Bad Marks: Put it in perspective
November 20, 2011 12:35 PM   Subscribe

(Relatively) bad marks: help me put it in perspective. What doors have I closed to myself?

I've always been an overachiever. In the top three in high school, extraordinarily high marks in first year of university - I never thought that academics would be of any concern to me. I'm used to just walking into exam rooms and coming out assured that I would have a 90% or higher.

Cue second year: suddenly, I'm starting to do fairly poorly. I'm starting to struggle a little bit. I lucked out on all my midterms due to absolute carelessness and failure to read the questions correctly; I even got 66% on one midterm in a subject that I typically excel in with no effort whatsoever. Don't get me wrong: I'm not doing drastically bad. In fact, I'm still well above average, but you have to understand: for someone who's used to consistently getting 90%+ with no real effort whatsoever, looking at an average of 75% for this semester is pretty huge.

I know many people would still kill to be in my shoes. I know it's still a decent average. But I've never been there before, and honestly speaking - academics is an integral part of persona that I've always taken for granted. Everyone, from my peers to my professors to my family, calls me smart. I feel like I've betrayed everyone's perceptions of me because of my academic transgressions. Beyond that, my family's always told me to play to my strengths, so I've always heavily relied on my academics as the path to my future; so now that I'm questioning my academics, it's as if my only route has been shut off. A little hyperbolic, but that's how I'm feeling at this point. I can't help but feel crummy about it!

So reasonably, I'm starting to worry a little bit. Because I've always taken my high average for granted, and because I have such a stellar extracurricular record (which thankfully is still continuing), I've never had to consider my academic options because I've always assumed that for whatever I wanted to do, I would easily have the grades for it.

While it's too early for me to assume this is a trend just yet (maybe it's just a bad semester for me), it still has me panicking a little bit: what if it does keep up? What am I going to be unable to do in the future? I keep telling myself that it isn't that big of a deal, because it probably isn't. But I'm already noticing that doors are beginning to close off little by little to me: I was recently looking into summer research opportunities, and to my disappointment, most grants require a 80%, 85% average.

A summary of my questions, then:
  • How does third/fourth year compare to second year, in regards to marks? I've heard some rumors that you actually do better in 3rd/4th because it's more specialized, but I've also heard that the difficulty ramps way up.
  • As someone who hopes to go onto grad school for (eventually) a PhD, how unattractive will relatively low grades make me? Is there any way that I can compensate for this in the realm of extracurricular activities or other credentials, or are academics their primary consideration?
  • Research is one of my passions: how much more difficult is it going to be for me to get into that field, as an undergraduate, as a graduate, and beyond, with relatively low academics? Will the fact that I'm beginning to publish review papers at this point help mitigate that?
  • Being in a Canadian University, I understand that our marking system is much harsher than that of many other countries. What does this mean should I wish to pursue graduate opportunities aboard?
  • Is a 75% average really as bad as my subconscious is making it out to be? I'm already well aware of what the answers are going to be like: but tell me how much marks really matter in the real world so I can put this back into perspective.
posted by Conspire to Education (26 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
I'm not sure about the answers to your specific questions but I just wanted to suggest that perhaps you are only now in a situation where you actually have to put in some hard graft? Maybe you have taken your natural intelligence for granted and it's let you get to this point without making too much effort, but finally you've hit the point where more is needed to obtain really high marks... Perhaps you just need to work a bit harder. You could look at the study habits of those in your class who don't seem so bright as you but who are getting similar grades for an idea as to whether that's the case.
posted by KateViolet at 12:53 PM on November 20, 2011 [12 favorites]

I have never once been asked for a transcript in my last few years at my research position, for whatever that is worth.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 12:54 PM on November 20, 2011

How does third/fourth year compare to second year, in regards to marks? I've heard some rumors that you actually do better in 3rd/4th because it's more specialized, but I've also heard that the difficulty ramps way up.

Do not, do not, do not plan your personal approach to your schoolwork based upon generalized rumors.

Being in a Canadian University, I understand that our marking system is much harsher than that of many other countries. What does this mean should I wish to pursue graduate opportunities aboard?

