1. Create realistic goals.Here’s what we mean by realistic: goals you can actually accomplish. Break up your larger target goal of getting a 4.0 into teeny-tiny goals, like getting an “A” on your next quiz. That way, if you don’t achieve a smaller goal or miss the mark slightly, it’s still a manageable letdown and you’ll be able to get back on track, rather than giving up on your larger goal all together.
2. Get to know each of your instructor’s teaching styles.Web sites like Rate My Professors or, if you're in high school, good ol’ fashion word of mouth will allow you to learn more about your teachers. What is his or her teaching style? What do they focus most on, the lecture or the notes? These are important things for you to know so that you can focus on the right areas when studying and preparing for papers, exams and other assignments.
3. Get to know your professors/teachers.Office hours were created for a reason. Yet they are SO underutilized by students – it’s alarming! Pleasantly surprise your prof by showing them you care about your grade, their course and getting to know them on a personal level. Then, when questions arise throughout the course, you’ll be better acquainted and getting help will be that much easier. Plus, ever heard of a recommendation letter? Getting to know your instructors is vital in asking for favors like that.
4. Participate in class.Similar to number three, it helps to show you care. Additionally, you’ll definitely become more alert in class if you’re consistently participating throughout the course. Ask questions, give answers (when you know them) and give comments when appropriate. All of this will not only aid your participation portion of your grade but also in your understanding of the course, whether you realize it or not.
5. Take notes.Given the technology that’s available today, many teachers provide notes or PowerPoint downloads for students. This does not mean that you should follow along and not take notes! Think about it this way: what’s provided is the bare minimum and can be accessed by students who aren't even attending class so clearly that’s not enough information to ace it! Take notes based on the lecture, not what’s provided. Also, over-achieve and take notes based on what you’ve read – it will be worth it when the semester’s grades are posted.
6. Skipping class is not an option.While this should be a given, it’s still worth stating. Remember in grade school when it was "cool" to get the attendance award? Teleport there, mentally. Go to class because you can’t possibly expect to get the full scope of a course without actually being there for the course. Enough said.
7. Keep track of your grades.Keeping track of your grades within each class will allow you to remain on track and focused will your goals. You will know where you stand in each course and won’t have any surprises at the end of the semester. It’s beneficial because you’re able to calculate what grade you need on each assignment, exam, etc. to maintain your grade as you move forward within the course. You can find a free GPA calculator here and calculate your class performance here.
8. Read all of the assigned material – even if you have to skim.Reading all assigned material for all courses may become cumbersome, if not impossible. Try to do it all and, if you can’t, do your best. But, definitely, determine what’s most important and read those areas, taking notes when applicable. Remember, your professors assigned the readings for a reason!
9. Don’t limit studying to at night.Attempt to study wherever, whenever – even in between your classes, if you can. Saving all of your studying for at night isn’t the best idea for a couple of reasons. First, you have class all day and then at night, you’re obviously more tired and less alert. Secondly, switching from subject to subject in one night can make for difficult transitions, whereas studying for the appropriate subject before or after that course seems to make a bit more sense, transitionally.
10. Disconnect.When you’re studying, just study. It’s a tall order but will likely boost your focus more than you can measure: don’t attempt to multitask by having your phone in front of you, a computer with any sort of social media site open or anything else that’s not relevant to studying for that particular course. Like we said, it’s a tall order but, honestly, it will help your focus (and, ultimately, your GPA) more than you can imagine.
11. Find a study buddy in each class.You don’t even have to study with them, if you don’t want to. You can, if you think it will help – just determine whether or not you study more effectively alone, with a buddy or a group. Regardless, the point is to know someone within each class so that the two of you can compare notes to ensure you have the most comprehensive notes possible. It’s beneficial for both of you and also creates a safety net in case, for example, one of you comes down with the flu and cannot attend class one day. Hey, things happen and it’s better to be safe than sorry. (We’re talking about missing class for legitimate reasons, not skipping and taking advantage of someone else.) Warning: do not pick someone based on the fact that you’d like to date them! Observe within class for a couple weeks and then pick someone who attends class, participates regularly and seems to take notes. (You can also ask your crush out on a date, if you want. We're not anti-date, just anti-using-studying-as-an-excuse-for-a-date.)
12. Review.Don’t wait until the very last minute (or night before the exam) to review the material. Obviously, you should review the night before the exam but it’s helpful to continue to review the material throughout the semester so that you’re not cramming before the exam.
13. Sleep.Sometimes, college students forget that they need to do this. But it can really help you think and function like a regular human being when you get some shut eye. You guys should try it – it works wonders for the mind and body! Don’t think you have that option? When you actually keep up with coursework rather than procrastinating, believe it or not, you actually can sleep.
14. Take time to relax or give yourself rewards.You’re going to get burnt out if you don’t take days off, breaks and give yourself rewards every so often. All work and no play isn’t a way to live. Give yourself time for yourself, have a life and remember that, with a little organization, you will be able to stay on track with your studies and have time for you, too.
15. Remember that hard work pays off.You won’t get very far without hard work. It’s that simple. This is part of the common sense stuff that was mentioned earlier. Though you may not want to hear it, getting that 4.0 won’t be a breeze, but it is definitely possible – for anyone. We don't want to hear that negativity: YOU are smart enough and YOU can achieve it. If you put in the hard work and the effort, the grades will follow!
Have a successful semester, we know you can do it!
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