As the leaves begin to change colors and temperatures drop, the fall season begins to settle in, and so do you in the fall semester of the school year. You should be settled into your class schedule; finished your midterms; and have made it past the halfway point of the semester. Now is the time to reflect on the first half of the semester, and evaluate your successes and failures to ensure a strong finish of the second half of the semester.
The first point of reflection should be your study habits and whether they positively or negatively impacted your performance. A good way to determine the effectiveness of your study habits should be your performance on your midterm exams. If you didn’t score a high mark and were disappointed in your grade, now is the time to change your study habits.
One way to improve studying is to work with your fellow classmates. Reviewing course materials, such as class notes and actual homework assignments, with another student from the class can help you better understand the material. Increasing the frequency in which you study can also help improve your academic performance. Studying a little bit each day instead of cramming for several hours the day before the exam can increase your ability to retain information, as well as reduce your stress level about the exam. Lastly, making a study plan for exam can help you do better in the course. Once the professor assigns a date for the exam, designate specific study times far in advance. Each day you can pick a specific subject to study to ensure that you cover everything that will be on the exam. And while studying is important, a graduate student must also effectively manage ones downtime.
One of the most difficult things graduate students face is balancing time between school work and social or personal relaxation activities. There will be weeks where you’ll have a lot to get done and other weeks where the workload will be significantly lighter. When it comes to the latter, it’s important to not spend too much time relaxing, especially when you are uncertain of potential future assignments. For instance, if an assignment is not due for more at least a week and half, you should begin working on it once you’ve submitted the more pressing homework. It’s best to get on jump on the assignment sooner rather than later. Even if you only do one or two problems here and there, getting a little bit done early on lightens the potential load of other assignments you may get hit with the following week.
Reflecting upon one’s progress after midterms is crucial for any graduate student. You’ll make mistakes or stumble in your graduate career, but the key is to learn from those mistakes and apply them to the rest of the semester and even the school year. After all, a phrase I like to live by is, “It’s not how you start, it’s how you finish.” So if things are off to a rocky start at the beginning of the semester, there is still time for you to improve going forward.