How to Get Good Grades
A Few Simple Steps to Stress-free Academics
Once you reach college, you’ll find that getting good grades requires a different approach than it ever has before. You won’t have as many reminders, and in many ways, you’ll find that much more is expected of you. But don’t be intimidated by the warnings of high school teachers or your parents, college is not another world of impossible deadlines or monstrous piles of work. In fact, the key to success in college lies in adapting your study techniques to the circumstances, and not allowing the distractions of college life to encroach on your studying.
In many ways, college might fit your learning style even better than high school. In college, you won’t be forced to practice your homework, study, or review before tests. You’ll simply be expected to know the material, and be able to show what you know when it comes time to take a test or write a paper. There’s room for flexibility in this arrangement that you’ve never had in high school, which means that you can find a study plan that fits your unique learning style.
The trick is making a few simple commitments from the start.
You’ll definitely have to dedicate part of your time to studying every day, and you need to make choices that help you stay focused.
If you maintain concentration, you’ll be using your time as effectively as possible, which will allow you to move on to other fun activities in your day.
Here are some tips for focused study time:
- Get all personal tasks like laundry and groceries out of the way.
- Stick to a personal schedule -- study at the same time every day.
- Keep a well-organized and clutter-free desk.
- Don’t study with peers that are a distraction. Consider studying in solitude if you find that study groups are consistently slowing your progress.
- If necessary, find a quiet location on campus where you may go when your roommate is loud or a distraction.
- Take regular study breaks. A common technique is to set a timer for 60 minutes, and work consistently during the timer. Then allow yourself a 10 minute break, and start the timer over.
Keep a Schedule
Create a schedule for yourself. Not just a class schedule, but a personal schedule in which you can outline how to use time between classes effectively.
- When will you study?
- When will you do your shopping?
- When will you work on that midterm project?
- When will you fit in laundry and socializing?
When you follow even a loosely drawn out schedule your chances for stress-free academics are much higher because you’ve established expectations and are more apt to live up to them.
Many people use an old-fashioned calender notebook, but there are also many online assistants available. Google accounts, for example, have a wonderful calendar feature that can be configured to send reminders of deadlines and appointments.
Review Before and After
Here are two effective and quick study strategies:
- Before and after each class review your most recent class notes. Focusing on the most recent gives you a quick refresher, which helps you keep up with the class lecture on each day. If you make this a regular practice, you’ll be much more calm, focused, and collected in class, as well as when it comes exam time.
- Review key facts, theories and concepts just before you go to sleep at night. Your mind is quite capable of integrating knowledge in the early stages of sleep. Give it a try, you’ve got nothing to lose and you may just have your friends wondering what your secret is.
Get the Hard Stuff Out of the Way First
When you sit down to study, make it a regular practice to get the hard stuff out of the way first. Your harder courses will take more of your brain-power, so dedicate your early study time to the intensive stuff.
Also, make sure you are fresh and ready to study by scheduling your study time early in the day, and at a time when you are not distracted.
Study in Groups
Sometimes you can boost your chance at success by studying in groups with other students.
With other peers, you have the opportunity to clarify points you may not have understood in class as well as catch up on information you may have overlooked.
You can also motivate each other to study and keep up each other’s spirits through the most difficult parts.
The Downfall of Procrastination
One of easiest ways to ensure college success is to avoid procrastination.
People don’t realize that if you put off big projects, papers, and studying, you’re affecting yourself in more than one way.
- First, you add to your own stress by forcing yourself to rush right before deadlines, which affects your social life, your mental and physical health, and your grades in other classes.
- Second, you limit your ability to reach your potential. You might be able to procrastinate and slide by with ‘B’or ‘C’, but when you get your diploma and it comes time for more advanced programs or a professional pursuit, you’ll realize it would have been worth it to get the ‘A’.
And worse, procrastination ends in utter failure more often than not.
If you are severely unprepared for an exam, you might not even realize how unprepared you are until you start studying.
Relax and Take Time Out
Students who are the most academically driven are destined to succeed, but they can sometimes place themselves under too much stress.
Unfortunately, stress works counter-productively against their goals.
Without a focused, calm, and collected perspective, it’s easy to expend more energy overcoming your stresses and anxieties than on the work itself.
Stick to your schedule, follow the simple study strategies above, and don’t forget to let yourself relax.
Rejuvenation time is almost as important as focused study time. Make a list of things you absolutely enjoy doing, that leave you refreshed, happy, and full of energy. The following are some typical examples, but you can also be creative. The most important part is that it is truly enjoyable, and that it adds to your overall energy levels.
- Socializing with (good, supportive) friends
- Casual reading
College isn’t only about good grades. Develop balanced habits from the beginning and you can ensure that you earn the grades you want and that you squeeze the most out of your college experience.