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How To Get Good Grades In College

January 11, 2011

Today we have a special blog post by our friend Paul at; hopefully it can be of help as this new semester starts up.

Getting good grades in college is not that difficult, but it does require some consistency and discipline on your part. The transition from high school to college can potentially be difficult for a variety of reasons. You have a lot of free time without anyone to provide structure for you. You will also have much more school work to manage. In high school, the teacher seeks you out and offers help when you’re struggling with any of their lesson plans. In college, you must seek out assistance; it will not simply be offered in most cases. You’re an adult now and you are expected to take on greater responsibility in your education.

1. Proper scheduling. This is one of the most important steps to getting great grades. The larger the college you’re attending, the more options you have available to you. You may be able to take the same course with 3 or more different professors. Do a little research and you’ll likely find there are certain professors that are notoriously more difficult than others. Ask upper classmen, preferably a Junior (third year student). Third year students usually have a good handle on the academic pulse of a college; since it is one of the most important years for them academically. Choose wisely. Don’t schedule too many difficult classes within the same semester; two more difficult classes and 2-3 easier classes is usually about right. Consider the time of day as well; do you have difficulty getting up in morning? Do you tend to be really tired in the afternoon? Plan accordingly.

2. Show up to class everyday and take good notes. For most college courses, the textbook is supplemental. This isn’t middle school where they gave you a bunch of math worksheets and that was the same thing that was on your test. The instructor will mention the most important material in class. If you’re not in class, you won’t know what material is covered. If you need help taking notes, there are several excellent books and websites available to guide you. Consider getting together with another student in the class and trade/compare notes. You’ll find that each of you captured things missed by the other. Review your notes daily and supplement anything you don’t understand well with information from your textbook. If you miss a class, the professor is not going to spend his/her time to bring you up to speed. The standard response is, “get the notes from a classmate.” Some professors will allow you to record a class. If they do, don’t zone out; pay attention to what is being presented.

3. Don’t waste time. The workload in college tends to ebb and flow. Don’t get lazy when things are a little slow. You’ll find there will be weeks when it seems everything is due at once. If you’re not working consistently, even when things are slow, you’re going to suffer in the end. College professors typically will not accept any excuses or accept any late work. The course syllabus will tell you everything that’s due and when. As soon as you get the syllabus, write all the important dates on your calendar. If you’ve known about the term paper for 12 weeks, the professor won’t understand why you have to be 3 days late. Treat your education like a job; if you spend 8 hours a day on class and studying, you’ll do great and still have plenty of time leftover for fun. Create a schedule for yourself.

4. Get help when you need it. In smaller schools, the professors will have office hours. At larger universities, there is usually a teaching assistant (TA) that is assigned to particular groups of students. Either way, get help immediately when you’re struggling. The information just keeps coming, so falling behind is detrimental to your grades and your happiness.

Transitioning from high school to college is not always easy, but the above steps will help to make things go smoother. While not a comprehensive list, these are perhaps the 4 most critical components to getting good grades in college. Anyone admitted to college can get great grades in college courses. It is far more a matter of consistency and following a process than it is innate brain power.

3 Comments leave one →
  1. Jane Pillaer permalink
    January 12, 2011 5:42 am

    The thing about finding the right professor for classes that have several professors is key. Even if you have to put off a course for a year, it can make a big difference. Thx guys!

    • January 12, 2011 10:24 am

      I definitely agree; the professor literally can make the difference between loving a course or hating it, which in turn can influence your career choices.

  2. January 18, 2011 11:26 pm

    I want to second the notion of working with the TA. They are a huge help in mastering the material and learning how the professor will grade the classes. This ultimately leads to a higher GPA.

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