College can be a fun and exciting time. New people, new experiences, new you! But as with virtually all things in life, the key to a successful four years at college is a good balance. For some, balancing social life, school/work life, and also finding the time for rest and self-care is easy. For the rest of the population, it can be a struggle!
While college offers a bounty of new opportunities, the whole point of it is to get your degree. Here is some advice on how to not just pass your classes, but to get good grades that go above and beyond the average!
Keep a Planner
Keeping a planner is one of the easiest ways to take control of your life, especially when you find yourself bombarded with assignments, tests, meetings, and more. I personally prefer to use the calendar app on my phone to input important due dates and appointments, but a traditional planner works just as well. Being able to visualize your upcoming tasks better prepares you for the week ahead.
During syllabus week, definitely take the time to look over each of your classes’ course schedule and write down assignment and test dates in your planner. This way, there will be no unpleasant surprises in the middle of the semester! If your professor makes a change in the syllabus, make sure to adjust your planner right away.
A silly mistake that even some upperclassmen make is not properly proofreading their written assignments. Maybe they quickly skim over their essay once to look for spelling and punctuation errors, but they fail to make sure that their writing is clear and concise. Because of this, they are surprised to see that points are taken off when they get their grades back.
Proofreading is more than just getting rid of those red and blue underlines in Microsoft Word – A LOT more. When proofreading an essay, report, or anything else, try putting yourself in the position of someone else reading your work. This would most likely just be your professor, but sometimes your writing will be directly aimed at a different audience. You can do this by asking yourself these questions:
- Would my audience be able to understand my point after one read?
- Does my writing have a logical structure? (i.e. does it make sense for me to put this paragraph here and this supporting argument there?)
- Am I using the right transitions to introduce a new paragraph?
- Are the words I’m using conveying the mood I want the audience to feel?
- What can I delete to make sure I’m not being redundant?
Stay Away from Procrastination
This one is a no-brainer, but I’ve seen it time and time again; procrastination is the #1 killer of a college student’s chance of getting good grades. The quality of your assignments will suffer if you don’t give yourself enough time to work on them. Once your professor mentions an assignment in class, then that’s a good signal that you should start it (or at least read over the instructions) within the next day. If you have a test to study for, give yourself at least one week to study. You know yourself better than anyone else! If you have a hard time absorbing information, then give yourself more than a week to study.
Some students go to their professors’ office hours to clarify lecture topics or the instructions of an assignment. Sometimes it’s hard to find the motivation to study, but if you start early enough, you won’t need to spend much time doing it per day. If you start studying for a test a week in advance, an hour a day would be enough (vs. all day the day before).
Take Good Notes
Good notes = good grades.
If you think about it, throughout all four years of college, you’re going to spend hundreds of hours taking notes. This is why it’s important to put those hours to good use and take quality notes! Some people prefer to take notes on their computers, and others prefer to hand write notes in a notebook.
A Princeton study found that students who hand write notes are more likely to absorb lecture material because of the limited time they have as the teacher switches slides. These students are forced to summarize the information on the lecture slide in their own words, which makes it easier for them to understand what is being taught. In contrast, those taking notes on laptops tend to type everything on the slide verbatim (which doesn’t make much sense if those slides will be posted online on the course website). Also, the physical act of hand writing words helps you learn better. For kinesthetic learners, this is a huge plus!
I hope that this blog post helps you achieve the good grades that you’re aiming for. With discipline and hard work, anyone can achieve good grades that will make any parent proud! Don’t let past failures on tests, essays, projects, or other assignments discourage you. Each day is an opportunity to start something new. So, good luck!