With May and June comes the conclusion of the academic school year. The average student returns or sells his or her textbooks, throws his or her backpack into a closet, and pushes all thoughts of academia to the back of his or her mind until August or September. However, the conclusion of the school year is also the perfect time to pause and evaluate your academic performance. How? With thorough self-reflection, of course! It may seem like the last thing you’d want to do as summer begins, but taking just a little bit of time to revisit your past school year now can greatly enhance your future academic performance. You may also want to consider these tips to help you stay current any in class this summer.
Why should you evaluate your school year?
Self-reflection is a crucial skill that not enough students exercise. If you are one of those students who has not yet put forth the effort to do this, do not fret—it is never too late to begin! Self-reflection refers to a process in which you seriously consider your actions and motives, as well as the outcomes that result. Like any art, you can hone your self-reflective abilities with practice, but you can also begin at any time. The question you may now be pondering, of course, is, “Why should I?”
The answer to your question is surprisingly simple: self-reflection allows you to improve. It teaches you to recognize your weaknesses, yes, but it also enables you to determine the source of said weaknesses and to construct solutions. In an increasingly competitive academic and professional world, self-reflection can serve as a true advantage.
What questions should you ask yourself?
Begin with broad questions—“What course(s) was I strongest in? What course(s) was I weakest in? Was this semester or year typical for me?” Then, seek connections: “Did I take on too many responsibilities, academically or otherwise? Was my performance better or poorer than in past years?” Delve deeper—“What did I do to earn high marks in these courses? What study habits did I rely on? Did I abandon them in classes where I received low grades? Will I need to take a course like this again? Am I satisfied with my results?” Any and all questions are valid, so feel free to expand upon this list and to experiment. If you are struggling with your studies, here is some great information on how to identify your study style which may help you in the future.
What should you do with the information you gather?
Once you complete the self-reflection process, you may feel overwhelmed. This is completely natural. If you took notes during the active, questioning phase, closely review them. Highlight observations that seem especially salient. If you did not take notes, jot down several now. Once you have done so, step away for 24 to 48 hours. This will allow you to decide upon a plan of action with a fresh mind.
When you return to your observations, examine them for similarities across classes. Did a specific habit, such as reading your textbook in the morning or working with tutors, contribute to your success in biology and English literature? Did a particular practice harm your performance in geometry and history? What can and will you do differently next semester or next year? What will you not change? If you are initially uncertain about how to address the issues that self-reflection raises, what resources can you turn to for further guidance? Build a short list of items to continue or implement in your future courses, and then store it in a safe location. You will need it when the academic year begins anew—as well as when it is time to evaluate your academic performance again!