Ways to Get Straight A’s in College
Categories: For College Students, For High School Students, For Parents and Cosigners, Blog, For Students
Between going to classes, finishing homework, and getting involved with student-led organizations, it may feel like you need more time in the day. Knowing that your financial aid awards (like grants and scholarships) depend on good grades might add even more stress to your plate. Coasting by with a 2.0 and assuming you get a passing grade isn’t an option. But if that happens, what can you do to get your G.P.A. back up?
Here are 13 tips on how to get good grades in college.
1. Pursue Your Passion
First, ask yourself: Is this the field and major that interests me the most? Studying for a class or subject you’re not interested in can feel pointless. However, studying can be fun when you’re learning about something you’re passionate about. Take the time to reflect on your passions and choose a major that suits your interests.
Another thing to reflect on is what type of job you’d want when you graduate. What is your dream job? Then find majors that could help you land that job. It’s important to remember the whole picture.
Suppose you’re a computer science major looking to get an I.T. job after graduation. You might wonder why you need to take an English course if you’re interested in learning how to code. Many college courses teach you things that can benefit your career after graduation, even if the class isn’t specific to your major.
English classes help you communicate better and write emails thoughtfully. Other courses, like market research or stats, will help you think critically, which you’ll need to do regardless of where you want your career to go.
Pro Tip: Ascent’s Bright Futures™ Engine empowers you to find the school and major that offers you the best return on your college investment.
2. Build Your Ideal Class Schedule
Are you more of an early bird or a night owl? Would you prefer to take back-to-back classes every day or have breaks in between? Do you learn better during 50-minute classes three times a week or 2-hour lectures once a week? These are questions you need to ask yourself to understand your learning preferences.
If you feel energized at night, taking night classes could be the thing for you. Or, if you like to get up early, try morning classes instead.
Another thing to consider is how you learn.
- Visual learners need to see a concept in action before they really “get it.”
- Auditory learners need lectures to soak up the information.
- Reading and writing learners do well when they take notes. Writing the information their way helps them digest info better.
- Kinesthetic learners need to get their hands on it. They learn best with physical touch.
So why does this matter? Well, someone who is a kinesthetic learner wouldn’t do well in a lecture. They may be better off in a lab or class that allows them to work with their hands. Auditory learners would be the opposite. Reading and writing learners would do well in an independent study course that will enable them to shop in the library.
Everyone is different, so build your ideal schedule according to your preferences and needs.
Pro Tip: If your schedule allows it, try to get Fridays off, so you have an extra day to focus on studying. Getting more work done during the week will give you more time to rest during the weekend.
3. Visit Your Professors’ Office Hours
Many students might avoid visiting their professors during office hours. They may feel their questions are basic, or the professor will be unwilling to help. But that’s not true. Professors dedicate their office hours to helping their students succeed. Some professors might even tell you what to study for an upcoming test. They might also give a failing student ways to earn extra credit to boost their grade.
You can meet with your professor either online or in person. We know that visiting your professor can seem nerve-wracking and scary. Still, it is a valuable resource that many students need to use. Students that know how to get straight A’s in college understand that professors are a valuable resource outside the classroom.
Another reason you should visit your professor is for letters of recommendation. You will likely need letters of recommendation for future internships, scholarships/grants, grad school, and jobs. Past professors can be a great resource, but only if they know you and your work ethic. Attending office hours can help build that close relationship. You want to refrain from showing up during your last semester asking for a favor like that.
Beginner Tip: Visiting the Teacher’s Assistant (TA) is a great way to build initial confidence. It can also be helpful to visit the TA if they’re grading your papers, lab reports, etc. Doing this will help you understand your expectations and grading rubrics.
Pro Tip: You can also attend office hours to double-check your grades. Professors or TAs could explain why a grade was warranted or change it if they discovered your low grade was an error.
4. Buy a Planner
The first thing you should do when you get a class syllabus is write down all the critical dates in a planner. You can use a paper or digital planner, such as Google Calendar. Some students prefer a paper planner, but the best option is whichever one you’ll use to remember important dates.
Pros of a Paper Planner:
- Handwriting has proven to help you remember and retain information better than typing.
- You have more room to be creative and make the space your own—highlighters, colored pens, drawings, etc.
Pros of a Digital Planner:
- You can set reminders to help you remember important dates.
- It’s quick, easy, and portable.
- You can also set up phone reminders of when assignments are due.
Once you have all the due dates for assignments and exams in your planner, add other parts of your schedule such as work, internships, sports, club meetings, gym, etc. Doing this will help you remember when things are due and where you need to be. It can also help give you a better visualization of when you’ll have time to study.
5. Build an Effective Study Schedule
Take a good look at your planner. Where do you have some extra time to study?
Be specific (and disciplined) with your study schedule by writing down which class you’re studying, how long you plan to study, and what work you want to get done.
Split your work into sections and give yourself breaks. Below is an example of what a daily study schedule might look like:
- Business Writing 10 AM – 11 AM: Draft 2 out of 6 pages of Assignment 1
- Business Statistics 12 PM – 1:30 PM: Complete Practice Problems 1-12
- Sustainability 2:00 PM – 3:00 PM: Review Chapters 1-3 and Take Quiz
Remember, studying isn’t looking at your phone with your textbooks in front of you. Studying is trying your best to understand and retain course material. Review your notes, re-watch lecture videos, complete practice problems, and create flashcards—whatever works best for you. Building a study schedule will help you break your workload into chunks and avoid last-minute cramming.
