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A professor’s advice on how to pass all your classes

Without a doubt, classes are progressively becoming more and more stressful as the fall semester is rapidly coming to an end and major deadlines are creeping up.

This is the part of the semester when it starts to feel like there’s not enough time to finish all the work that is left, and it can be extremely overwhelming for many. Fortunately, there are a few things that students can do (and not do) to increase their chances of success in their classes—if not this semester, then in the future.

“The most common way for [students] to lose points is to not show up for lab, or not submit their lab reports online by the deadline,” said West Chester University Professor Marc Gagné of the Earth and Space Sciences Department. “Doing assigned work is the number one way students can help themselves earn higher grades.”

It can be helpful for students to find out whether or not their professor offers extra credit or alternative assignments to make up for others for failed assignments, missed assignments or assignments where the student just had not done as well as they have hoped.

“I give students credit for online reading and activities. These points usually have no deadline, so students can earn them throughout the unit, prior to the midterm and final. Unfortunately, some students choose not to earn those points,” said Professor Gagné.

Sometimes students struggle to understand the material itself — and as a result, perform poorly on exams and assignments. Many students don’t realize that they need help with a class until it’s fairly late in the semester. Since most course material builds, it can be nearly impossible—if not entirely — to fully catch up with such little time.

“In my courses, if a student is doing very poorly after the midterm, it may be difficult to earn the grade they want by the end of the semester. Whatever factors led to their poor performance by mid-semester, it can be difficult to turn things around in a few weeks. Students should think seriously about withdrawing from a course they are likely to fail,” said Professor Gagné.

Since the course withdrawal date already passed this semester, students who are worried about classes should make an effort to see their professors during office hours as much as they can. “Visiting during office hours and study sessions with other students are usually highly beneficial,” said Gagné. “Many students do not take full advantage of office hours. I think some students may feel embarrassed, overwhelmed or simply too busy. Students should learn to plan properly and overcome those fears,” he said.

Visiting professors during office hours can guarantee students a more individualized learning environment, which can make learning difficult material significantly easier.

Making the effort to directly address the professor in person and ask for help shows a great amount of care, enthusiasm, courage and responsibility—and most times, expressing that to a professor can go a long way.

“Most professors are here to help. Learning to get help and advice and learning with other students is part of the learning process we are trying to foster,” said Gagné.

“The best advice is to carefully select courses and professors before the start of the semester. Once the semester starts, seek help through office hours, the LARC or study sessions at the first sign of trouble — very often your first assignment,” said Professor Gagné. “Don’t wait. Putting off the problem just makes recovery more difficult. So be proactive from the very start!”

Emily Drossman is a fourth-year student English Writings major who minors in journalism. ED843805@wcupa.edu

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