I did my undergrad in Canada and my Grad in the U.S. I was shocked by how they evaluated my Canadian education in terms of their US standard (example: I got a year's worth of credit for my BA because I did college-level courses in high school, but then had to get special dispensation to get into my master's program because I had "only" a three-year degree, as opposed to a four-year degree...when in, reality, I did a four-year degree, only one started a year early, as it were) and were surprisingly obtuse about everything. That said, I think that might be less prevalent at some of the east coast schools who have more scholastic connections to some of the Canadian colleges just across the border.

But, another thing: I went to the Canadian system after being educated in a US-based HS system. The grading in Canada DID shock me, and I was horrified to see my 90% average translating into a 75% or something up north. Just...horrified.

So, what did I do? Worked harder.
Graduated with a high gpa in an honours program from a Canadian institution.

So...aside from the weird bureaucratic stuff that came with getting my transcripts evaluated and stored in US schools (i.e. they will totally misplace your transcript because it wouldn't have originally been tied to a US SSN), it's not like anyone can really disparage my education and marks, because (by any standard) they were good. And I was really happy when I was applying for graduate schools, because I was qualified to apply to both international and national universities. I didn't have anything major to worry about.

Something to consider.
posted by vivid postcard at 12:54 PM on November 20, 2011 [1 favorite]

I got into a pretty stellar PhD programme at Durham- based on a "decent" 3.69 gpa and a LETTER FROM AN AMAZING SUPER LEADING ACADEMIC IN MY FIELD... start networking with your profs! they will let you know what is what.... strange you don't mention them.
posted by misspony at 12:54 PM on November 20, 2011

To me here in the U.S., 75% certainly doesn't sound "well above average." Places sort of understand these things, but at the very least it won't help.

It sounds like you're used to just being given good grades because you're smart. Eventually everyone reaches a point on the educational ladder where that's no longer the case -- you have to work to master the material, do well, and continue to excel. This is especially true if you want to get a PhD and do your own research. It's inconceivable to me that anyone would become a top-tier researcher just by coasting by, in any field.
posted by J. Wilson at 12:56 PM on November 20, 2011 [7 favorites]

I'm Canadian (where are you located province wise?) and went through a similar thing in second year (I'm in 4th year now) and have also been involved in research as an undergrad. Repeat after me, this is not the end of the world. One semester of struggles will not end your academic career. Rather, its show you that this is an opportunity to reevaluate your study habits and routines and configure them something close that you would find in the academic world when heading into grad school.

It all depends on your school, but 3 and 4th year my grades have gone up significantly. This is because I did a total revamp of my study system in 2nd year. But more importantly, I love my classes and want to do more work now, and can see the connections between my research work and my area of study (Arctic ecology). My classes are smaller, with profs I have developed relationships with and with challenging material. That being said, my workload in 3rd year doubled from 2nd year. Its a matter of being ready for it and learning to study efficently. If you are interested in some ideas on how to study more effectively, go check out some of Cal Newport's older material on the Study Hacks Blog. His ideas and suggestions saved my grades out of a bad 1st semester in 2nd year and have been intergral to how I study and work since then.

As for grad school, I would suggest going to talk to graduate students and the programs that you are interested for your field of study. Talk to your advisor/PI and ask their opinion on the importance of grades. Go see other professors you might be interested in doing a master's/PhD with. I did this and found out while grades can be worked around for acceptance into a program if a PI really wants you (for the programs I want), they are much harder to work around if you are looking for funding. For my uni last year, the average for internal applications for tri-council funding and the Ontario Graduate Scholarship (I'm a scientist and would be funded by the National Science and Research Council) was in the mid 80's. Your school may vary.

Good luck, and message me if you want any further advice.
posted by snowysoul at 1:01 PM on November 20, 2011 [1 favorite]

I used to teach at a very prestigious UK university so while I can't tell you anything specific to your marks or university, I can tell you that this is such a common experience!

If good grades are always something you've taken for granted, chances are that there are a set of skills to do with learning things that don't come naturally and problem solving when you aren't getting something that your peers had to learn at an earlier point in their education. You have never had to learn them so you have to learn them now. Better to learn them now than get to your PhD and fall apart with even less support, as happens often.

This is good for you in several ways:
* You need to learn how to deal with material that is beyond you because it will happen more and more frequently
* Life isn't just about academic success and it's great to learn a little humility for when you struggle with stuff others take for granted
* It's better not to define yourself as someone that gets high marks. There is more to life than that.
* In academia you will get a lot of critical feedback and sometimes it will be quite blunt. Getting poor evaluations at this stage is very good practice at saying 'Why, thank you for your feedback' and allowing it to make your work better rather than letting it destroy your confidence.