6. Understand How You Are Graded
The grading rubrics and exam study guides your professor gives you will be your best friend. Understanding your exam and grading guides will ensure that you can focus on getting as many points on the exam as possible. Pay special attention to formatting and content!
Pro Tip: If your professor tells you how many questions will be on the exam, figure out how much time you’ll have for each question to help you pace yourself. Also, some professors may include questions on topics that were part of the reading materials but not specifically covered in class.
7. Set Yourself Up for Success the Day Before an Exam
Exams are stressful. However, if you’ve followed all the tips above, you should feel free from last-minute cramming and studying. Have all the materials for your exam—pen, pencil, laptop, scantron, etc. Make sure to get at least 8 hours of sleep the night before your test. A good night’s sleep improves your memory!
On the day of your exam, try to have only your usual intake. Eat a balanced breakfast to focus on your exam instead of your grumbling stomach. Lastly, ensure you turn off your phone—many professors will not hesitate to give a student a score of zero on an exam simply because their phone rang.
8. Remove Distractions While Studying
This is crucial. We live in a world that’s chock full of distractions. A single click on Twitter, TikTok, or YouTube could lead to endless hours of scrolling before you realize it’s midnight and you’ve done nothing.
Here are a few tips on reducing distractions and getting studying done.
- Go to the library or a quiet coffee house on campus. Getting out of your room and into a quieter space makes it easy to concentrate and focus. It also doesn’t hurt to have easy access to coffee or tea.
- Turn focus mode on your Apple and Android phone. These modes could limit the apps you use, so you’re not stuck in an endless loop of doom scrolling. You have total control over which apps to limit. Keep ONLY the apps you’ll need while studying, like a dictionary or other helpful apps. Also, be sure to mute notifications while in focus mode. It’s hard not to check your phone when you get a ding. Limiting notifications avoids that.
- Take breaks and stretch your legs. Giving yourself a small break can help keep your focus going for as long as possible.
9. Connect with Study Groups or Study Buddies
All students have one class that’s harder to study than others. Connecting with a study group can be a great way to improve your grades. Here’s how to do it.
- Think about how many people you want in the group. You might feel better with only one or two study partners or prefer a full study group.
- Think about how you learn best. Do flashcards help? What about re-reading notes? Mini quizzes? Write down whatever you think helps you.
- Have you made any friends in the class? Or have you at least chatted up a few classmates? Think about the other students who can help you study. Once you’ve got some names down, ask them if they’d like to form a group. They may want to join your group or ask you to join theirs. If not, ask the other names on your list. You’re bound to find someone who’d like a study group too.
10. Reward Yourself
Rewarding yourself is a great way to finish a study session. You could reward yourself with an episode of your favorite show or do something else you love.
“If I get to X chapter in BioChem, I’ll watch an episode of the series I started this weekend.” You can do this with movies or any watchable media. It can be something other than a watchable thing, like eating a special meal, a little snack, or something you don’t normally allow yourself.
Rewards give you something to look forward to and make studying worth it.
11. Don’t Skip Classes
We’ve all had that feeling. The one where you wake up and think, “I just can’t even.” Skipping class might feel like a great idea. But don’t do it unless you’re sick or have an emergency. Every class is important, and you could miss vital information.
Some professors love to get test questions from their lectures which could be different from your reading assignments. So, while you’re up to date on classwork, you’ll still need important information.
If you MUST miss class because you’re sick or there’s an emergency, visit your professor during their office hours to find out what you missed.
12. Avoid Procrastination
Avoiding procrastination is important. You always think you have more time.
“Eh, I’ll start the paper later. It’s not due until the 15th anyway.” But before you know it, the 15th is approaching fast like a freight train, and you’ve written nothing.
Here’s how you can avoid it. First, look at your planner or smartphone calendar and set reminders on assignments. Second, break assignments out into segments. Breaking things into smaller, manageable amounts of work makes completing everything much easier.
But the third and arguably most important thing to consider is: why am I procrastinating on this assignment? Our brains and minds are masters at protecting us from things that cause unwanted feelings. You might be avoiding the assessment because you need clarification on what it is and want to succeed. It may feel like it’s too much at one time.
Once you understand what could be behind your procrastination, you’ll be better equipped to manage those feelings and get started.
For instance, let’s say you’re still determining exactly the assignment. Maybe you don’t want to ask questions because you’re afraid the professor will think you’re dumb.
Take a deep breath. No professor worth their syllabus will ever think that. All you need to do is visit them during their office hours or after class. Ask them all the questions you have. Once you know what to do, you’ll feel better about the assignment and procrastinate less.
13. Manage Your Time and Priorities
The last tip on how to get good grades in college is learning to manage your time. The first step to managing your time is knowing how you spend it.
If you’re like many people, you probably spend a chunk of your day on your phone. iPhone and Android users can get detailed information on how much time they spend on certain apps. Yes, this information can be a hard truth to swallow, but it’s important to know so you can adjust accordingly.
For instance, let’s say you spend a lot of time on social media. You may want to post a funny meme but get caught up in endless scrolling. The best way to combat this is to set time limits on your phone. This will force you to post the meme and exit the app quickly since you know your app time is limited.
Beyond setting app limits, knowing how you spend your time shows you how well you prioritize school. You need to take it seriously to get the grades you need.