Although it may have been easy to shrug off the occasional mediocre or terrible grade in high school, getting one or several bad grades in college can influence your career path for the future. Whether you’ve received less than perfect scores or totally bombed on your last test or report card, don’t panic. Instead, go on a mental retreat to accept your fate, find peace, and prepare to move on. Becoming Zen is not just about tranquility, however. It’s about finding a commitment to improve in the future. You will have to understand what caused your bad grade, what you can do to improve, and how to move on so that you don’t continue getting bad grades.
Take responsibility for the grade.
While it can be a blow to your pride, you should understand that you are responsible for the grade you have received. Conflicts with professors can happen, and external factors can affect your grade, but in most situations, you have to realize that if you want to improve, you have to act.
Put the situation into perspective.
Realize that bad things unfortunately happen in life. While getting a bad grade may put you in full panic mode, you have to put the situation into perspective in order to get to that Zen place. Do you have your health? Do you have a family who loves you and friends who rally around you? Count your blessings. Remember that while grades are important, they aren’t the only thing that should matter in your life.
Speak to a trusted confidante.
When you are upset, it is all right to discuss it with a friend or family member. Do not feel as though you have to keep it to yourself. It is understandable if you are concerned about disappointing your parents, ruining your GPA, or making a bad impression on your professors. Know that you can pull through this and that you can find support.
You can even book an appointment with your college’s mental health counselors (often known as the Campus and Psychological Services or CAPS). These are trusted professionals who are trained to help stressed out and upset college students.
Do not go on the internet and write your complaints online. These can be seen by other students, college officials, or possibly your professors. There can be many consequences from this. Talk in private to a friend or counselor.
Give yourself a break.
While you may be stressed out, now is not the time to neglect your well-being. Get ice cream with a friend, watch a movie, or take a bubble bath. Do an activity that relaxes you. The goal is not to run away from the bad grade but to put yourself in a mental state where you can deal with it. Once you are relaxed, look back over your grade.
Remind yourself that grades do not determine your self-worth.
You are more than your grades. Good grades can give you great validation, but you should not let bad grades make you feel worthless. A bad grade does not mean you are stupid or that you are incapable of graduating college. Everybody has other great talents, qualities, and characteristics that can’t be measured by a grade in school.
When alone in your room, take a few minutes to close your eyes. Breathe in and out deeply, making sure to focus on your breath. Allow your thoughts to drift away. Think about nothing, and whenever your grade anxieties surface, push them away. You can try using soft music to help calm you. Try meditating for fifteen to thirty minutes.
If it is hard for you to meditate for a long time, try using a meditation app, like The Mindfulness App or Headspace. These offer guided meditations to help you keep your focus.
Yoga is another great way to keep calm and achieve zen. Many campuses offer yoga classes. Check with your campus gym to see if you can sign up for a class.
Calm down during panic attacks using relaxation techniques.
Sometimes you don’t have time to meditate when you feel anxious or panicked. You can use short relaxation techniques to soothe your mood. Stop what you are doing. Close your eyes, and count to ten. Visualize a calm and happy place, such as the ocean or a babbling brook. These techniques will help your body relax, and they will release any anxiety you have.
You can tense your muscles and slowly release them during your count. Or you can squeeze a stress ball and slowly relax your grip.
While visualizing your happy place, try to invoke all of your senses. If you are on the ocean, imagine the wind, the salty taste of the air, and the sand between your toes. This will make visualization more effective.
Remember to breathe deeply. Breathe in and out for every count up to ten.
Avoid drugs and alcohol.
Some people are so distressed about their grades that they start partying harder to forget about it, starting a vicious cycle. When you are stressed out about a bad grade, try to avoid drinking until you have calmed down.
Calculate how much you studied.
Before you go into full panic mode, reflect on what you think led to poor grade(s). Did you study and put in your full effort? Did you slack off and skip tests? Understanding your study habits can help you understand where you need to improve.
Perhaps you gave it your all. While there may be nothing more frustrating than studying your brains out only to receive a bad grade, you have to remember that you did everything in your power to be successful. Next time, perhaps try changing up your study habits or getting help from a tutoring center.
Perhaps you slacked off and didn’t try. What you may have learned is that the days of “winging it” on talent alone are well and truly over. Learn from it, and do better next time through practice and hard work.
Consider what materials you studied.
Look back over your notes, readings, and exercises. What sections or assignments did you not understand? What did the syllabus say about certain tests or units? Try to see if there was a misunderstanding in what you were supposed to know or do.
Perhaps you only studied things that interested you. If anything was too hard or uninteresting, you might have turned back to the more interesting parts of the homework and ignored the harder or dull parts. Try to power through these parts next time.
Perhaps you only read the bare minimum for the class. Try adding extra readings to your homework. If you don’t understand a reading, go to the library, ask a tutor, or search on the internet for an explanation.
Factor in your class attendance.
Some professors take off points for missing too many classes. Other times, missing class could have made you miss key information. Look over your attendance record. Try to add up how many classes you missed.
Were these excused absences? Did you have a doctor’s note when you were sick? If family member died, did you get a letter from the Dean’s Office? Answering no to any of these questions might be the reason why even justified absences were not excused.
Identify outside influences.
