While you always want to strive to do your best in every class, there are a number of factors that may impact how you’re able to do from course to course. First, take into account the subject matter, the level of the class (is it an introductory 100-level or a more advanced 300 or 400-level?), how essential the course is to your degree program and the other courses you’re taking during the same term. Then set a realistic goal for the grade you think you can earn if you work hard, and invest a reasonable amount of time working toward this goal. Some courses are just harder, or more relevant to your intended career path, than others, and setting a specific grade goal can help you prioritize effectively.
At the beginning of the term, try to plan out specific time blocks for each class throughout the week, and hold yourself accountable for spending these time periods completing homework and studying. If something comes up and you’re unable to devote the usual time to a course one week, make sure you can reschedule the entire block of time for that class to another day (which can help prevent you from getting behind or missing an assignment).
This one can be helpful even if you’re taking online or remote courses. Visiting an instructor during office hours or scheduling some time to talk over the phone or through email can be a good way to get to know someone who may be a great resource down the road. Instructors who know you well can speak to your strengths in recommendation letters, and it’s always good to have someone to go to for help and support during especially difficult periods like during finals or when you’re approaching graduation. Try to get to know at least one instructor well during each term, and make sure to take some time to speak personally with each one at some point.
Look for courses that interest you outside your degree program or current area of focus, and try to challenge yourself to move out of your comfort zone. While there may not be time to do this every session, you can calculate how many elective credits you need to take and then set aside a certain number of these for challenging, unfamiliar courses. Pushing yourself to try something new can be a great way to keep yourself intellectually engaged, especially during sessions where your coursework is otherwise focused on general education credits or basic introductory classes in your degree program.
Getting an on-campus job or joining a student group (which you can also do when taking online classes) can be a great way to get to know other students – and sometimes faculty – in your degree program. While this offers valuable networking opportunities for when you eventually go on the job market, it can also be a great way to reduce stress and allow yourself to take much-needed breaks from studying and work. Just remember, you still need to make sure you have time and energy to invest in coursework, so try to set goals for what days you can spend on extra curriculars and how much time you can set aside for activities.
Even if you’re still in your first year, learning about your career options can be a valuable experience. Set aside some time to speak with someone from the career services department each year, and consider scheduling more frequent appointments the closer you get to graduation. Setting specific goals to visit each term can help avoid procrastination and ensure you start planning ahead.