also, as a sort of post-script, I'd like to ask: have I just killed my chances at going to a good graduate school?
    I know that graduate schools look at both GPA and undergraduate research experience, and while the dent in my GPA might not be super critical right now, I worry that this first semester might prevent me from starting an REU in the near future, which, in turn, might make me less competitive for a good graduate school / job application in the more distant future.
  2. jcsd
  3. Jan 4, 2016 #2
    Start by taking trigonometry/geometry/precalculus classes. Only once you finished those, go back and retake calculus.
  4. Jan 4, 2016 #3


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    Yes. Don't repeat the same mistakes you made in Semester 1.

  5. Jan 4, 2016 #4
    get quality learning materials, books!!!
  6. Jan 4, 2016 #5
    I am in the same boat as you OP.
    Except that I involved drugs into my everyday life, and at the time, I thought they had no affect on my school performance what so ever.

    I'm on academic probation now, and currently taking a course at my University over winter break (in class at the moment typing this lol).
    I am by no means an expert, actually quite the opposite.

    The most important things to know is
    • Time management
    • Note taking skills
    • Reading comprehension
    • And proper study habits
    Ok class is starting back up again, will edit this post later if I get around to it.
  7. Jan 4, 2016 #6
    Going though my second degree we would get assignments that usually would cover material that hadn't been taught yet. By the time the assignment was due we would have caught up to it in class.
    People used to laugh at me for this but what I would do is whenever we would get an assignment I would spend some time on it right away, even including the material we hadn't covered yet. I would spend about 10-20 min max on a topic that wasn't covered.
    This resulted in two things that helped out in the long run.
    First off I would be forced to do a bit of extra reading on the topic. I quite often found that the way the book presented the material was quite different than how the prof did.
    Secondly (and this is the key thing) by knowing what sort of problems were coming up I had a much better idea when something was covered in class whether it was important and relevant or just extra fluff that prof's would throw in.
    After a topic was covered in class I'd go back and redo that part of the assignment (usually this would be the first time I'd successfully solve the problem)

    now I realize this seems like you'd spend a lot more time on assignments. Talking with class mates I believe I spent overall approximately the same amount of time that they did on each assignment. With the added benefit of retaining more of the lectures (you know that whole you need to see something 3 times before you learn it theory)
  8. Jan 6, 2016 #7
    (I'm currently in my second year of college)
    It's just as he says. If you can, try your best to make a concrete schedule for studying and homework. Something that I learned my freshman year is that you have a lot more free time than you think. Having a concrete schedule means you can plan around it because it's something that most likely will not change. If you have problems with something, not matter what year you're in, your professors will (or should) be willing to help during their office hours (or set something up through email). The big thing about being a college student is not letting failures or short comings discourage you. It doesn't seem like you have a problem with this, but I felt I should still tough on it.
  9. Jan 7, 2016 #8


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    My current stance on lecture note taking is that it is a waste of time, and possibly detrimental. Just pay attention, don't focus on writing notes but on the lecturer.

    To the OP, stop skipping foundation classes; further, no grad schools aren't going to care about one bad semester starting out when you discovered you lacked adequate college preparation. Go back and do well and no one will care.
  10. Jan 8, 2016 #9
    Something like this depends on the person (or the class in some cases). Some people do well with having notes to look back over, and others don't need them as much. It depends on how they learn and what they're most comfortable with.
  11. Jan 8, 2016 #10
    True, but know a lot of students who don't pay attention to the prof talking at all, because they're very busy copying everything on the blackboard. I think that kind of thing is detrimental. Ideally, one would read the lecture before class and then take notes of what is not in the text. Trying to write down everything does not seem to be a very good idea.
  12. Jan 8, 2016 #11


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    Personally, writing more worked for me, because my mind would tend to wander when I was not caught up in the immediacy of the lecture. The act of writing helped me to remain engaged with the topic. To this day at conferences I find that I remember more from the talks where I take notes.

    But I think the point isn't so much about "copying" lecture notes. It's about developing good note-taking skills. I think it's completely fair to say that for some students learning "not" to take notes, or "when not" to take notes, is a part of this skill set.
  13. Jan 8, 2016 #12
    I usually only write derivations or steps I did not fully grasp while reading. I put pokemon stickers on a short, elegant, and insightful proof.
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