“Why Are My Grades So Low?” | 5 Common Mistakes All Smart College Students Make

Let’s talk about your grades for a minute.

Yes, I know I talk all the time about how your letter grades are not important. They don’t matter in the long run, they are not representative of your self worth. Blah. Blah. Blah. You know.


It’s totally cool (and normal) to want to get good grades. In whatever capacity “good” means for you, it is great to want to do your best.

So what happens when you feel like you’re working hard and your grades still aren’t where you know they can be?

In this blog post, I’m going to help you troubleshoot 5 common mistakes that even smart college students make that might be lowering your grades!

  1. You aren’t caring for your physical or mental health
  2. Your classes are intentionally challenging but you don’t work accordingly
  3. You are doing the bare minimum and you DON’T CARE
  4. You have missed class periods but don’t take responsibility for catching up
  5. You don’t prioritize online deadlines

Ready? Let’s dive in!

Reason #1: You aren’t caring for your physical and mental health.

The semester I got my WORST grade, a C+ in organic chemistry, was the semester when my physical and mental health were at their lowest.

I’m talking rock bottom here.

I wasn’t sleeping well, I wasn’t eating well, my schedule was insanely busy, I didn’t know how to prioritize self-care, and years of suppressed mental health issues were all coming to a head.

Long story short, I was miserable. And my grades reflected that.

Once I learned how to self-care (read that blog post HERE), my grades improved SIGNIFICANTLY.

If your grades are starting to match your mood, start to think about ways that you can sleep more, move your body more, eat nourishing food, and choose meaningful self care.

Reason #2: Your classes are intentionally challenging, but you don’t work accordingly.

Let’s go back to organic chemistry for a minute. This class is known far and wide across academia as an incredibly challenging class.

Organic chemistry is complex, content heavy, and intense, lots of information jam-packed into the semester.

I knew this ahead of time! I knew ahead of time that organic chemistry was going to be a beast!

But I didn’t plan accordingly. I didn’t make extra time into my schedule to study extra for exams.

I didn’t take the time to attend study sessions, office hours, or tutoring.

I didn’t lessen the rest of my course load or work load to help offset how overwhelming organic chemistry is.

If you’re in a course that’s known to be intentionally challenging, make sure you’re planning ahead to accommodate the challenge.

Reason #3: You are doing the bare minimum and you DON’T CARE.

I’ll be the first person to say it: I LOVE when I can do the absolutely bare minimum in a class and still get a good grade out of it.

No matter what your major is, there are still going to be classes you take that you don’t love.

And it is really hard (really, really hard) to want to do more than the bare minimum in a class that you don’t love.

But here’s the thing: if you’re doing only the bare minimum, your grades might reflect your work.

I know it sucks, I know it’s tough, but dig a little deeper in these classes.

Do a few more of the readings, write a few more sentences beyond the word requirement.

It will make a difference!

Reason #4: You have missed class periods and don’t take responsibility for catching up.

I once took a course called Nutritional Biochemistry. This course met 8:15-9:20am, Monday/Wednesday/Friday.

Early morning classes are NOT my thing. I missed or purposefully skipped several lectures and class periods for this course.

When I missed a class, I didn’t check in with my classmates to see what I missed. I didn’t email the professor or TA about getting the notes. I didn’t double check the syllabus.

And so, when it came time for exams, there were often concepts and questions on the exam that I was not prepared to answer!

This was my own fault. When I did poorly on the exams and in the class, it was my own fault.

If you are going to miss class periods, plan ahead. Find a buddy in the class to text about getting notes and double check with your professor or TA about anything that is need-to-know for upcoming exams or deadlines.

Reason #5: You don’t prioritize online deadlines.

In undergrad, I once did so poorly in a class that I had to take it twice.

It was an online developmental psychology summer course. A required pre-requisite for dietetics, and not something I was particularly interested in.

So I signed up at a local community college, got enrolled, and promptly decided I didn’t care and it wasn’t worth my time.

I didn’t put the deadlines into my calendar, I didn’t check the syllabus or the online course page regularly.

I missed one discussion post. Then I accidentally skipped a quiz. Then I handed an assignment in late.

And it spiraled from there. I ended up getting a D- in the class.

I had to pay out of my own pocket to take the class a second time to get a grade high enough to transfer it back to my university in order to graduate.

All of that because I didn’t prioritize this online course.

Learn from my mistakes, folks.

All classes are important enough to prioritize.

Watch THIS episode of Feed That Nation to hear me spill more juicy secrets about my worst grades in college!

Natalie Nation

Hello! Welcome to Feed That Nation.

My name is Natalie Nation. I’m a graduate student, a future registered dietitian, a health educator, a content creator, and a self-proclaimed mac and cheese expert.

Feed That Nation is a space where I talk all things college life, college health, and college wellness. I want to help you, my fellow students, to be more successful, confident, and healthy in your college journey.

Follow me on Instagram, watch me on YouTube, and check out my podcast!

Minnesota-based grad student, future RD, educator, content creator, and mac and cheese expert! Natalie is currently a Masters of Public Health student and dietetic intern at the University of Minnesota, and is on-track to becoming a registered dietitian-nutritionist. She earned her bachelor's degree in Dietetics in 2019 from St. Catherine University.

One comment

  1. I can definitely relate to #1! Combined that with the senior slide… not so bueno! Great post, thanks for sharing 🙂


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