For what it's worth, in the UK (or at last at my Uni) a 75% average would put you in the top few percent.

Good luck!
posted by kadia_a at 1:03 PM on November 20, 2011 [1 favorite]

I'm used to just walking into exam rooms and coming out assured that I would have a 90% or higher.

Forgive me for not specifically addressing your questions, but this stuck out to me. I, too, did exceedingly well in high school, without putting forth a ton of effort. Don't get me wrong, I attended every class, did the homework, but I generally started papers at the last minute. I studied, but because I typically did not have to study too hard to get a good to outstanding grade, well I didn't. And I crashed and burned a bit my second year in undergrad. I actually think that in some respects those for whom academics don't come quite so easily in high school may have an easier transition to the tougher requirements in university as they are used to putting in the time. So think of this as a wake up call, especially if you want to go on to graduate school, because while I could still whip out an A 10-15 page paper in undergrad in just a few days (of course after several weeks of research), that shit just doesn't fly in grad school, when you are expected to produce longer papers on my theoretical topics.

And for what it's worth, I transferred a couple of times and even dropped out of college for a few years before finishing up my B.A. and ended up getting into a very good graduate program for my area of study. But I struggled even more there and while I got As in all of my seminars, I never finished my thesis, due to a combination of depression, my quest for perfection and never really learning how to structure my time for a longer, more complex, writing project. For a thesis, you can't research non-stop for x amount of time and they crank out the writing in a week, no matter how smart and gifted you are (well there are always exceptions, but in general this tack doesn't work so well after undergrad). I wished I had used my wake up call to develop a better approach.

tl;dr: use this as a wake up call to identify problems that you may be having with study/work habits NOW and it will serve you well, not only if you go on to grad school, but also for the rest of your work life. And it's not the end of the world. You haven't ruined everything. Take a deep breadth.
posted by kaybdc at 1:06 PM on November 20, 2011 [7 favorites]

First, don't panic. You will be fine.

Right now is when you have to decide whether you are serious about academics or not. Every smart person hits a point where things stop being easy. You didn't stop being smart overnight; the work just finally caught up to you. This means you have to change your strategy. Don't be afraid of using the learning resources that your school has. You've gotten by on your smarts so far, but now it's time to learn effective learning strategies -- this is hard to do on your own.

Do not be afraid to ask for help.

This depends on your school and your program, but for many many people second year is the toughest. First year is all intro courses, and in second year you're expected to do some real work. Anecdotaly, most of the people I know who dropped out/took a break from school did so during or after second year. You're not alone in this. Personally, my worst marks were in first semester 3rd year, and I cruised through with A's the rest of the way.

I'm not saying that you just need to get through this year and it's clear sailing. But if you learn the strategies that work for you now, you'll be able to do fine the rest of the way.

Regarding graduate school: marks play a role, but your main concerns should be experience and recommendations. Having a glowing recommendation from a well-connected faculty member will make up for a lot of mediocre grades. Getting into graduate school isn't like getting into undergrad where there's basically a grade cut-off. It has a lot to do with who you know and what you've done.
posted by auto-correct at 1:11 PM on November 20, 2011 [1 favorite]

You sound like you've resigned yourself to poor marks in the future - this is a mistake. Understand that going forward, high marks are going to require hard work and studying. And the payoff of the hard work is worth it. To answer your questions:

- If you intend to continue to depend on solely your natural intelligence to get you by, then 3rd and 4th year courses are going to -destroy- you. I got better grades in 3rd and 4th year, but I worked way harder (maybe because I actually wanted to -learn- the material). But add a bit of studying and you'll be able to get your grades back up.

- Having low grades does close some doors, but you can definitely enter post-graduate programs in research with your average, here or abroad, if you start making good connections with professors. However, my friends with top grades entering graduate school ended up getting scholarships summing up to $60,000+ (tax free in Canada) - which is HUGE. It's definitely worth the effort to get the high grades to get those scholarships.

