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Troubleshooting your studies

Published (Volume 75, No. 20)

About this time of the semester, you may realize that your academic struggles from last semester are continuing. If you are worried about doing well in your classes, it’s time for some troubleshooting to figure out the source of your problems and to find some solutions.

Start with the simple things:  are you taking care of yourself?  You wouldn’t expect to drive your car to Nashville with only one gallon of gas in the tank, but you may be expecting your brain to function on two hours of sleep, Coke and cookies.

Most college students are sleep-deprived, and research shows very clearly that lack of sleep impairs your ability to think and concentrate. Your body doesn’t get enough fuel to work efficiently if you don’t eat regular meals with protein as well as carbohydrates.

Consuming too much alcohol is another major reason for college failure. If you choose to drink, don’t drink on weeknights and drink only moderately on weekends. Your brain cells, your liver, your grades, and the professor teaching your 8 a.m. class will thank you.

Now that you are sober, rested, and well-fed, look in the mirror and answer yourself honestly:  are you studying enough? If you are not achieving well, the answer is probably “no.”

You may have breezed through high school without cracking a book, but sooner or later your study habits will catch up with you. Different subjects require different strategies. Maybe you can get away with cramming for a history test or writing a 20-page English paper the night before it is due (I’m not recommending this!), but math and foreign language classes require daily study and practice.

Dig deep for some self-discipline, turn off the TV and put away the video games, and devote yourself to many more hours of studying.

If studying harder doesn’t do the trick, try a Study Skills class or go talk to the folks at the Student Academic Support Center in Clement Hall to figure out how to study smarter.

If your good self-care and hard work aren’t enough, it’s time to use the resources available to you. Talk to your advisor, see your professors during office hours, go to the Math Lab or the Writing Center, ask a top-notch student for some help, or get a tutor.

If you have documented Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) or a learning disability, the PACE office can help you. If you are a freshman, get in touch with your PEP leader or your former Freshman Studies professor for some ideas.

Come to the Counseling Center for some career testing to see if you and your major are a good fit, or some personal counseling to continue the troubleshooting process or deal with known obstacles in your life. It’s smart to use all the resources available to you.

It’s important to nip this semester’s troubles in the bud. If you put off this troubleshooting process, you may feel more and more overwhelmed and get into deeper trouble.

UT Martin has a wealth of caring staff and faculty members who are committed to helping you succeed. If you are active in problem-solving, you will find all kinds of support available.

Now’s the time to get started for a successful semester!

Dr. Jennifer Y. Levy works at the UTM Counseling and Career Services.