It’s easy for freshmen, refreshed from Winter Break, to think that after a rocky first semester, second semester will automatically be “better” or “easier.” While second semester might be better and easier, the difference isn’t automatic.
For students who learned something about themselves— their study habits, their routines, their major, their friends, their health, ect, it will be easier to continue that tangent second semester. On the other hand, for students who make the same choices that made first semester difficult, second semester won’t be better. In fact, the problems will compound (like G.P.A. does) and become more unmanageable.
In the ARC, we meet with several of these students whose mindset is “it will be better this time” but don’t commit to making a change in their habits. To help them out, we employ much of the material used in Freshman Focus. One of the purposes of Freshman Focus is to assist students in adjusting to college, but not all are ready to spread their wings and fly solo second semester.
While we try to convince students that doing the same thing won’t lead to different results, these are some of the tools we use:
- A “semester at a glance” planner—take all syllabi and write down all the important due dates. Use it! Don’t lose it!
- Discussions and written reflections about motivations for doing well that include short and long-term goals. While it’s important to know a future goal such as “I want to be a trial lawyer,” we talk to students about what they can do today, next week, this month, and this semester to lead them to that goal.
- A G.P.A. calculator—most students don’t know how their G.P.A. is calculated other than it has something to do with their grades. For students with a less than satisfactory G.P.A. after first semester, knowing what grades they need second semester is important. Knowing what grades it takes to raise one’s G.P.A., to, say, a 2.5, helps students know what “up” means when they’re supposed to be getting their grades “up.”
These are just some of the tools we use with students in the ARC around this time of the academic year. Parents and families can also employ them when the topic of grades or “second semester being different” comes up.