Getting your grades up: a classic New Year’s resolution. It’s also an excellent way to improve your chances of getting your dream job, impressing your parents, and just feeling more confident in yourself.
The problem is that most of the traditional methods for doing so are—to put it delicately—super boring.
So, we’ve put together some of the best tips and tricks from certified college over-achievers around the WayUp office. They’re guaranteed to raise your grades without draining your entire social life.
1. “Schedule classes that you’ll actually go to.”
This answer might seem a little on the nose, but it can really trip people up. Not going to class leaves you in a terrible position. You’re not able to learn from the professor. You’re always playing catch-up. And you can never quite have the same confidence when you do decide to go in. Plus, at the end of the semester, when it comes time to grade grub and ask for leniency, you’ll be in a bad position if you haven’t seen the professor since the third class.
If you can’t avoid having a class at a time when you’ll be tempted to skip it (e.g. 8am on Monday or 4pm on Friday), then make sure you’re truly prepared to go.
2. “Learn while you’re in class—not later from a textbook or PowerPoint.”
Taking notes is essential, but learning the content of those notes in the moment is even more important. Make sure your note-taking method is one that lends itself to really paying attention while you’re in class. That way, if you don’t understand something, you can tackle it right then and there by asking a question.
Asking questions is also a way to show professors that you’re truly engaged in the material. Basically, stay off social media or Amazon, and really invest yourself in that moment.
This is so key because it saves so much of your time. If you learn it first, in class, then you won’t have to spend so much time studying before exams, or trying to decipher your homework assignments with a 400-page textbook.
3. “Keep a running deck of flashcards (or Quizlet terms).”
One of the most stressful parts of studying is the preparation. It’s hard enough to learn 300 terms before next week’s exam; it’s twice as hard to put all of those terms into a Quizlet form or a deck of flashcards while you’re trying to really learn.
If something comes up that you think is important or that your teacher specifically notes will be on the exam, add it to your flashcards or list. This can also be useful for powerful quotes and key info for essays.
Studying will take way less time, and you’ll be much quicker about it when it comes time for quizzes, assignments, and exams.
4. “Hold onto your homework. Those questions are always on the exams.”
This could not be more true. Even if your professors have a policy against reusing questions from homework on exams, they’ll still be in a similar format.
Homework is usually made by the teachers and professors, even if the questions aren’t. This means they’ve already made it clear they think this kind of question is important. Don’t waste this opportunity to get a look inside their mind.
Saving homework and using the questions as practice for the exam can really set you up for success—and save time you’d spend hunting down practice problems on the internet.
5. “If you’re going to study in a group, make sure you have something to add (and vice versa).”
This is where all those saved homework, flashcards, and quality notes will really come in handy. Studying in a group shouldn’t mean messing around or hanging out. If you use your time effectively, then there will be plenty of time to chill afterward.
When you study in a group, make a Google doc and assign roles before your group meets. Make sure everyone knows what they’re bringing. If there’s work to be done, then divide it up. This will make sure everyone keeps their cool, masters at least one thing, and that no one is holding everyone back with super basic questions.
Inch by Inch…
The common thread between these tactics? Share the responsibilities. As the saying goes, “Inch by inch, life’s a cinch. Yard by yard, life is hard.”
In this case—if we’re maintaining the metaphor—these are inches compared to football fields worth of work. Build your flashcards over the course of a semester. Take quality notes. Learn while you’re in the classroom, and don’t forget to actually show up.
Surprisingly, you’ll find most of the stress and difficulty of your classes will fade away by just keeping up with these simple steps.