For most universities, students are now in their second or third week of school, and I think by now people are starting to form their study habits, both the good and the bad. I thought it might be helpful to offer some tips about how to get good grades in college. As a general disclaimer for this post, I would like to say that these tips apply to most people, but what constitutes a good grade may vary from person to person. I think something that is really important to remember in college is that good grades are a little different than in high school. In high school, most people had a lot of “busy work” to help inflate their grade, whereas in college most people’s grades are determined by three papers (at most), a few assignments, and (usually) two exams. Study habits are a huge part of getting good grades when you’re in college, regardless of what letter grade you are aiming for in a given semester!
I’ve compiled ten tips that, if followed, allow for your highest level of academic performance! Remember, some of these tips may need to be tweaked if your schedule doesn’t permit some of them, or if personal preference is different. These tips work best for me, but may not work perfectly for you. I’ve compiled this list more as a general outline.
1) Keep an agenda | I cannot stress the importance of keeping an agenda. Honestly, I cringe when people point to their head when asked if they keep a planner. College is a busy whirlwind of a place, and it is impossible to not only remember everything you have to do, but it’s also remember the details of your engagements. I LIVE by my planner. My planner is color coded (as in each job, organization, etc. I have has a designated color and events relating to said event are only written in the corresponding color). Whatever planner system works for you is what you should use, but make sure you’re using a system in which you write all of your stuff down.
2) Get Sleep | This may seem like an odd tip, but if you get sufficient sleep you’ll be more awake for class, which will lead to higher retention of the material, which in turn will make studying easier and faster! Sleep is one of the hardest things to get enough of in college, but make an effort to do so.
3) Begin paper one to two weeks in advance | I know, I know, you’re probably thinking, “yeah, right…like I’ll have time for that.” Well, I’m here to tell you this actually helps your grade SO much. When 25% of your grade is based on your paper, you should be putting at least 75% of your energy into the paper. Writing papers is usually the most time consuming, it’s the editing that goes quickly, take the time to write the paper early. Even if you only write one paragraph or one page a day, you’re making progress, which will put you ahead later. DO NOT WAIT UNTIL THE NIGHT BEFORE.
4) Go to your professor’s office hours | Take full advantage of the fact that your professor offers office hours! I tend to utilize office hours a ton simply because I like my professor to know who I am, that I care about the course, and I like getting help on essays or tips on how to study for an upcoming exam. Seriously, if your professor knows you, it can help your grades in ways you wouldn’t believe. Getting to know your professors is a vital part to college.
5) Go to class | While this may seem obvious, many first year student fall into the mentality that professors don’t take roll, that they won’t notice if you’re gone, or that professors don’t care if you miss class. In all honesty, they will notice, they will remember, and they will care that you didn’t bother to go to class regularly. Attendance is often factored into your grade, and not going to class can bring your grade down roughly 10%.
6) Speak up in class | Have a question? Ask it. Have a comment? Say it. Want to contribute to a great class discussion? Don’t be scared. Professors notice when students are actively engaging with their peers, and when students seem generally interested in the course material. Try to contribute as much as possible, as participation will also affect your grade.
7) Make daily or weekly to do lists | Writing down everything you have to do in order of importance will cut down the “I don’t know what I should be doing” debates you’re bound to have with yourself. Also, having a list means you don’t have to think between tasks, you simply finish one, check the list, and move on. I live by a list (usually my list is written in my planner), and I suggest everyone who wants to be successful do the same!
8) Take notes in outline format | Try not to write down every little thing your professor says in class, instead outline the lecture or discussion. Write down major topics, then list all details you find pertinent to that topic, then continue on. This format makes finding exam information easier, it makes your thoughts more organized, and it makes for a (basically) pre-made study guide.
9) Find your best study environment | Do you work best with a group or alone? Do you like the room quiet or with music playing? Figure this stuff out, and only study in your most productive, effective environment. This will increase productivity, cut down stress level, and ensure that you’re always getting your work done, and that it is your best work.
10) Get your work done early | Try to do all homework the day it is assigned. This way you’ll never be overloaded with homework. Also, try to get your homework done early in the day so you have the evening to spend time with friends, relax, or sleep. My first year in college I got all my homework done by roughly 3pm, which meant I didn’t have to stress about getting stuff done when I would end up talking to my friends in the hallway for an hour. Having all your work done early means you won’t be scrambling to finish everything late at night.
These are just ten ways to get good grades in college, but they are the ten that have worked the best for me! I hope this is helpful, and good luck with classes!