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Are your grades suffering?  

If so, you’re not alone.  I spoke with one School Counselor who said 70% of their 1,000 students had failing grades at the end of first quarter.  This isn’t normal.  Virtual learning is undercutting teaching and course progression.  That turmoil does not, however, mean you can ignore or dismiss the importance of your current grades.

So, what do you do if your grades are suffering right now?

Here are 3 key responses for you to consider regardless of your high school year:

  1. Identify the root of your academic struggles. Reflect on what makes one class harder than other classes where you’ve had better academic success – you can do this by making a list or talking with a trusted adult.  Virtual learning, gaps in your coursework last spring and poor internet connections are examples of newfound, common problems.
  2. Be proactive in seeking out extra help from your teacher or a tutor. And in so doing, don’t be afraid to mention exactly what “root of your struggles” you identified.  If you aren’t sure how to approach your teacher, here is an example email: “Hi, I have identified an area I missed last spring, and it’s hurting my grades now.  May we talk about how I might fix this? I would really appreciate any advice you can give me.”
  3. Change your study and homework routines. Many students are taking class and studying in suboptimal environments.  You might be surprised how simple changes can help you improve.  Some common examples are studying at a desk instead of in your bed, turning on your Zoom video instead of leaving it off, getting showered and dressed for school even though it’s virtual and taking a 5-minute study break for each half hour you study.

Here are 3 more considerations for Seniors:

  1. Push yourself to submit your applications as soon as possible. Typically, the benefits of waiting to improve a grade are not as strong as the benefits to applying early.
  2. Use the optional COVID essay on your Common Application to explain how the Pandemic is hurting your current academic performance. Unless you are sure a college won’t see your current, weaker grades, you should directly address your poor performance.  Hoping the weak grades will go unnoticed is rarely, if ever, an effective strategy.
  3. Cast a wider net and apply to more colleges. Many students are struggling and many colleges’ admissions standards will change this year.  Expanding your college list will mitigate your risks and increase opportunity during this volatile time.  In general, apply to 2-4 more colleges than the normal, recommended 5-6.

While these new, Pandemic-related strategies will help you address your academic challenges, remember there are several traditional strategies to help you level the playing field in your college search.  All of these strategies will increase your chances to find a college where you’ll thrive, despite the Pandemic.