Dear Barb—Grade Shock

Dear Barb:

Hi, I have just begun taking courses at AU after having been out of a school and working for the last 10 years.  When I graduated high school I was one of the top students in my class, but now I’m barely passing and finding the work very difficult.  It’s disappointing and I’m not sure I will be able to continue.   I’m finding it hard to discipline myself to set a study schedule and do my school work.  I end up leaving everything until the last possible minute.  I have attempted to use Saturdays as my day to work on my course, but then if a friend calls and wants to do something, I’m gone.  Since I work full-time, I cannot attend regular school and I really want to obtain a degree and change my career path.  Are there any tips you could suggest that would get me motivated, or should I just give up? Thanks, Megan.

Hi Megan:

Initially when individuals make the decision to take online courses, they are motivated and anxious to begin; however, as you are realizing Megan, it is difficult to remain focused.  Online education doesn’t always work for everyone.  The reason you are barely passing may be more a result of simply going from high school to university.  The drop in your grades may have happened even if you went to a brick and mortar university.  According to research, students leaving high school with a 90+ grade average, experience the biggest drop in their grades once they enter university.  An article in Maclean’s Magazine, from July 8, 2010 by Carson Jerema, states: “A student who gets 90s in high school, who gets high 70s and low 80s in university, is doing quite well.”

I would never suggest you give up.  It’s all a matter of disciplining yourself.  The most important thing for you to do is to learn to say no to your friends.  Set aside some time for socializing, but outside of that time, you need to tell your friends you are busy and let them know when you are available.  Construct a schedule, so you can let your friends and family know when you are free.  If you were attending a regular university you would have to set time for attending class and you still need to set up a similar schedule for your online courses.  The schedule will not only let your friends know when you are busy or available, but it will also provide you with a timetable so you know when you need to study.  Stay focused on your long-term goals.  For example, if you plan to have your degree by a certain date, make sure you are staying within the time frame required in order to meet your goals.  Thanks Megan, hope this helps.