I’m going to start this by saying that pursuing a degree in IT or engineering is hard. If you find your grades slipping, take a deep breath and give yourself a break. You are not the only person that is struggling. You are doing everything you can in the moment. Just because something is hard doesn’t mean you aren’t cut out for STEM or you’re stupid. A lot of people’s grades slip, especially in Freshman year. Even though declining grades are completely understandable, it still doesn’t feel great. So here’s a couple of ways to combat that.
The first thing to do if your grades start to fall is to seek out what kind of academic support your school offers. This varies from school to school, so I can’t get too specific. Usually universities have tutoring centers or other methods of academic support. Professors usually list where you can get help in their syllabus. The specific school you belong to should offer tutoring and academic resources. Schools know that your classes are hard and will try to make peer tutoring available in some way, shape, or form.
Being a girl in core STEM classes can be very intimidating and some of your peers may be more open to collaboration than you think.
The next thing you can do is try to form study groups within your classes. I know this isn’t easy, it can be awkward to ask to study with people you don’t know very well. It may be easy to approach people who sit close to you regularly or another girl in the class. Being a girl in core STEM classes can be very intimidating and some of your peers may be more open to collaboration than you think. Studying with other students in your classes has the added advantage of reminding you that other people find the material hard. It’s very easy to forget that the things you are learning in college are not supposed to be easy.
This one is going to be kind of scary. If you’re struggling in your classes, talk to your professors about it.
Reach Out to Professors
This one is going to be kind of scary. If you’re struggling in your classes, talk to your professors about it. You may not want to do that for a multitude of reasons. You don’t want to look dumb in front of your professor. You’re shy. Your professor’s office hours are at a bad time, or reaching out just feels like extra work.
I can’t promise you that your professors will always be helpful. If I’m being honest sometimes they can be rude and a lot less than understanding. That being said, your professors are the ones who designed your curriculum and make your tests. It’s always a good idea to ask them questions about things you don’t understand or even with help on homework assignments. Some professors are great and friendly and you will love sitting in their office hours to do homework. Sometimes they won’t be that level of helpful, but will be able to give you hints on an upcoming exam. The takeaway is reach out, if your professor isn’t helpful don’t do it again, but you don’t want to miss out on any free extra help.
Maybe the reason your grades are slipping isn’t as academic as you think it is. Maybe it’s because your emotional needs aren’t being met. Maybe you aren’t adjusted to college yet and don’t know how to study. If that’s the case the pressure of your grades slipping will only make that worse. See if your university offers academic coaching, academic coaching is more akin to occupational therapy rather than tutoring services. It’s to help you function better to be successful in your classes.
You may have some symptoms of depression or anxiety or both. If that’s the case it’s nothing to be ashamed of, it happens to a lot of first-time college students.
Health Impact on Grades
If your university doesn’t offer something like this try reaching out to student health services to see how they can help you. Or if you can’t study because you are constantly feeling bad, having chest pains, can’t sleep, sleep too much, ect. you may have some symptoms of depression or anxiety or both. If that’s the case it’s nothing to be ashamed of, it happens to a lot of first-time college students. It happened to me, it took me going to college to learn that I had anxiety and that’s why I woke up with chest pains during midterms. I dealt with that by making an appointment with student heath and finding a therapist. Don’t be like me and torture yourself for half a semester before seeking help, ignoring the problem will just make it worse.
Perspective on STEM College Grades
The main thing that I want you to take away from this is that if your grades aren’t what you want them to be freshman year it’s ok! Most people I know have the worst GPA their freshman year and that’s not because the material gets easier over time, it’s because they adjust. Having a low GPA isn’t the end of the world, it’s actually quite easy to come back from.
No one is perfect, not even the people who you think are miles ahead of you. Don’t compare yourself to others
If you do extracurriculars and internships you should be fine with a less than stellar GPA. The important thing is that you’re in college and getting a degree. That’s all that matters. Take a breather and be proud of yourself for trying.
The Takeaway on Grades
Unfortunately, the way higher education is structured there is so much pressure to perform and it’s hard to learn material while meeting a high standard. There is very little room for mistakes and trust me you’re going to make mistakes. No one is perfect, not even the people who you think are miles ahead of you. Don’t compare yourself to others you’re doing your best and that’s good enough. When you realize that it’s a big weight off your shoulders. So ultimately there are things you can do if you notice yourself slipping but cut yourself some slack, you’re trying
— Jade Minkoff is a 2019 ITWomen Scholarship recipient pursuing a degree in Engineering from the University of Southern California. As an intern with ITWomen, she has led two Virtual Coding Camps for Girls. She has written about her experience leading virtual camps this summer.