Categories: College Life

How to Get Good Grades in College

The networks and connections that you develop during college are invaluable, as is work experience. However, grades are still the primary measure of collegiate success. Some jobs for recent graduates have a GPA minimum (it is common for consulting jobs to have a GPA requirement of 3.5), and many employers will ask how you performed. Any academic honors attained during college can pull weight for years after graduation, and your GPA will have a profound impact on your options as far as graduate schools go. Do not fall into believing the erroneous idea that your college grades will not matter. You cannot go back in time to get better grades, so do it now while you can!

1) Go to class. This cannot be overstated! Even the most conscientious student in high-school may be tempted to skip class in college, as some classes do not have mandatory attendance and some professors seem to just read off the slides. These boring classes seem to offer nothing that you couldn’t do with less effort in the comfort of your bunk in the dorm, especially since power point slides are often given to students as a reference. You need to fight this temptation. Treat college as seriously as you would a full-time job and show your face, engage in discussions, and don’t hesitate to ask questions.

2) Organize. Get a planner, use it, and love it. Refer to it every day and tote it around with you. Even a daunting task becomes manageable when you map out baby steps along the way and adhere to them. College is a busy time full of juggling exams, papers, extracurriculars, and social engagements. All of this should go in your planner. Friend’s birthday on Wednesday? Put that in your planner and make a note to finish your research paper by Tuesday even if it is due on Thursday. Give yourself assignments, and “due dates” that will help you get everything done on time or earlier.

3) Choose classes wisely. If math is not your strong suit and you are choosing between an easier and a harder class, you may want to sign up for the easier class as a refresher before you take the more challenging one. If it was too easy for you then consider it a boost to your GPA! It wasn’t time wasted. You do not want to regret being stuck in a class where you feel lost when you could have prevented this problem. If you are a night owl and waking up in the morning is like trying to stir the undead, then be honest with yourself and do not sign up for 8am’s 5 days of the week. Likewise, if you are at your most productive in the morning, don’t torture yourself with 3 hour lecture classes that get out at 9 at night. Check out websites like Rate my Professors and ask your friends and classmates about teachers.

4) Know when to call it a day. Needing to pull out of a class should not happen often, and maybe only once out of all of your years in college. If there is a circumstance that will prevent you from getting a decent grade in a class, you need to look into withdrawing. Whether you bombed an exam that you cannot recover from, got sick and your professor isn’t being accommodating, or a personal issue arises that is jeopardizing your success in a class, you need to look into the next steps to take. Some universities will give you some a time frame (it may be up to 3 weeks) in which you can drop a class at any point and no one will know, it will not be in your records. If you are paralyzed with a sense of dread that you made a horrible mistake in taking a class, this is the time to take action and drop it. If the time has passed in which you can easily do this, then you should be weighing your options of accepted a W (withdrawn) on your transcript versus getting a less than stellar grade. One W on your transcript in four years is not a problem.

5) Get enough sleep. We’ve all pulled an all-nighter at some point. Although you may make the deadline and save yourself from being screwed over royally (some professors will not even accept work done after a deadline), was it really your best work? You were exhausted, loopy, jittery from caffeine, and checking the clock every 5 minutes because you cannot believe that you are still somewhat functioning at such an ungodly hour. After an all-night, you’ll crash throughout the day, leaving pertinent work undone and throwing off your sleep schedule. You will tell yourself that you are never pulling an all-nighter again, but 2 weeks later, here you are again taking advantage of the study room’s 24 hour access. The solution? Give yourself a deadline of 2 days in advance and treat your exam or paper as if it needs to be completely wrapped up by then.

6) Go to office hours. If you have questions, need clarification about an exam or assignment, or are seeking advice, go to office hours and remember to introduce yourself and show that you care about the class and material. If you are at a loss for what to say, then read up on some current events that are relevant to the field to mention or ask your professor if he/she has any advice on how to succeed in the class. If your grade near the tail end of the semester is an 89.4%, having met with your professor on a personal level could make the difference of getting an A- instead of a B+.

7) Minimize distractions. If you’re like the most of us, you are frequently distracted by your phone, Netflix, Facebook, music, the birds chirping outside…literally anything especially when bored. Remove these potential distractions from your study area. Give yourself a goal (outlining 3 chapters, for example) and do not cave in to anything besides the work at hand until you are done. Silence your phone, put it away, or even have your roommate confiscate it if it becomes too much of a temptation. If there is too much going on at your dorm or apartment to focus (roommates having people over, the TV blaring, etc.) then walk to the library or a quiet study space. Sometimes this can encourage you to study more intently and for a longer period of time simply because your bed, couch, or snacks are not readily available.

8) Master a study system. Find out what works for you, and stick to it. Everyone learns and retains information differently so I cannot tell you the best way to study, because it varies so much. Some people find it easier to understand and remember information presented in class if they hand write their notes instead of typing on their laptop. If you find that you are primarily an auditory learner, than look into recording lectures and listening to videos explaining the subject more in depth.  I study best with creating outlines and reviewing them before an exam. You could color code sections, and use different highlighters to underline main points. Flashcards can be a good way to memorize information, especially if you’re on the go. They are portable and can be tucked into a purse. Some students find it helpful to create their own “exam,” with questions that they are guessing would be on the test and answers that have all of the correct information.

9) Review. Too many college students fall into an endless cycle of blowing off work all semester then cramming like crazy in an attempt to make up for the time spent procrastinating. If you spent time reviewing a little at the end of each week, then you should be able to breeze into taking an exam fully rested and bright-eyed because you were studying all along. You would save yourself the mountain of stress and anxiety, as well as pull off a better grade while keeping your sanity. Remind yourself to review in your planner, you should make it explicit as a call to action not a suggestion.

10) Give yourself a break! Yes, you really can study too much. If you are constantly fatigued, stressed, and unhappy because of your study habits, you should think about studying smarter, not harder. Research has shown that exercise makes your brain more effective at learning and functioning overall. If you’re feeling antsy and you’re unable to concentrate, go for a jog! When you return you will in all likelihood feel refreshed and ready to tackle your task. Go out and party with your friends if that’s what you enjoy doing. If it’s Friday night and your exam is two months ago, you may want to reevaluate your priorities. Happy people tend to do better in school, make sure that you put aside some time to de-stress and recharge, whether that be hanging out with friends, playing a sport, or dancing at the bar.


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*This is a sponsored post. All opinions are my own.


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