When I was going through a challenging experience and felt like giving up, a friend of mine said to me “Remember Sarah, be the strongest in the fourth quarter”. At first, that sports-based analogy seemed out of context and held no meaning for me but once I understood what it meant those simple words became a powerful tool during times of struggle. So, whether on an athletic field or in a classroom, finishing strong will determine the goal outcome and develop character as well. As you approach the second half of the college semester, now is the perfect time to evaluate where you are and where you want to be at the end of the course. It is the perfect time to think of how you are going to approach the “fourth quarter” of the course.  

Often times students begin a new class with a feeling of excitement (often presented as anxiety). They are excited to learn new material in a welcoming environment along with fellow students who share similar goals. However, that initial excitement can quickly fade when coursework becomes challenging and failure seems to be a real possibility. Students can easily become panicky, frustrated, or worse, indifferent to a final positive outcome. To help you avoid such hazards, here are some tips to help you maintain focus and finish strong.  

  • Define your “why”. Revisit your motive for taking the course in the first place. Define what your overall long-term goals are and how the course is part of that process. Motivation always grows with a renewed sense of purpose.  

  • Reflect on what has gone well for you and continue to practice those skills and behaviors. As importantly, identify what has not gone well in the course. Be honest with yourself and answer the following questions:  

Are you struggling with completing assignments?  

Review your academic, employment, and personal schedule and determine where you can allocate time for coursework. Closely monitor due dates utilizing the course syllabus or calendar.  

Are you attending all class meetings?  

The value of consistent attendance seems self-evident, but obstacles can come from outside the classroom as well as from within. Determine which barriers are blocking you and speak to your instructor for appropriate strategies to overcome these obstacles. 

Are you accessing all of the learning resources available to you?  

There are numerous resources available to help you succeed in your courses. Unfortunately, often times students do not know what resources exist or know how to access them. Videos, study guides, practice tests, and guided notes are often available from the publisher of the course textbook, from open resources, and/or from your instructor. Verify that you are using any and all resources available to you to help you learn the content and succeed in the course.  

Are you performing your best on assessments?  

If you are struggling with getting good grades on assessments, try some different test preparation strategies. Strategies used to prepare for assessments are heavily dependent on the content and the type of assessment but these strategies can be learned. Speak to your instructor on how to best prepare for the remaining assessments in the course. Practicing the other tips given here will improve your assessment performance.  

  • Speak to your instructor and work with them to develop a success plan for the remainder of the semester. Your instructor can offer feedback regarding your strengths and skills which can be applied to those areas that need improvement.  

  • Advocate for yourself and seek support outside the classroom. Studying with your peers, meeting with your instructor, and enrolling in your college’s enrichment center for tutoring or mentoring are ways to develop your skills. There is a large team available to support you. Seek it out.   

Enthusiasm, effort, and focus are difficult to maintain throughout an entire semester. Motivation rises and falls with each success and disappointment. Obstacles to success can materialize at the most inconvenient times. So, maintain a personal playbook of strategies that will help you keep your eye on the prize and keep your strength in the fourth quarter.