Bottom line, you may still be able to get yourself into graduate school with mediocre marks and not tons of hard work, but if you start studying, your hard work ethic combined with your natural intelligence will ENSURE you get in, with tons of scholarships to boot. Why leave things to chance?
posted by ajackson at 1:11 PM on November 20, 2011

I suspect that always being "smart" has led you to have a "fixed mindset" rather than a "growth mindset". I hope these articles and associated materials might be helpful to you.

not associate with Carol Dweck in any way, but have used these ideas in professional development settings when discussing how to better teach (at the college level)
posted by secretseasons at 1:11 PM on November 20, 2011 [6 favorites]

FYI make sure to apply to those research grants anyway even though you currently don't have the "required" grades. I was able to get a grant even with an average lower than yours in my second year.
posted by ajackson at 1:16 PM on November 20, 2011

Everyone, from my peers to my professors to my family, calls me smart.

Oooh boy, you have a double whammy. Not only do you, as secretseasons says, have a "fixed" mindset (you believe you have a preset ability level, and blame your successes and failures on that level), but also you're basing your self-worth on external sources, like your family, your grades, etc. This will cause you a world of hurt if you don't do some work to shift these mental standpoints.
posted by Salvor Hardin at 1:16 PM on November 20, 2011 [4 favorites]

It sounds like that a lot of your identity is wrapped up in being smart. That's fine. But when you're presented with evidence that challenges that identity, you panic.

Read the first few paragraphs of this article. Does that kid remind you of you? There's been a lot of attention lately focused on why a lot of smart or gifted kids avoid taking on new challenges. Why? Because they're not used to putting a lot of effort into studying and academics, and they're not used to failing. So when they are presented with something that they have to put effort into, they start to think they're stupid and they give up.

The truth is, even really smart people often have to put in a lot of effort when it comes to learning new things. Just because something is hard for you to grasp doesn't mean you're stupid. I used to be like this. I thought that trying hard to understand certain things meant I was stupid, since those things didn't come easily to me.

I guess I would sum it up by saying this: your record up to now indicates that you are indeed smart. But that doesn't mean that you're just going to be able to coast like you've been doing. Don't equate failure to understand ideas or concepts quickly and easily with stupidity. You're in college. It's supposed to be tough. Even for really smart people.
posted by mcmile at 1:18 PM on November 20, 2011 [1 favorite]

You're a natural at academics, so you've never struggled and never had to work at it, so you've never become very good at it - you've never actually been challenged, so you haven't developed the skills and habits to handle that. A lot of us have been there.

As regards your future, I think getting good grades is, if anything, less important than catching up to everyone else in learning the skills required to succeed under challenge. Because a lot of us never catch up, and THAT is what eventually costs us the most prized opportunities - when we enter a world in which everyone else is far ahead of us in terms of being able to really struggle.

Your next years should be harder still. If they're not, it's doing you a disservice. Buckle down and start catching up with everyone else.
posted by -harlequin- at 1:20 PM on November 20, 2011

You have one semester of poor marks. If you use this single semester to resign yourself to always having poor marks now forever and ever, you will cut yourself off from many academic options. If you use this single semester to realise that your old study habits (which, I am assuming, were poor) don't work for you any longer, and you find new habits -- you start studying properly, you read your exams carefully before you write them, and so on (there are lots of questions about this on ask mefi and elsewhere) -- then you will find your marks will go right back up next semester, and this one blip will have zero impact on your options.

(FWIW, a 75% would have been somewhat above average at my also Canadian university, it's a B+.)
posted by jeather at 1:30 PM on November 20, 2011

To zoom in on this class for a minute, yeah, a 75% may be a quite good showing depending on the class. Welcome to college, some courses are indeed quite challenging -- some because the topic is inherently demanding, some because professors may not be pedagogically talented (regardless of how good they are at the field) -- and even people who've always encountered smooth academic sailing can find themselves out of their depth.

The A- I'm proudest of (in a notoriously difficult electromagnetism class) I think was bought with a 79% average, and boy did I sweat for that.

I also once took a fairly intense math class in which I struggling, test scores between 40 and 70 percent. Like you, I was used to doing well, and so I was so embarrassed that I didn't want to talk to the instructor or other students about it. After half the semester, I just concluded that the class wasn't salvageable and withdrew.

What I learned later was that before I withdrew, I was doing better than most, and if I'd hung in there, I probably would have come out with a B+ or better. Really dumb of me. If I'd just stayed plugged in I wouldn't have had to re-take the class.

So, the first thing I'd say is to re-orient on the class: make sure you're in touch with the other students -- in fact, if you're not part of a study group (and it's easy not to be if you've always been the kind of person who doesn't need them because you just do well) see if you can join one. They'll help provide some perspective on how you're doing. Additionally, talk to your prof. Explain you're struggling, ask for advice, use office hours. Your prof may or may not be empathetic and helpful, though, which is why I suggest also turning to your fellow students.

