Every college class has its ups and downs. Even your favorite subject will frustrate you from time to time. But sometimes it’s worse than that. I’m talking about the classes you have to drag yourself to, the ones in which you find yourself counting the number of absences you can have before you drop a letter grade, the ones you’re just hopping mad as you sit through or worry that you’ll be caught snoring. It happens to everyone, a class in which you look around and wonder “How will I ever make it through a whole semester?”
A lot of folks will spout platitudes like “Education is good for you” or “Out in the real world, you’ll have to do plenty of things you don’t like.” Let’s face it, though, that’s not enough. Here are some real strategies to get to finals with your sanity intact.
(Note: We’re talking about only dislike today, not about classes you struggle with academically. These strategies will help somewhat when you’re struggling to master content, but they are not enough for that type of situation.)
Make a Game
Gamification, making games out of tasks, can bring joy to otherwise tough situations. Give yourself points for different course-related tasks. Maybe you get 1 point for every page of notes you take and 1 point for every hour of study, etc. If you slack off, say you skip a class day, lose points, -3 points for playing hooky. Then assign point levels to something fun you want to do. Perhaps 5 points equals a brownie or (as a healthier option) an hour of video game play, reading, or another hobby. This strategy works even better in a group, and each person in your group can gamify a different class or task if they like. Working as a group keeps you all encouraged and on task and less likely to give up or cheat.
Find a New Strategy (and Get Approval)
Say you have an assignment due. How can you tailor this assignment to your passion, the things you really want to study or do once you get out of school? To use this strategy, you must clear any assignment changes with your instructor. (Do not surprise him or her with a sudden change from requirements. It will not get you a good grade.) If you enjoy the work more, while still learning the content of the class, you’ll not only have an easier time, you’ll also learn more and be able to apply what you’ve learned to your future career.
Remind Yourself Why It’s Good
It’s annoying when someone else tells you something you hate is actually good for you, but that tactic can actually have a positive effect when you tell yourself. Find some good in what you’re learning, write it on a sticky note and put it somewhere you’ll see often when working for that class, like inside a notebook or textbook.
You might be tempted at first to write “Nothing. I’ll never need to know this stuff again” but dig deeper. Often, the benefits you get from the classes you dislike are much more abstract, yet nevertheless important. Are you learning communication or logical skills? Employers look for those. Other skills include interpreting complex directions, working in groups, and attention to detail. All of those skills and more could be employed in even the most frustrating class. You might practice your communication skills in clarifying assignment requirements with your professor. You might form a study club with your classmates, thus working as a group, even if you don’t have group assignments.
Know It Won’t Be Forever
A semester can feel like a long time when you’re trapped in a class you can’t stand, but it’s really only a few months. After that, as long as you passed, the class will be gone forever. You can move on to the subjects you really want to study. If this is the first of a couple freshman or sophomore classes of this type, you may have to get through just one more, but you can do that, right? If, on the other hand, this class is one of your major courses, it may be time to start rethinking that major and what you really want to do when you graduate. If that’s your situation, consider it a blessing. Too many people only realize a problem after they’ve graduated.
You Can Do This!
No matter how annoying the course, you can get through it and even get something out of it. I’m not going to lie. It will be tough. It will challenge your ability to stay focused and keep your cool. But if you can do that and do it well, the end of the semester will be that much sweeter for all the effort you put into it.