Straight A student struggling


Straight A student struggling


your avatar   Lindsey, 20-year-old woman

I was a straight A student in high school. I graduated in 2011 and now it's 2013 and I'm attending a community college. I'm struggling. I don't know what to do. My grades are horrible and all I can ask myself is why is this happening? I'm very stressed out, my family and I barely get along, and there is never a time we talk - it always results in yelling and I'm just doing terrible in school. I lost my cat in January this year and things haven't been the same whatsoever. She was the closest thing that I've ever had to me and instantly she became sick and now she's gone. I just want to do better in college but I feel like I just keep failing and falling down. I really just need some advice and motivation. I'm trying to become an RN but nobody will want to hire me if I don't have decent grades. Please I need some advice. How can I do better for myself and pass with high grades in college?


    Bob Rich, Ph.D.

Dear Lindsey,

If you could be a straight A student in the past, you can be again. You were doing some things then, practiced certain habits, that you stopped doing. And you are doing some things now that you didn't do then. I don't know what the new habits and the lost habits are, but you can work that out. Then you need to go back to the old ways of doing things. Look up

This is simple but difficult, because habit change is always a challenge. For example, in school you may have had the habit of concentrating on your assignment. This may have slipped, the new habit being to look into space with not a thought in your head for a while. The way to fix this is to time the two states. Note the time when you start studying. When you notice that your attention has wandered, note the time. Stand up, do a few physical exercises, or make yourself a cup of coffee or something, then return to work, noting the time. You'll find that this increases the proportion of time studying and reduces the wasted time. Attention is energy, and now you are attending to your level of concentration. This is at the surface level. We next need to look at causes.

Were you studying OK, and had good relations with your family, before you lost your cat? If yes, then grief is the primary reason for the change. If not, then there are other reasons. Look at your academic records over the past two years. When did they start to slip? What happened at about that time? Whatever it was, you need to deal with it rather than avoiding it and having it poison your life.

I only know about the cat, so let's discuss her. No doubt people say to you, "It was only an animal. Get over it! Buy a kitten." But to you, legitimately, it wasn't only a pet. She was a person, and your best friend, and you love her. If you'd lost a sister, you couldn't be worse affected. Actually, people stupidly expect to be over even that after 6 months, but serious grief can last a year or two.

I don't know what you have done to cope with your grief. Here are a few ideas:

1. Hold a special ceremony for her memory. You can do this by yourself, or with people who will understand.

2. Make a photo board.

3. For the time being, set aside a certain time, say an hour a day, to devote to your grief. The frequency and length can be adjusted to your need. During that time, give yourself permission to feel all you need to feel about your loss. Any other time a thought of grief comes to you, say within your mind, "Go away, {cat's name}, I'll talk to you at {time of appointment with grief}.

You can do it.


This question was answered by Dr. Bob Rich. Dr. Rich has 30+ years of experience as a psychotherapist. Dr. Rich is also a writer and a "mudsmith". Bob is now retired from psychological practice, but still works with people as a counselor.For more information visit:


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