Now to zoom out on the "how will this affect my future":

Some people have a combination of drive, pre-existing knowledge, study/personal management skills, raw natural ability, and life stability that enable them to consistently get high marks across their entire college career. Some of those people may become strict credentialists for whom any lapse is a red flag. There are some individualists and institutions that rely on this as a metric.

But they're not the bulk of them. Because most people stumble on a handful of classes that are extra challenging for them, or have something disruptive happen which makes it harder to focus, or (perhaps in your case) hit a level of study where the skills that have served them previously aren't enough and they have to learn to manage themselves better. Those familiar with this process won't see some scattered struggling as indicative of low ability or potential.

Try not to build your identity on perfection. Any achiever doing something worthwhile with their talents and abilities will eventually hit their limits, be tested by them, and have to work hard -- often to uncertain effect -- to manage. The fact that you're there suggests you're in the middle of something worthwhile.
posted by weston at 1:39 PM on November 20, 2011

I screwed around as an undergrad, took graduate classes as a non-enrolled student, did well, enrolled in a different field as a special student, did very well, and then transferred to a very prestigious graduate program at a well-known American university.

Clearly, I took the longest possible distance between two points, but thumbs worked out for me, and I wouldn't trade me life today for anything, but my point is that things can still work out, so don't worry too much.

Also, you are not your grades.
posted by 4ster at 1:42 PM on November 20, 2011 [1 favorite]

But "things" worked out from me. Stupid autocorrect.
posted by 4ster at 1:43 PM on November 20, 2011

My 12th grade honours algebra student yelled at us for "coasting on our IQs" and I've never forgotten that phrase. He was right, too: I hit my wall in second year.

And hitting the wall is a good thing. It will make you honestly look at yourself, where you want to go and assess your real strengths and goals.

For grad school admissions, the third and fourth year GPA is much more important than first and second years. A lot of students struggle in their first couple of years and then shine as they hit the upper-level courses and find courses that really turn them on.

Grad school admission is based on three things: grades (but you have to have at least the minimum, usually a 3.0 or better) + leadership/community activities + networking (work in your field is ideal).

The three work together, of course. If you have good grades, you'll probably get noticed by a faculty member who might hire you as a research assistant, which will lead to you making connections with other faculty members in the field, as well as lead to good letters of reference for grad school.
posted by wenat at 2:09 PM on November 20, 2011

Also, keep working on the extracurricular record. That's the stuff that puts you over the others when you're applying for graduate scholarships.
posted by wenat at 2:11 PM on November 20, 2011

My husband has a PhD in physics and works as a researcher at a university that is consistently ranked in the top 20 in the world.

He, like you, generally got in the 90s for all exams, up until his first semester of third year at university when he discovered girls. For that semester he had a C average. Scores of between 50 and 60% across the board.

Every time he's ever had to discuss those marks with people (applying for honours, applying for PhD programs, etc), the person looked at his transcript, laughed and said, "Wow, something weird happened that semester, huh?".
posted by lollusc at 2:16 PM on November 20, 2011

Ok. You've gotten a lot of helpful advice already - I just wanted to put in my two cents.

When I arrived at MIT for college, I discovered that I had no idea how to study. As a high school student, I did my homework and attended class, and when it came time to take a test, I just... took the test. Attending class and doing my homework was all the preparation I ever needed. Consequently, I never learned how to sit down and actually STUDY material - make connections, absorb it in my own way, look at it from new angles, try to apply new concepts - that sort of thing. For a few months, I felt really bad about myself because I wasn't "getting" everything upon first hearing. Then I realized that studying is really what learning is all about! It's where you take responsibility for your own understanding. I even had a really good time writing "books" (~15 page packets summarizing my learning in my own words) before major tests. Those books are still useful to me now, as a Ph.D. student!

(Anecdotally, my 2nd year in college was my hardest.)

You know what? In a way, I'm really glad I got some Bs in college. I. WORKED. HARD. Reading Metafilter these days you become aware of how a college education is becoming increasingly devalued, and how college students are often seen as entitled grade-grubbers who don't want to do real work. I'm so glad that I worked as hard as I could at college, that I took classes so challenging that I couldn't get an A even though I tried hard, and that I was lucky enough to be surrounded by people who both helped and challenged me. I feel like my college education was really worth it, and I'm certain I wouldn't have felt that way if it were easy! I feel like I learned a great deal in my particular field at college, but that wasn't the most important thing I learned....

