Getting Good Grades in College

Everyone knows that it is important to get good grades in high school, because those grades will get you into the college and get you the scholarships to pay for college. However, college students often fail to understand the importance of getting good grades in college. On-campus activities, social events, jobs, or adult responsibilities can take the focus off of school work, leading to lower grades, but getting good grades in college is very important! It will give you the upper hand in the job market, and help you get into a good graduate school (should you ever decide to go that route). I am thoroughly convinced that getting good grades in college is more about the amount of effort that a student puts into school, and less about intelligence. Even if you have never been a straight A student before, there is no reason you can’t pull off a 4.0 in college. Below are some tips to help you keep your grades up, even while maintaining a busy social schedule.

Don’t Take Too Many Classes and Keep a Good Balance on the Difficulty Level

I have a friend who has often scheduled herself for 18 or more units each semester. This would probably be okay if she wanted to do nothing but study all semester, but she is also a part-time waitress and has an active social life. Because of this, she has frequently received Ds and Fs in as many as half of her classes.

Always try to balance your course load well. The academic advisors can usually help you to determine which classes are going to be very difficult, so that you can try not to take the hardest classes all at the same time. Until you know how many classes you can handle while still keeping your grades up, do not heap on more than a maximum of 15 units a semester. If you take 15 units and find it hard to manage all of the work, then take less classes the next semester.

Actually Study and Do the Homework

This may seem ridiculously obvious, but college students often quickly learn that it is easy to get by on a weekly basis without doing the assigned reading or assignments. College professors don’t always collect assignments, and professors often cannot tell if you did the reading or not. You might feel like you are really saving time and doing well while skipping assignments, but more often than not this decision will come back to bite you in the butt! Towards the end of the semester the professor will suddenly reveal that it will be hard to pass the final if you haven’t done the reading, or that she plans on collecting all of the weekly homework assignments on the last day of class. This will leave you to absorb a bunch of reading in a short amount of time, or rushing to complete a whole semester worth of assignments in one week. Chances are that your grades will be negatively affected. Everything will be easier for you if you keep up on the assignments when they are assigned. Besides that, if you have done the work, you will be able to participate more actively in class discussions. Teachers love when students are involved in the classroom, and that positive impression can help bump you to a higher grade in the end, even if the teacher doesn’t *technically* grade on participation.

Complete All Writing Assignments Far in Advance

Any time that you have a writing assignment, particularly essays and research papers, do the assignment as early as possible! This has many benefits. First of all, if you get it out of the way early, it will open up time later to study for anything that you may be struggling with. More importantly, if you finish your initial draft of the paper early it will give you lots of time for revision. For the most part, writing gets better and better with each revision. Many schools have some sort of writing resource center available where tutors can read your paper and make suggestions. You can also have friends or family members read your work to proofread for errors in spelling or grammar, and just to make general suggestions about the readability of the paper. I have found that turning in stellar essays has often saved me in classes where I have struggled in other areas.

Go to Class!

Again, this really seems like the most obvious thing ever, but judging from the many empty seats I see in classes, it is certainly worth mentioning. Just because the professor does not take attendance, does not mean that you don’t have to go to class. While I will admit that it is often possible to get a good grade without showing up to every class, it is much easier to get a good grade when you do show up. Even if a teacher has a policy that you can miss, for example, up to four classes without lowering your grade, you should always try to miss as few classes as possible.
Going to class has many benefits. If you are in class every week, there is a much better chance that the professor will actually learn your name. When the professor cannot connect a name to a face, they can remember your intelligent input into discussions and the effort you gave in class, and this will help them decide on a higher grade. The other benefit of going to class is that the professors often give you tips to help you succeed. I have often found that this happens most often in classes where the teacher does not grade on attendance. They may not take attendance at every class, but if they tell you exactly what they are looking for in the research paper, or what is going to be on the final, then it will be obvious to them who came to class regularly and who didn’t.

Good Grades is a Group Effort

Years ago, the university atmosphere was very competitive. An attitude of “every student for himself” prevailed, and people kept their work and their thoughts to themselves. Nowadays, professors do not usually grade on a bell curve (meaning there can only be a few As, slightly more Bs, and so on), and they would be more than happy to give everyone in class an A. So it cannot hurt to collaborate with your fellow students and help each other achieve better grades.
I cannot be a strong enough advocate for study groups! Discussing the material with other students can make the difference between an A or a C on a midterm or final. Since people all learn differently, every student will recall different things from class, or comprehend different material from the reading. Discussing the information will help you to become more solid on what you already understand as you try to explain it to others, and it will give you the opportunity to catch from others what you may have missed in a moment of daydreaming during class.
Study groups can also be helpful with papers. You can get together with a group of people from your class and exchange copies of your paper. This can even be done online! Each person gives the other people input on their paper, and this input can help you to look at your paper in a new light. You may or may not decide to take their suggestions, but it will usually be helpful either way!

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