"I'm not a chicken. I'm just really hesitant." -Frasier Crane
Question #90787 posted on 01/10/2018 9:50 p.m.
Q:

Dear Friends of the 100 Hour Board,

I hope y’all are having a fantastic Christmas break. I know there’s a whole lot of info in the archives about what I’m about to ask, but I know how awesome you guys are so I wanted to see what you have to say.

Last semester I took 16 credits. I learned a bunch and had so much fun, but my grades left something to be desired. This semester I’m going to be taking 18 credits and hopefully working 10 hours a week or so. (I’m taking a 4 credit language class for fun. If I really needed to I could drop the class) It’s going to be challenging, but it will be worth it and I think I can do it.

My issue is that I need to keep around a 3.7, and it’s going to be difficult. My main concerns are: 1. I got off to a slow start at the beginning of last semester, and it hurt me down the stretch. 2. I have a hard time being consistent. In all of my classes I performed really well most of the time, but I had a hard time maintaining that performance. 3. If I only had one midterm in a week I did really well, but if I had two midterms I did well on one and okay on the other. When I had three tests in a week I did really well on one, okay on the other, and poorly on the third.

Do you have any advice for me on what I can do to overcome those challenges? Or if you have any other related or semi-related advice feel free to add that in too. Any ideas you have are more than welcome.

Thanks so much! You guys rock!

-Tipperary

A:

Dear Tipperary,

First of all, I agree with Mitty below, that lightening your load sounds like a good idea. In my last semester, I was only taking 15 credits, but I was also working around 30 hours a week, and it was exhausting. Giving up my second job was a sacrifice, but it allowed me to devote more time and energy to the things that were more important to me. In your situation, since your grades will be really important, I would consider dropping the language class. Learning a language is really fun, but maybe start out with Duolingo or the equivalent until you actually have time and energy to devote to it.

My best advice related to your other concerns is ORGANIZATION. At least in my experience, the best way to keep yourself on track is to make sure, if possible, that no day or week is too overwhelming. Sometimes there's nothing you can do about test dates or due dates for big projects, but if you can plan ahead, you'll hopefully save yourself a lot of stress. I highly recommend BYU's daily planners, the ones they give out to freshmen. They're only like $8, and they have BYU's schedule all set and ready to go.

During the first week of class, I would go through the syllabus of each and every class and find every paper, test, and assignment, and I would assign a designated time to accomplish that particular task. It wasn't a perfect system, and sometimes I was too optimistic about how quickly I could accomplish something or how motivated I would feel on a particular day. But it did allow me spread the work out so I wasn't stuck working until 3 a.m. the day before a due date. In addition, I did my best to schedule at least one day off every other week or so, a day when I didn't have to do any homework or research and I could just relax. That helped me to avoid feeling burned out, and gave me something to look forward to.

Hopefully, if that idea works for you, it could help you not start out the semester slowly, and help to maintain consistency.

My second piece of advice is to prioritize. Unfortunately, even if you're the most organized person in the world, there are moments where you have limited time or energy to devote to schoolwork. If you need to, ascertain which classes are the most important, or most deserving of your time. For instance, I was once taking a family finance class as an elective. It was definitely an important class, and maybe the most practical one I took while at BYU, but after a few weeks I learned that attendance wasn't strictly necessary. In class we would mostly review the textbook readings and go over some math concepts, but I discovered that with a bit of diligence, I could learn at home, and therefore devote that time to more time-consuming projects. That solution may not work for your classes, but it's something to consider.

Finally, over my years at BYU, I discovered that certain situations were more conducive to my learning than others. For instance, I worked 20 hours a week through college. I learned that I was much more productive if I took classes in the morning, then worked in the afternoon, because that break from education gave me more energy to do schoolwork at the end of the day. I was also more productive if I tried to do homework and studying on campus instead of at home. At my apartment there were too many distractions, with roommates and grocery shopping and Netflix all trying to draw my attention away. Instead, I would try to space out my classes if possible, so I would have an hour or two in between them that I could devote to homework. If I couldn't accomplish everything I needed to that day, I would stay on campus an hour past the end of my classes to keep myself diligent.

I wish I could be more helpful on the subject of many midterms in the same week, but that's a hard situation no matter how diligent or organized you are. My advice would be to start studying early, reviewing your notes every weekend instead of cramming in the few days before the test. Second, I'm a firm proponent of handwritten notes, because they helped me retain the information better and also made for more effective study habits, because I couldn't get distracted on my laptop. Also, in a weird way, I felt as though my memory was better because remembering where the information was written on the page was strangely effective in helping me pinpoint obscure details.

That's a lot of advice, but I hope some of it is helpful. Good luck!

Love,

Luciana

A:

Dear Tipperary,

From one engineer to another, I would lighten your load. Last semester I tried to take 16.5 credits while working 20 hours a week, and it was almost more than I could handle. I managed to get through all of my classes, but I definitely didn't get a 3.7 GPA. I think you have a few options though, depending on your main goal for the semester. 

If your goal is to raise your GPA, and aren't worried about taking a little longer to graduate, I would take your language class and look to drop something else. Ms. Mitty took Italian a few semesters ago, and 4 credit hours of A's were a boon to her GPA. Other GPA boosting classes include all of the student development classes, and certain religion classes. 

If you just want to get done with all of your engineering classes, I would get rid of your language class. Although I am all for expanding your education at college, your principal goal is to graduate. This makes your engineering classes much more important. Save the language class for a lighter semester where you need some filler classes. 

If you are going to try to take the 18 credit hours, allow me to put forth a few suggestions. Number one, take Luciana's advice. Planning is your best friend. Make sure that you are on top of all of your assignments. Second, don't fall into the early-semester pit. I often think that I can miss a few homework assignments in the first month of classes, and it comes back to bite me at the end of the semester when I really need to miss a few homework assignments. Also, be aware that other aspects of your life will need to be put on hold. Your social life will probably take a hit, as well as your sleep schedule. Be sure that you are willing to commit to that before you embark in this semester.

Whatever you decide to do, good luck!

- Mitty

A:

Dear Tipperary,

Like the other writers are saying, I'd definitely look into lightening your load (but then again, this is coming from the person in 11 credits of graduate courses plus 4 other normal credits for next semester, so I also obviously understand just opting for not giving up anything).

What Luciana said about planning ahead so your workload for any given day isn't too hectic is a great strategy, but I've found that when I'm having to spend 12 hours of hard work every day anyways just to keep up on all the daily stuff, planning ahead doesn't do much for me. In lieu of planning everything out, there have been two key things for helping me manage a crushing workload:

  1. Knowing what to let go: Last semester marked the first time I had ever turned in an incomplete homework assignment. It then proceeded to mark the 2nd, 3rd, 4th, and who knows how many such times as well. In fact, last semester was the first for lots of things along that line for me. And it hurt/was extremely stressful to not do things as well as I'm used to doing them. But if you're going to be doing a ton of stuff, you have to accept the fact that you aren't going to be able to do all that stuff as well as if you only had one or two of them to focus on. Thus you need to become adept at knowing every week what is vital to get done and what isn't. Maybe that will entail turning in incomplete homework assignments, or skipping certain classes; only you will be able to decide precisely what form this prioritizing will take.
  2. Strong support group: I don't think I could have gotten through last semester without an extremely strong group of close friends (mainly consisting of ACME people and my roommates). Sometimes you just need someone to be there to cheer you on and give you that extra bit of motivation to keep on going when you don't feel like you can. 

Good luck with your coming semester!

~Anathema