How to Make Up for a Semester of Bad Grades

My first quarter of college I enrolled in three courses, including Introductory Psychology, World History 1500-1900, and Intro to Microeconomics. Had I based my future or even overall college performance on that first quarter, I would have bet my entire financial aid refund on me dropping out and becoming a full time couch potato.

Here's the thing though, one bad semester does not make for a bad college experience, even though it can definitely feel that way in the moment. Intro to Microeconomics kicked my butt for ten long weeks, and in all honesty, the only reason I chose microeconomics over macroeconomics is because I figured the micro in microeconomics meant we wouldn't be covering as much information. Yeah, I was kind of an idiot back then.

Related Post: How to Get All As on Your Winter Finals (or any semester!)

If you just completed your first semester (congrats by the way!) or you just powered through a week of finals followed by a holiday full of relatives asking how school is going, you might be stressing about how to face spring semester with last semester's grades on your mind. As someone who survived the whole terrible first semester experience, and maybe a few other sucky courses along the way, I know you're probably looking for ways to not let that happen again.

The first step is realizing you messed up, so props to you for making the effort to see what you can do better this time around. I can't ace your exams for you or slap the phone out of your hand, but I can tell you what worked for me after the semester I earned grades that were embarrassingly average for someone who would swear up and down she had it all under control.

Identify what subjects you struggled with

Take a look at your transcript and figure out what subjects you struggled with
was it social sciences, stem courses, english, where did the trouble start?
if it was all of them, did you let one hard class unmotivate you, or did you just feel overwhelmed. Or were just just plain lazy?

Related Post: 10 Stupid Mistakes I Made My First Year of College

Can you retake a course?

Retaking a course sounds like a waste of time if you technically passed it, but whether you need to gain the credit or just improve your GPA, it's an option you should consider if the course is related to your degree. This is especially true if you plan to apply to masters programs after graduation.

Have you spoken to your guidance counselor?

Everyone should be doing this at least once per year, but especially if you're struggling academically. Your guidance counselor can tell you what your options are for retaking a course, what grades you need to earn in order to earn a certain GPA, as well as how on track you are to graduating on time based on your current performance.

Find an accountability partner for every course this semester

To tell you the truth, my first year of college I was the girl who sat in the same seat every class and wasn't showing up to make friends. I wasn't unfriendly, but I also wasn't spending more than a minute in lecture hall catching up with my classmates. This came back to bite me though come finals time when I needed someone to study with, which is when I learned everyone needs at least one friend in each course.

Find someone who you get along with and swap information the first day of class. The first week of the semester is when people are most open to socialising in class, so it's the perfect opportunity to make plans to swap notes and study guides later.

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Don't wait until midterms to start preparing for exams

Raise your hand if you're guilty of this. (Raises hand.) Waiting until the last minute to start your reading, create your study guides and meet with your TA will just leave you feeling overwhelmed and overworked.

As someone who is still in college I get that 99% of you won't complete the readings as class progresses, and I get why, but at the very least keep all your assigments and notes in one place so you aren't scrambling to find everything two days before the exam.

Figure out what keeps you from studying

Let's just all admit that at any moment there are at least ten more exckiting things to do than sit down and study.  I mean cmon, those Buzzfeed quizzes aren't going to take themselves. Figure out what it is that distracts you, whether it be your phone, firneds or extracurriculars, and carve out time in your shcedule where all of that can be put aisde.

There are websites that will lock you out of social media, phones can be put on airplane mode and there are no extracurriculars if you flunk out of school. Once a week is all you really need to hyper focus so that you don't fall behind.

Related Post: 11 Things to Do In Between Your College Classes

The one thing no one will tell you

One semester of bad grades won't ruin you. Guess what, GPAs don't matter after college, at least not really. No employer has ever asked for my GPA, but then again, no one I know with a 2.0 found a job right out of college (or graduated, actually).

Grades aren't everything, but when your one job is school, it matters how much you make of the whole experience. I'm not saying don't care what your grades are, because they are important, but don't kill yourself over a C on that class you worked your ass off for. I got a C in philosophy because it was fucking hard and I hated it, and you know what, good for me for even passing the class. I aced everything else, so do what you can as long as what you do is your best.

Did you ever do terribly in a college class? If so, share below what you did to bounce back from a tough semester.

For more tips on how to survive your college years, follow my >SURVIVING COLLEGE< board on Pinterest for tips on studying, internships, and all things college related!!


  1. Do you have any recommendations on what to do in the winter in DC? I only have a few friends and all they like to do is drink all day and night (trying to branch out). This is my first winter in DC and I feel lost. I don't mind doing activities alone, but would love to read an article about winter time DC ideas! It would be awesome to meet some new people along the way too.

    1. That definitely is tough and I know exactly how you feel, DC is a weird city that's full of early adults who sometimes want to hold onto those early twenties behaviors. If you wanna branch out more but aren't sure what to do, my fave site to find events and stuff is the Visit Washington DC Facebook page. They release both monthly and weekly things to do in the city. But if you just wanna meet new people, I am a big supporter of Meetup. I actually run a group for twenty something women and it's been a great way to meet really cool people in the city. Feel free to private message me on FB or Instagram if you want more links or recommendations. Good luck :) !!