If you are unwell or unable to afford basic necessities, you may struggle in college. In this case, talk to your doctor and guidance counselor to see what you need to do to tackle these issues successfully, including whether you need to take a break to improve your personal situation first. Unless it’s too close to the end of semester, dropping one or more classes to make it more manageable may be a good decision. Common external factors include:
A death in the family
Working a part-time or full-time job
Raising young children
Mental health problems
Some colleges may let you negotiate the grade to an Incomplete if you have mitigating life circumstances, or you may be able to retake the class.
Consider how much you socialize.
When major life events become all-consuming, sometimes you can’t keep up. Perhaps you have a new boyfriend or girlfriend who takes up all of your time. Maybe you are part of a sorority or fraternity that hosts frequent parties. It’s important to have a healthy social life, but if you’re spending too much time partying and not enough time hitting the books, you could be ruining your GPA. Commit to buckling down and working or socializing less; use social events as treats at the end of study rounds rather than a nightly activity.
Meet with your professors.
Even in college, showing that you care can go a long way with college professors. They may realize you had certain difficulties, and they will appreciate your commitment to improve. Reaching out to your teachers may help you develop a deeper understanding about the class, how you understood the material, and how you could improve your performance in the future.
Visit them during their office hours, or write them an email to set up an appointment. It is almost always better to discuss this in person.
Although it can be hard, you can approach the subject in a calm, sincere way. You can say, “I was really disappointed with my grade on this last assignment. I was wondering what I could have done to do better. In the future, how should I approach an assignment like this?”
If you wait until the end of the semester to talk to your professor, it may be too late to change or improve your grade.
Evaluate the total impact.
In order to reach a sense of peace about your grades, determine how big of an impact the bad grade will have overall on your college career. In some cases, a bad quiz grade won’t do much to destroy your average. If you failed one or more classes, you may have dropped your GPA. Instead of getting upset, take a few deep breaths and look at the big picture, making concrete plans to fix what you can.
If you’re in your first year of college, you may be able to recover easily from a bad semester.
You can calculate what grades you will need from this point on to achieve your ideal GPA. This can give you a sense of what can be done in the future.
Identify areas of improvement.
Perhaps you’ve determined that you have poor study skills. Maybe you realize that your notes are disorganized or that you keep forgetting due dates. Once you have identified these issues, you can take steps to fix them. Make a commitment to change.
If you are forgetful, you can buy a calendar, mark down important dates, and set reminders on your phones.
If you have time management problems, you can make a schedule and reward yourself with treats when you finish tasks.
Create new goals.
Identify where you want to be when you graduate? Is there a career you want? Do you want to be making a certain amount of money? Do you want to apply to graduate school? Create a list of manageable goals. After you decide on a few, list some practical steps towards attaining those goals.
For example, if you want to apply to medical school, you should keep a list of what courses you need to take, what GPA you need when you graduate, and what extracurriculars look good on a medical school application. Your list of practical steps should also include things like “Study for the MCAT” or “Research good medical schools.”
Realize that you can improve.
Part of the process is understanding that while you can’t change the past, you can change the future. Reassure yourself that you can fix your problems. Once you know what you have done wrong, you can start taking steps to improving.
Make an appointment with your guidance counselor.
If you’re concerned about how the grade(s) will impact your college future, consult with your guidance counselor to create a plan. Perhaps you took courses that were too difficult, or maybe you should explore other majors. With the assistance of your counselor (and perhaps your parents, guardians, or other mentors), create a plan that will get you back on track.
Develop a plan to improve your performance.
Formulate a specific, step-by-step plan that will help you do better next time. Feeling as if you have power over the situation will help you find peace and give you goals to work toward for next time.
This plan should include how many hours a week you will study, what grades you want in each of your classes, how you will manage any medical conditions, and how many hours a week you will socialize, work, etc.
Examine your entire schedule.
If you packed last semester’s schedule with high-level, difficult courses you may have the answer to why your grades tanked. Even the most highly intelligent individual should give him or herself a break. Try mixing difficult courses with some of your easier or lighter courses for a balanced schedule.
Stay on top of your studies.
The key to staying zen is to now keep up with your studies at a pace that matches what you need to be learning. Staying organized, committed, and persistent will help you to stay zen in your college studies. However, if the studies are not improving after you’ve made changes, then it’s probable that you need to seriously consider changes to the career path you’ve mapped out for yourself. Spending energy on something that isn’t working out for you will only worsen your situation.
Study smarter, not harder.
You do not want to spend sixteen hours a day studying if you are not learning anything. You will only burn yourself out. Find study methods that work for you in the future. There are a few tactics you can do to help improve memory and comprehension:
Rewrite your notes every night after class. This will help you recall details. It will also help keep your notes legible.
Do ten flash cards a day. Memorize these ten before adding another ten the next day. Memorizing in small batches will help you remember.
Take notes as you read. After you’re done reading a passage, write down a summary of what you just read. This will help you understand what you read better.
When taking notes by hand, use block letters rather than cursive writing. The results are more likely to be legible and it becomes a habit fast. Half of the benefit of note taking is that writing it down tells your brain to put it in long term memory.
Test yourself after each passage. Do math exercises that test the principles you just learned. Quiz yourself on historical dates. These recall exercises will prepare you for the real test.