DEAR SANDRA: The Advice Column

November 27, 2002

Dear Sandra,

I need your help with my academic situation. To put it bluntly, I’m not doing as well as I thought I would. I study regularly, I spend a lot of time on my assignments and I maintain contact with my tutors, yet I can never get a mark over 80%. I have never failed a course, but I would really like to be an honors student. Can you please tell me how to become a better student?

Academically Challenged in PEI

Dear Academically Challenged,

If I knew how to be a better student, don’t you think I would be studying with some of the most intelligent people in the world on an Ivy League campus? No, I am sad to report that there are no Ivy League recruiters knocking down my door.

You, like every other university student in the world, are very concerned about your marks. You are not failing, you study hard and you seem like a regular student. In fact, you sound like about 80% of all university students. The honour role is a very difficult list to get your name added to. It takes an intense amount of hard work and dedication, but for some students perfect marks do come naturally. Some students are better at expressing their thoughts and absorbing large amounts of information than others. For most students it’s hard to achieve this idealistic level of perfectionism. If you are satisfied that you are learning the material and feel that you have dedicated yourself to your school work, don’t stress yourself out over the marks you get. School marks are not the only criteria for getting a job, in fact employers rarely look at your transcripts, they just want to be reassured that you have a degree and relevant experience. If you really feel you need to improve then I would recommend a speed-reading or memory retention course. Also make sure you comprehend your tutors remarks; they are there not only to mark your assignments but to give you feedback on them as well.

Just like we are not all artistic or athletic we are also not all geniuses. Do your best and dedicate yourself to your schoolwork, but don’t obsess over the marks you get: you still have a life to live. Don’t go on the assumption that getting your degree relies on constant perfect marks: most of the degrees hanging on the walls of successful and proud graduates today do not have the words “With Great Distinction” printed on them.


Advice is what we ask for when we already know the answer but wish we didn’t.
-Erica Jong

Thanks to everyone for your letters and encouragement. Keep those letters coming, no question is unanswerable and confidentiality is assured.


This column is for entertainment only. Sandra is not a professional counsellor, but is an AU student who would like to give personal advice about school and life to her peers. Please forward your questions to Sandra care of

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