With under a month left before grades will grace mailboxes with their presents, err, presence, many high school students find themselves shaking in their boots and not from the cold. Teachers will soon etch semester marks in stone, and some worry they may not earn the grades necessary to put them on the "nice list" before Christmas.

Fortunately for most, enough time still exists to improve this quarter's grades while preparing for the final. Students who take the time to assess their unique situation, develop a strategy to do well and commit to executing their plan, have the ability to raise their grade an entire letter. But, they must start today; waiting any longer to kick things into high gear may prove disastrous.

Both Mountain Pointe and Desert Vista high schools have made it possible for students to review their grades online. Using this tool, students can figure out their average percentage over the past two quarters. Armed with this information, students can make informed decisions as to where to allocate the majority of their time.

If a student has a 55 percent average, no amount of effort will save this grade. However, students with a 75 percent can easily increase their score to a 78 percent, making a B possible if they earn high marks on their final. And, keep in mind, an 82 percent does not ensure a B as a low C on the final has the power to lower one's grades. Knowing exactly where students stand in each class allows them to devise and implement a strategy to earn the grades they want.

Every good strategy begins with small goals and a plan to accomplish them. Earning high marks demands students complete all homework and do well on tests, both excellent small goals. Students, therefore, need to dedicate at least two hours to homework on Monday through Thursday nights. Also, to make sure they do well on tests; students should spend time making and studying flashcards covering what they learned that day.

Those needing to do well on the final may also want to begin studying now rather than waiting until teachers hand out study guides for the midterm. Usually, teachers disperse these review sheets a few days before the test date. Unfortunately, cramming the weekend or, worse yet, two days before the final, rarely results in great marks. Therefore, spending three to four hours on the weekends from now until the test date to make and study flashcards covering everything learned throughout the semester will make earning a high score a breeze.

Having a realistic understanding of exactly where one stands and developing a strategy to do well works only when one commits to executing this plan. On a calendar, make "study appointments." Perhaps Mondays from 4 to 6 p.m. makes a great time to study; put it on the calendar. Writing down these commitments helps students hold themselves accountable while reminding them of their goals.

Now that the end of the semester is near, "You better watch out, you better not cry, you better not pout, I'm telling you why," it will not do any good. However, finding ways to use time and effort efficiently and effectively to avoid a nightmare before Christmas, will. Assessing the situation, designing and implementing a plan of success will guarantee students removal from the naughty list and a very Merry Christmas.

 Shauna Cahill is a tutor and college planner who owns and operates The Successful Tutor in Ahwatukee Foothills. Reach her at (480) 794-0177 or visit Shauna@TheSuccessfulTutor.com.



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