The MOST important thing I learned was HOW to learn. At MIT, it was absolutely expected that you would get assignments that were so confusing and/or difficult that you hardly understood what question was being asked, let alone how to answer it. Dealing with this kind of assignment repeatedly gave me the confidence to to begin - to just, well, start Googling, visit the library, check Wikipedia, meet with a classmate, crack open a textbook, review my notes - whatever it takes to make sense of the problem, step by step.

I can tell you that as a Ph.D. student, the number one skill you MUST have is the ability to say "I have no idea what I'm doing", and then cheerfully start trying to figure things out, bit by bit. And you develop that skill by being challenged and practicing. So I think you're in the RIGHT position!

(Oh, and: some exams I took in college ended up being so difficult that anything above a 45% was an A. Don't assume you have ANY idea what the curve is.)
posted by Cygnet at 2:38 PM on November 20, 2011 [3 favorites]

Grad school admission is based on three things: grades (but you have to have at least the minimum, usually a 3.0 or better) + leadership/community activities + networking (work in your field is ideal).

I suppose this might be true in Canadian universities, but two things.

One, if you're a Canadian citizen and considering graduate school, you probably ought to consider schools in the US too. Not because there's anything wrong with Canadian programs at all, but there are just So. Many. More. programs in the US that your odds of finding a good match for your interests go up.

Two, graduate programs in the US are basically not going to give the slightest crap about anything outside their subject area.

So "extracurricular" stuff in that field, which basically boils down to some sort of undergraduate research experience, is awesome. But being president of the Not Our Subject Club just doesn't matter. Running the student newspaper doesn't matter (except for j-schools). Building homes for the needy or doing lots of community outreach will help you not one little bit.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 6:47 PM on November 20, 2011

For those reading along at home, perhaps I can offer some translation help (having dealt with all three grading systems:

A Canadian 75% = An American 85% or a B. In the British system, it would be about a 2.1. It is above average for most Canadian universities, as most are quite large and have a large range of students - averages tend to be closer to 70% or C+/B- or a UK 2.2.

However, for graduate school a 75% is very bad news (not one B, but you could get a string of them). You need to a) figure out why you are now struggling, and b) withdraw from your courses unless or until you can deal with the issue(s). It's so much better to have time off on your transcript than it is to have low grades. Having a GPA lower than 3.8 does not make it impossible to go to graduate school, but it seriously narrows your selection and chances for good financial support. Also, if you haven't figured out why you are struggling, it make come back to bite you hard in grad school - at a time when (unlike undergrad) it is very difficult to take time off. (I would second, third and fourth what kaybdc says about how you can't just smart your way through grad school).

So my advice is - try to raise your grades to an 80% (A-, which os fine), or drop your courses if you can't get your grades up. A withdrawal is better than a mediocre grade. And take time off school if necessary - it isn't going anywhere.
posted by jb at 6:57 PM on November 20, 2011

Getting bad marks one year will not damage your future applications as long as you don't dawdle around in those regions for long. I read applications for our grad programme and most people have one semester or class that clearly did not turn out very well. If you're in a system where your transcript shows what the class average is and you're over that you're probably not doing too bad.

I'm not sure what field you plan to go to grad school in, but if you want to get into a good programme in the humanities and get funding you're probably going to need your last 2 years' worth of marks to be A range. Not A-, unless there some other contributing factors. And letter writers often talk about the abnormal marks and work to put them into context for the reader. And you will also need at least one outstanding piece of research for your reading sample and a good research proposal that matches the department's profile. Connections matter, but good grad programmes with funding are seriously oversubscribed and have a lot of good applicants (a lot of whom have great connections), so this sort of thing can put you over the edge and make them feel like you're ready to do the grind of grad school.

In short: don't worry about this semester; almost everyone I know has had one like it. Just put it behind you and plan on taking the amount of work you might have to do a bit more seriously; as you move up the years your classes are going to get easier in some ways (more specialised) but harder in others. And you may have to do more long range planning, especially if you need to turn in extensive research projects.
posted by lesbiassparrow at 7:45 AM on November 21, 2011

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