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Image from Pexels

For some students, midterms are a reality check. After you press that fateful “Display midterm grades” button, what do you do if your grades are considerably lower than you’d hoped for?

First of all, don’t panic. Remember that midterm grades are a gauge of your progress, nothing more; no one besides you will probably ever see them. On the other hand, it’s important to make sure that your final grades don’t suffer. Here are five steps to finishing the semester strong.

1. Get organized. If you’re going to recover from a rough midterms week and get better final grades, you need a plan. How will you bring your scores up? What do you need to focus on? Were your grades a little low in one or two of your classes, or in all of them? Maybe a particular activity has kept you from studying enough or attending office hours. This is the time for some self-evaluation.

Katrina Owens, a 3rd-year student at McMaster University, says, “I always suggest going over the parts of the assignments that you didn’t do well on to see what you were having trouble understanding, and then dedicate your time to learning those concepts inside and out.”

2. Know yourself. If you sit and think about it, you probably have an inkling of what you can do to improve your grade. Do you ever use your laptop to take notes and end up getting distracted? Try not bringing it to class so you can stay focused. Maybe you just need more time to study, or maybe you study best in groups instead of alone.

Rania Bolton, a student at the University of North Carolina Greensboro, says students should make sure to participate in class—a lot of professors bump your grade if they know you try.

By setting yourself up to succeed, you’ll be able to give your GPA the boost it needs to bring those low midterms up.

3. Talk to your professors. Sometimes it may not seem like it (Professor Snape, anyone?) but professors are there to help you get the best grade you can. Go to office hours, make an appointment, ask questions in class, and don’t be afraid of not knowing how to do the homework. That’s what they’re there for, and most professors are more than willing to help students understand.

In fact, if they see that you’re putting in the effort to improve, some professors will adjust your grade accordingly. Bolton pointed out that, in addition to participation points, students may get extra credit for making that extra effort.

“If they know you’re actually trying and that you’re a decent student sometimes they’ll give you that extra push come final grades,” Marina Mendez, a University of South Florida student, agreed.

Remember, in the end, Professor Snape had Harry’s back the whole time.

4. Take advantage of the resources you have. Your school also wants you to do your best and learn as much as possible. Most schools have tutoring centers or other similar resources where you can get additional explanation or instruction in a subject for free.

If it works out better for you, paying for extra tutoring isn’t a bad idea either! Study groups and help from friends can also go a long way if it fits your learning style, and so can finding that perfectly silent cubicle in the back of the library.

In short, figure out what resources would help you to raise your grade and then try as hard as possible to use those resources.

5. Relax. This is important in both the short and long term.

First, just relax. Take a deep breath and spend some time with Netflix and Nutella (or whatever your guilty pleasure happens to be) because stressing about raising your grades right away probably won’t help at all.

Secondly, don’t overwork yourself in the effort to get those numbers up. An effective and realistic plan for the next two months is much more doable than a superhuman plan to turn your academic life around in two weeks.

“I like to use poor grades as a motivation booster,” Owens said.

In conclusion, don’t let a bad set of midterm grades keep you from rocking finals. Some students even find the challenge of raising grades to be a good motivation to finish with flying colors.

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the author

Olivia Cunningham is a journalism student at St. John's University in New York City. She is the assistant features editor of the Torch student newspaper, maintains her own blog ( and suffers from a strong addiction to coffee.

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  1. Nunya on October 21, 2018

    Thank you for this; I really needed it.

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