Five Ways to Get Good Grades in College (or High School)

I’ve written about this before, but a new school year is upon us and with that, a new freshman in college that I’m very fond of (hello, son!).

This also works for HS just translate professor to teacher.

Here’s a slightly updated list from the past.

1) Buy your books early and read the first two chapters of each one before school starts.

This was my go-to technique for college and it allowed me to get mostly A’s and B’s despite a less than fantastic work ethic.

Why this works:

a) When you get to your first class, your brain will already be familiar with the basic terms that will likely form the basis of the rest of the class.  Your teacher will then re-enforce this material as she starts her lecture series.

b) The first couple of days of class, you’ll be the “smart kid” with the answers which means that’s how your professor will think of you.

Possible pitfall:

You think you ONLY need to read the first two chapters so start with an A and then get killed in subsequent weeks.

Pitfall avoidance: Keep ahead of the class with your reading.

2) After the first class talk to the professor and ask him how he recommends you study for his tests so you can get an A in the class.

Why this works:

a) First, professors often use similar tests from year to year, and he often knows what previous successful students did.

b) Second, this tells the professor that you are interested in getting an A.  Among other advantages for this is that the professor will watch your face in class to make sure you are “getting” what he is lecturing on. If the wannabe-A-student is confused then maybe he needs to circle back.

Possible Pitfall: Either the professor doesn’t really know and you are getting bad information or the technique is one that doesn’t work with your brain.

Pitfall avoidance: Add the professor’s technique to your own best study habits.

3) If you get confused in the material or get behind or blow an assignment, go and see the professor that day or week. Alternately, get tutoring right away from the tutoring center.

Why this works:

a) If you go to see a professor with your “D” in week 4, she can probably help you.

If you go in week 14 to see her, you’re probably already toast.

b) Tutors are there to help you.

Possible Pitfall:  Having to deal with fear of embarrassment.  Really, there is no down side.

Pitfall avoidance: Think to yourself: “I have people whose purpose in life is to help me succeed. Yes! I’m like the super-rich.”

4) Be an adult and give yourself a bedtime.

You’ve probably noticed that your parents don’t usually stay up until 4 AM playing video games before work. Okay, sometimes we do, but far less often than college students.

Give yourself a bed time of 11 PM or whatever will get you 7 to 8 hours of sleep, Sunday to Thursday.

Possible Pitfall: You could be mocked or miss out on the best party of the year.

Pitfall avoidance: Think to yourself: “I’m saving myself hundreds of dollars by making sure I don’t fail this class and have to take it.  Yes! I’m getting paid to sleep!”

5) For your two hardest classes, form study teams early.

It’s usually pretty easy to identify which classes are going to be the hardest after the first day.  Between your strengths and weaknesses in different subjects and testing techniques, you can probably figure out which classes are likely to kick your butt.

At the end of the first class of the second week, stand up and ask sort of generally to the people around you if anyone wants to form a study group for the class.  You will usually get one or two takers from those sitting right around you, and if you say it loud enough, a few other people will wander over from other parts of the class to join you.

Why this works:

a) It forces regular accountability since you have to study with your group.

b) It gives you friends in a class that you can call when you get stuck on a project or assignment.

Possible pitfalls: 1) No one wants to join you and you feel dumb.  2) Only the most awkward members of the opposite sex want to join you.

Pitfall avoidance: For #1, set a time for yourself and make it a regular study group of 1.  At some point in the semester, the desperate students in your class will find you.  For #2, find someone you are comfortable with in the class and beg and plead with them to join you as well.

What tips and tools do you have for other students?


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