Dec 12, 2022 

It’s a few months into the 2022-2023 school year and by now your binders may have a few scuffs on them, your pencils’ erasers may be worn a tad, and your daily wardrobe has switched from t-shirts to sweatshirts. You may also have had a couple lackluster grades or downright disastrous marking periods, and you’re anxiously wondering whether you can turn things around. If this sounds like you, don’t get stuck freaking out and feeling down. Know that you still have the power to pick yourself up and get back on track. Take it one step at a time, starting with reading the following five-step plan to bounce back from bad grades.

Step 1: Reflect and Commit

When something bad happens, the natural response is some form of fight or flight. With disappointing grades you can do anything from becoming defensive or immediately taking action to becoming despondent or ignoring the problem. You might be surprised to know that the ideal approach is something in the middle. Specifically, it’s important to give yourself time to reflect on how things went wrong before you commit to changing for the better. Bad grades can hurt, so make sure to set aside a little time to let yourself heal: vent your feelings with a trusted confidante or allow yourself a good cry. 

Next, it’s time to rewind and pinpoint the factors and choices that led you here. Consider what might have had a negative impact on your performance so far. For example, choices that could have led to bad grades can be anything from poor diet and sleep to indulging in too many social and recreational activities. Factors that could have hurt your grades could be stress from your parents’ divorce or a poor class environment (e.g. a subpar teacher or obnoxious classmate). 

Once you’ve identified the potential problems, you can start engaging in problem solving. However, no amount of research into better sleeping habits or theoretical talks with teachers and therapists is going to make those things a reality. You have to have a plan and want to change. Often students struggling with bad grades can feel out of control and disempowered, but if you can be proactive and make a commitment to yourself and have ways to hold yourself accountable, then you can regain control and accomplish your goals. The following few steps should give you a sense of what you can do next.

Step 2: Check Grades

Most schools provide ways to check class information and grades online (e.g. Canvas, Power School), and those online resources are an excellent place to start the grade recovery process. So, even though it might be scary to look at your grades, be brave and meticulous. 

Go beyond just looking at the current final letter grade and examine how you’re losing points so you can identify trends and areas in need of improvement. Are your quiz and test scores dragging you down, but your homework completion is good? Okay, then focus on study skills. Are your assessments fine, but your homework lacking? Okay, then set up better systems to keep track of what is for homework and better times/places to complete it. Was there one particular unit that just didn’t click for you and dragged you down? Okay, look at the warning signs that something wasn’t working (e.g. a bad first quiz) and be on the lookout for something similar happening again and get help early so you don’t make the same mistake twice. Bottom line: use your past bad grades as a roadmap to get better grades in the future.

Step 3: Check-In with Teachers

Your teachers want you to succeed. They not only appreciate when students make a sincere effort to get help, but they also can offer students options to improve their grades; you can get extra help during a “resource” period or after school, complete extra credit assignments, or redo some assignments, for example. You can find out what is coming up in class that, if you did well, could give you a big boost. So, talk to your teachers to see what can be done. Since you might be intimidated or embarrassed to talk to a teacher, consider whether you can make it easier on yourself by sending an email or choosing a time when there aren’t other students around and your teacher has more free time so both of you are less stressed. 

Step 4: Make Plans

Once you have a better idea of what you need to work on, you should start making plans for how you’re going to do it. For instance, take advantage of tools like calendars and study apps, design and practice a new bedtime routine, or use a new study method. If you’re struggling in more than one class, part of your planning might also involve choosing which one to prioritize based on what class you have a better chance of doing better in or what class means more to you. Identify possible sources of support, too, such as school counselors and tutors, and reach out to them for advice and assistance. The key is to select strategies that address your weaknesses and that you’re most likely to use because they suit your personality and preferences.

Step 5: Take Action

There’s a difference between knowing what you should do and actually doing it. You can make a plan to talk to your teacher or take better notes, but taking action and changing habits require perseverance, especially if you run into roadblocks like an unexpected personal issue (e.g. a breakup or a particularly difficult unit or project in a class). That makes this last step perhaps the most crucial and difficult one, because it means following through and not giving up.

How A+ Can Help

Bad grades can happen to anyone, but they don’t have to define you or drag you down. Follow the steps above and you will have made your best effort to overcome your academic challenges while proving to yourself and others that you are hard working and resilient. Fortunately, you don’t have to climb that hill on your own. If you’re feeling overwhelmed and need some assistance, it can be a good idea to get the help of a tutor. 

At A+ Test Prep and Tutoring, we have many compassionate and talented tutors who can give you a hand. Our Academic Tutoring program can support your coursework while our Executive Function Coaching program can help you develop key skills, such as time management, planning, study techniques, and focus. Your determination combined with our expertise can help you salvage a semester and ultimately succeed.

At A+ Test Prep and Tutoring, our practices are based on the latest developments in educational theory and research. We have an excellent team of tutors who can help you with standardized testing, executive functioning, or achievement in any other school subject. If you want to find out more about our services, our Client Service Director Joelle Faucette can be reached at 215-886-9188.


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