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It's mid-November, and a large envelope arrives from your school. You stand in agony as your parents anxiously tear the package open. Across Western New York, the first quarter of the school year has ended, and you know what that means report cards.

For some, this means excitement, as they find out how successful they have been. But for others, getting that report card is like a punch in the gut. If you didn't do as well as you hoped, or your parents are bugging you to do better, here are some tips to get your act together and salvage the rest of the school year.

Get organized: You can't expect to do well unless you become more organized and develop a strategy to get all your work done. Organization benefits your time-management skills and improves the quality of your work. Sports and extracurricular activities often eat away at time that could be dedicated to homework. With less free time, it's all the more necessary to organize your time effectively.

Plan ahead. Don't procrastinate and do projects or papers the night before they are due. Do homework the night it is assigned so the material is fresh in your head.

Talk to your teachers: As much as you would like to think, your teachers are not your enemies; they are there to help you learn. If you're having a problem in a particular class, talk to the teacher. He or she will be able to tell you what you are doing wrong and what you can do to fix it. In addition, your teacher may be able to offer extra help or direct you to someone who can. Study, study, study: Nothing can help you learn better than repetition and reinforcement. After class or at night after you complete your homework, review your notes in each class for 10 minutes tops. If you read over your notes, it will help you to learn the material better. Plus, you'll be prepared for the dreaded pop quiz. Also, don't cram the night before a big test or quiz. If you study in advance, you reinforce the material and reduce the stress caused by cramming.

Do your homework: Surprisingly, homework does have a purpose other than to ruin your free time. Homework helps to reinforce lessons taught in school and requires students to think critically. Take your homework seriously. Turn off the TV, radio or CD player, and stop IM-ing your friends. Focus on your assignment and concentrate on learning. And another thing: Do your homework at home the night before, not on the bus or in class before the bell rings.

Be warned: Earning top grades is no easy task, and it sure doesn't happen without hard work. You have to want to change. To do better, you have to be committed to doing better.

Michael Blake is a junior at Canisius.