What To Do If Your Semester Started Poorly

We all start our academic semesters with great hope (and probably a few nerves). We plan on going to class, being great students, making friends, and accomplishing a few goals. But, what do you do when that doesn’t happen? What do you do when you are a few weeks, or even a few months, into the semester and the expectations you had are crumbling all around you?

There are so many situations that can lead to a difficult semester. Maybe you have taken on more classes than you should have or simply didn’t realize how difficult one or two of your courses would be. Maybe you have had a relationship end or experienced a loss that has taken more of your mental and emotional energy. Maybe you have a tough relationship with a roommate, a substance use challenge, or a mental health crisis. All of these, and much more, can affect how you are able to handle the challenges of your semester.

No matter what has brought you to this place, all is not lost. You are not the first, nor the last, student who is going to have a rough start to a semester. Here’s a few tips, mindsets, and resources that may be helpful if your year has not started off quite the way you hoped.

Help For a Semester That Started Poorly

  1. Determine if it is salvageable. Many students who have fallen behind get overwhelmed emotionally and make decisions for themselves about whether they can recover. Make sure to talk with your professors and determine the truth about your grades. They do not want you to fail and often, there are solutions you may not have thought of if you talk with them. Pro tip: Go see them in person rather than send an e-mail.
  2. Remind yourself you’re not alone, or a “failure.” People struggle in college all the time. Really smart people. Really capable people. People who have always done well before can even have times here and there where they are uncharacteristically struggling. The further you isolate and shame yourself, the more difficulty you will have rebounding this semester and/or in the future. Having a difficult moment is very difficult from ruining your life.
  3. Use your campus resources. We’ve already mentioned talking with your professors to determine the reality of your grade status in their class. Additionally, it can be a great help to make an appointment with a counselor on campus. A counselor can help you sort through the mental and emotional difficulties that may be affecting your situation and, with permission, possibly even be a part of creating a plan with your professors to best help you. College counselors are uniquely aware of the dynamics on your particular campus.
  4. If necessary, start over. Lots of students drop classes, take incompletes, seek a medical withdrawal, return home for a time, and/or reconsider their path or major. If after you have sought all other options it looks like it is best to step away from something, then that may be the best decision you ever make. Pro tip: Don’t just stop going to class or leave campus. Talk with your professors, counselor, admissions, and/or financial aid to make sure you are best set up to leave, and return, as healthy as possible.

College is hard. It’s hard academically, and it’s hard because you also need to do life while you are learning the material and learning more and more about who you are. If your semester has started off poorly, that’s okay. There’s always more than one way to rebound. You just need to find your way.

August 30, 2021. By Anne Rulo, Author, Speaker, Therapist. FB/IG/Twitter @annemrulo

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