Bounce back for success

Not receiving the assignment mark or test grade you were expecting can be extremely disappointing. Setbacks do not define who you are as a learner or the full extent of what you’re capable of. An underwhelming grade is a bounce back moment for realigning your goals, setting new targets, and trying new strategies for success. You are capable of reaching your academic goals; you are forever growing and evolving!

Using the following questions to reflect on your learning experience, let’s see what you can implement in this next stage of your academic journey.

 Have your courses felt chaotic, rushed, or unpredictable?

Solution: Realign your time.

Work/life balance as a university student can be an entirely new practice whether you enrolled right out of high school, are attending part-time while you work, or have returned to university after some time away. Start with creating a semester planner. When you create an effective and healthy school schedule, which accounts for high-demand periods and testing weeks, you’ll meet your deadlines and goals with less stress and more success.

Have you felt like you’re working hard but still feel lost?

Solution: Create S.M.A.R.T. goals.

Setting goals becomes paramount as you navigate course demands while prioritizing assignments. In conjunction with a semester planner, setting S.M.A.R.T. goals allows you to break down big projects or aspirations into manageable pieces.
Start with creating S.M.A.R.T goals for your biggest or hardest upcoming assignment.

 Have your assignments felt like a mystery in how much time they need or how to complete them?

Solution: Project planning strategies.

When you confront your assignments and projects with a focused plan and determined mindset, your efforts will be more successful.
Determining how much time, where to begin, and how to complete a project are key to finishing an assignment on time and with less stress. If you’re unsure how much time to allot for completing your project, start by using Wake Forest University’s workload estimator.
Once you can estimate how long you need, build it into your semester or weekly plan. When working on your assignment, you can use the Writing Centre’s resources (e.g. research papers, scientific papers, annotated bibliographies, critiques and more) or the ASC’s presentation resource for guidance.

 Have your grades not reflected how much time and effort you've spent studying?

Solution: Enhanced study strategies

As you progress as a learner, you can outgrow your traditional study strategies. You now need enhanced study strategies that reflect who you are today and your new academic demands. To become a more efficient and productive learner, explore your strengths to adapt to these changing circumstances. To help, the ASC has many resources for you to try today, such as optimized note-taking techniques and reading strategies

 Have your notes not reflected your preferred way to learn? 

Solution: Make your notes reflect your strengths. 

Not sure how to customize your notes for how you learn best? Let’s look at your strengths!

  • You enjoy visuals
    • Create concept maps, mind maps, diagrams, icons, and illustrations after every lecture/reading
  • You enjoy lists
    • Make lists of major keywords, concepts, themes, and connections after every lecture/reading. 
  • You enjoy writing
    • Write short summaries or reflections after each lecture/reading.
  • You enjoy speaking/presenting
    • Use PowerPoint to make concept drafts of major learning points after each lecture/reading.
  • You enjoy researching
    • Begin each lecture or reading with a thesis question you are looking to prove or disprove based on what you learn. Alternatively, use the lecture/reading to develop a mini position paper on what you’ve learned.
  • You enjoy podcasts
    • Record yourself reading key concepts; download recorded lectures as audio files, or use Memorial's free Read&Write software to transform your texts into spoken word.

 Have your study sessions felt isolating?

Solution: find your study community.

Studying together with peers has the benefits of feeling part of a community, creating group accountability for success & support, collaboratively discussing content, and making study sessions a highlight in your day. Try setting up a course-specific study group, joining a program-specific club, dropping into a help center, connecting with a student-led resource center, or even developing a learning community with peers (i.e. a collection of learners regardless of program/course).

 Has your study space at home felt unproductive or uncomfortable?

Solution: Create a healthy study space

Your study space should let you focus on tasks with a clear mind and minimal distractions. If this doesn’t sound like your experience, it’s time to shake things up! Assess if the space is the right one for you and if it is serving your needs by using the evaluation tools for a productive study space from the ASC.

 Have you felt unfocused or easily distracted when trying to study?

Solution: Try strategies for overcoming procrastination.

When studying, it’s best to focus on one task at a time and give it your full attention. Whether you need strategies for kick-starting a study session or staying focused once in a study session, utilize the ASC resource on procrastination blasting strategies to get more done with fewer headaches. Study smarter, not harder!

 Have you lacked feedback?

Solution: connect with your peers and instructors.

To grow as a learner is to seek out and utilize feedback. Sources of feedback can be classmates, peers in your program, friends, and especially instructors.

  • Classmates/peers/friends
    • Ask them during study sessions if there are any concepts or content they think you may need to work on.
    • Have them review drafts of assignments before submitting.
    • Rehearse or run through presentations with them.
  • Instructors
    • Check the usual three places for provided feedback; Brightspace, email, and on any returned assignment/test itself.
    • If you struggled with your assignment/test or are unsure how to improve, email your instructor to set up a meeting. If you’re nervous to email, check out our “communicating with instructors” resource.
    • Schedule one office hour or drop-in session per semester per course. If office hours feel intimidating, have a classmate book an appointment before you and then grab a coffee together after your appointments to discuss.  Connecting with instructors in this way can benefit both your experience in the course and your academic career - taking steps to build those relationships may mean future research opportunities or academic references!

 Where to go from here?

Wanting to improve is the first step to success! Your talents, abilities, capabilities and strengths are not set in stone. You are forever evolving and growing. Academic adversity and disappointments are one small piece of the overall mosaic that will be your entire academic journey. Confront these challenging moments head-on by reflecting, adapting, persisting, and overcoming.
The Academic Success Centre’s learning skills resources and learning support partners are here to help you bounce back to success.


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McGill University: Student Leaders. (n.d.). S.M.A.R.T. goals hand-out. McGill University: Student Leaders. Retrieved February 14, 2022 from