“There’s a word for students who go to class: Graduates.”
I’m a horrible student. I barely go to class, I drop and withdraw, I judge teachers by going on ratemyprofessors.com, and sometimes I never open the books, let alone read and take notes.
But I love learning. I love education. And when I go, I am the best student. I love notebooks. I love the excitement of the first day, and seeing how the class will unfold. When I apply myself.
But I don’t particularly like college. At least the way it’s currently set up. Memorization, the tiny percentage of great teachers, required classes, forced minors, lousy advisors, unorganized registrar, and the senseless work — all these things are not what education make.
With that said, getting a degree is an important, sometimes critical step, to getting a better job. Most degrees lead to higher-pay, better conditions, and a meaningful career. If anything, the process of receiving the degree should leave you to look differently at the world.
So I’m determined, despite all odds that shoot up against me every semester, to have a better semester. To be a better, more proactive student. To increase my GPA. To actually begin summer feeling like I’ve learned something. I was a great student in high school not TOO long ago, and I want to make my family proud — and myself. I CAN do this.
So here’s my list of ways that I’m going to try in order to have a better semester. Past students and current, feel free to add your ideas as well. Hopefully we’ll all learn something.
- GO TO CLASS. Yes, studies have shown that those who attend class get better grades. Who would have thought? Sometimes, life gives us curve balls, and it’s hard to get everything done. My tip is to pretend like you’re waking up for your job — you wouldn’t just not go to work, so bring that attitude to attending every class.
- Organize your assignments for the semester during the first week of school. The first week of school is really just time to get the syllabi from your teachers, and plenty of students add/drop. Most let you out earlier than the scheduled time. So take this extra time to write in your planner (YOU HAVE ONE, RIGHT?) all of the assignments on their due dates that appear on each class syllabus. Write, in a different color (like red), if you have it, your important exams, paper due dates, and presentations. Also write it on the day a week before it’s due, to remind yourself that you should start that assignment so you don’t forget.
- Track what you do each day to the 1/2 hour or hour, and block out: time worked, class times, and time sleeping. See how you spend your time and make a conscious effort to block time for studying. I strongly encourage you spend your breaks wisely. For example, I have a 2 hour break this semester, so I know that is plenty of time to get homework done.
- Go to a quiet place on campus like the library (we have a quiet floor) to study and read/take notes/do your assignments so you don’t have to go home and risk being distracted.
- Write realistic goals for what grades you want to achieve, and calculate your ideal semester GPA. If you don’t know how, I will show you down below.
- Utilize the campus writing center, learning center/tutors, and counseling centers, seriously! They are free and valuable resources to help you write papers, edit, learn useful studying tips, and have a safe place to vent.
- Look at the university calendar and also write down those important dates like last day to drop, advising/registration for next semester, etc. so you’re well aware.
- Print out a degree evaluation so you know what classes you need to take still. Most advisors in my experience do little to help you, so make sure you are taking the right classes so you graduate sooner rather than later.
- Seriously invest in eating better and exercising. Spend 30 minutes walking around campus briskly, or use the gym – most are free on campus — and use your meal plan to eat the salads and sandwiches at the cafeteria instead of the grill area. Don’t drink monster or soda — but on those days you need caffeine, try the Monster Absolute Zero (I swear by this stuff), Diet Coke or Coke Zero, or switch to Vitamin Water/plain water. A cheap way rather than relying on those vending machines is to carry around a refillable water bottle — it’s also eco-conscious! Bring snacks so you don’t have to turn for the candy machine: try easily portable ones like trail mix, protein bars, pretzels, or a banana.
- On exam days, eat brain food like blueberries, salmon, and a good breakfast so you’re alert, not hungry, and don’t forget to study.
- After class, immediately review your notes when you have free time (like when you’re waiting for the teacher in your next class). Quickly highlight or underline important pieces while re-reading them. Do this after every lecture.
- Every week, I like to re-write my notes. I do this for many reasons. First, I often doodle a lot and write messy, and my papers become a mess and sometimes unreadable. Second, because writing (and re-writing) helps you to remember things better. You also get the chance to reword sentences that you may have copied verbatim from listening to your professor, to a language you may understand. Also, it is another way of studying – you obviously have to read the words in order to write them over, so you are reading the material again and helping it to stick.
- I don’t like the weird ways some people claim help them take notes better, like splitting the page down in half, or whatever, but this is what I do: I write important words, phrases/formulas to remember, and anything I want to study further or need to research to clarify, in the margins and on top of the page. This is the same concept. For some courses, I like to write a summary of what I learned on the bottom of the last page in my own words. It helps when studying for a test.
- If you actually open the book, you’ll find a lot of great tools to help you study. Most have questions and vocab at the end of each chapter, and a chapter summary! This is gold. Read the chapter summary before a lecture where you know the professor will give you a quiz/make you discuss, and you’ll be more prepared, even if you didn’t read the entire chapter.
- Don’t be afraid to drop a class or reduce your work load. College is HARD. I can attest to that 🙂 Sometimes you cannot do it all. Sure, there are people with 4 kids and no husband around to help and they go to school full-time and have 2 jobs, and have a 3.5 GPA, but I’m not her. So don’t compare yourself to other people and feel like crap because you need to realize your personal limit and say, I can’t do all of this. I need to cut down. Because if you don’t, your grades WILL suffer. And your sleep will definitely suffer. And your sanity, well…that’s already gone.
Bonus: Calculate your Goal Semester GPA
It is important to set goals. So a good way of focusing on being a better student is to set a realistic, yet challenging and specific GPA goal for the semester.
- Make a table with 5 columns.
- In column 1, list your current courses.
- In column 2, list a realistic yet challenging goal letter grade.
- In column 3, list the credit hours (most are 3, but some can be 4 and intensive classes can be 6)
- In column 4, for each class list the points equivalent to your letter grade goal.
A=4.0 A-=3.7 B+=3.3 B = 3.0 B-=2.7
C+=2.3 C=2.0 C-=1.7 D+=1.3 D=1.0 D-=0.7 F=0
- In column 5, multiply the number of credit hours by the points for each class. These are the quality points. Here’s an example:
Biology | B- | 3 cr hrs | 2.7 pts | 8.1 quality points
- Underneath this table, add the number of credit hours.
- Add the number of quality points.
- Divide the total quality points by the total credit hours — that’s your projected GPA.
example: credit hours: 15. quality points: 38.1. 38.1/15 = 2.54
The projected GPA is 2.54
This formula works for calculating a close estimate of your end of semester GPA if you are good at tracking assignments and you have a good idea of the grade you think you’re going to get for each class. You can talk to your professor to ask how you’re doing and to ask for a grade estimate.