Quick Links

Self assessment

Self assessment is the key to academic success. External factors are often the root of academic problems, but they are not always a direct cause of poor grades. Rather, it is often the decisions you make in dealing with your problems that have a direct effect on your grades. You have a great deal of control over your academic success.

For example, you may describe your academic performance this way: "Being ill with mono all term, I was forced to miss classes. I decided to keep all of my courses because I didn't want to fall behind, and I wrote all of my finals even though I was tired all of the time. Having mono is why I got poor grades."

This differs from: "I was ill with mono all term and I knew I couldn't carry a full load. I should have withdrawn from some of my classes, but I didn't want to fall behind. I made a mistake believing I could write all of my finals when I was still sick. My decision to keep a full course load when I was tired all of the time resulted in poor grades."

To assess your own academic performance, look at the categories below and pinpoint which category applies to your situation. In fact, you may find that more than one category applies, and a combination of factors reflects your situation. When you read the questions, take note of any that you can answer with a "yes". This list is not comprehensive, so your own list may include factors not described here.

External factors

  • Did you have financial problems?
  • Did you have too many extra- curricular activities?
  • Did you do too much socializing?
  • Did you have a job outside school?

Personal factors

  • Were you not ready for school (unmotivated)?
  • Were you here only for your parents?
  • Were you unhappy with your program or faculty?
  • Did you feel you didn't "belong" at school?
  • Were you bored?
  • Did you experience test anxiety?
  • Were you unable to handle stress?
  • Did you have language difficulties?
  • Did you suffer from isolation or loneliness?
  • Were you ill?
  • Did you experience personal problems?
  • Were you unable to evaluate the effect of your problems on your school work?
  • Did you fail to take the initiative in seeking help for your problems?

Academic factors

  • Was your course load too heavy?
  • Were you uninformed on university policies, procedures & resources?
  • Did you not study enough?
  • Did you fail to go to lectures, conferences or tutorials?
  • Did you lack a proper environment for studying?
  • Were you unable or unwilling to identify weaknesses in your study skills?
  • Did you lack organizational skills?

Think about the items you have listed. Then, in a few sentences, describe how the choices you made or the actions you took (or did not take) affected your academic performance. Be honest with yourself: were the factors that affected you beyond your control, or could you have done things differently? The answer to this question is key to how you propose to improve your academic performance in future terms.

After having evaluated the factors that affected you, and examining your choices and your actions, make a list of concrete steps you plan to take to overcome your academic difficulties. Your plan might include some of the following suggestions:

  • Reduce your course load, the hours you spend at your job or at extracurricular activities.
  • Learn time management techniques.
  • Learn to be more proactive when assessing your progress in school (e.g., talk to professors, T.A.s, other students; don't be afraid to ask questions).
  • Learn how to evaluate courses in order to make appropriate, timely academic decisions (e.g., before the withdrawal deadline, ask yourself key questions like "do I understand the material", and "am I keeping up with the work").
  • Familiarize yourself with university rules and deadlines (it may be boring, but it's important).
  • Participate in study skills workshops, hire a tutor, form study groups with other students, or find useful self-help and study skills information at the library or on the Web.
  • Take advantage of resources available on campus to help you when you have health or personal problems, or to advise you on academic matters.
  • Learn to recognize your limits and what is realistic for you to accomplish given your particular circumstances, talents and skills.

If, after working through this exercise, you still have unanswered questions, please consult your program adviser or an adviser in the Science Office for Undergraduate Student Advising (SOUSA) Office for academic questions, or consult the staff in Student Services in the Brown Student Services Building for questions concerning medical, personal or financial problems.