The Ultimate Guide to Getting A’s in College

The transition from high school to college can be tough, on more than one level. But what freshmen don’t always seem to realize is that college classes are harder than high school ones. It might be not the case for every single one of your classes, but you will find yourself struggling to get grades as good as the ones you used to have in high school. Getting A’s in college is much harder than it is in high school. And while grades aren’t everything, it sure impacts your college life.

The Ultimate Guide to Getting A's in College

During my first semester at university, I managed to get A’s in every single one of my classes. That gave me a 4.18 GPA (in Quebec the GPA is calculated out of 4.3), which is pretty amazing. I never expected to do that well in my first semester, because I had heard that college was much harder than high school and cegep (another Quebec thing).

But if I can do it, I know you can too! Once you have figured out a routine that works for you, it’s not that hard to get those straight A’s. This is why I’m sharing my secrets to getting A’s in college.

DO YOUR TASKS IN ADVANCE

I knew from the beginning of the semester that I would be extra busy. I’d heard that university was a lot of work, but I also knew I would be working most weekends at my library. That’s why I decided from the start to do my tasks in advance so I could manage it all. I got into the habit of getting things done early right at the start, and that made such a difference during the rest of the semester!

For example, I had a writing class with one of my cegep friends, and we often talked after class about our ideas for the assignments. Once, I told her that I planned on starting as soon as I got home (that was my only class for the day), and she looked at me as if I was crazy! My friends have always seemed to admire at my organization skills, but quite honestly, it’s not so hard! When you know you’re going to be busy, try your best to still be able to make it on time. In my case, I knew I would be busy all weekend. I also hate working on Saturday and Sunday nights (because I’m too exhausted from working all day), so I tried to work around that. Organization is key.

SET GOALS

I also try to avoid procrastination. That’s probably the hardest thing to do, but it makes all the difference! I like to organize my day by blocking out times where I know I’ll be working on a certain task. I set a goal to accomplish during that task, and that motivates me to get to work! Set realistic goals so you don’t get discouraged.

Let’s come back to that class. I’ve always struggled with finding creative ideas. That has always been a problem with each and every one of my assignments (and that’s also one of my biggest blogging struggles). So I would block time to try to find an idea for the assignment. Then, I give myself an hour to browse the Internet. During that time, I write down every single idea that crossed my mind, before choosing one. Knowing that I had accomplished that much motivated me to do more!

HAND IN QUALITY CONTENT

Finishing my tasks in advance allowed me to hand in quality content because it gave me enough time to revise my assignments. I didn’t have the stress of finishing the night before and not proof-reading it because  of poor planning. Finishing early left me time to proof-read and edit my papers if need be. I even asked my friends (who are very good writers) to read my assignments and give me their comments. All of this helped me ensure that I handed in my best work!

AIM FOR SUCCESS

Believe it or not, a lot of your success depends on your state of mind. If you’re aiming to succeed, good grades will come more easily! Find what’s motivating you and keep that in mind throughout the semester.

During my last semester, I was sort of exhausted. I had just gone through a tough winter semester, and I just didn’t feel like going to class anymore. The fact that it was summer and that everyone else was on break, going on adventures and enjoying themselves, didn’t really help. The only thing I could think about was getting on summer break, and my grades suffered from it.

So make sure you’re aiming for success and you’ll get the grades you want!

REWARD YOURSELF

If you didn’t know, I’m a big fan of the rewarding system. It’s actually one of my favorite study techniques. After I’ve set goals, I like to reward myself for accomplishing them. It doesn’t have to be something big. Watching an episode of your favorite TV show on Netflix, reading another chapter of the book you’re currently reading, chocolate… Be creative! I also like to reward myself after each semester by buying a new book. Find something that works for you! It will help you stay motivated and will make you want to tackle the next task on your list! Reward yourself for that hard work because you deserve it!

MAXIMIZE YOUR FREE TIME

One of the things I learned as a busy student was to make the most of your free time. As a commuter, I often had to wait for the next bus, or bring my lunch to college because I had two classes that day. If you know you’ll have an hour to wait before your next class, make sure you take advantage of that time! Bring small tasks that don’t demand too much attention, so you can work on them in your spare time. If you don’t know whether you’ll have extra time, still bring them with you! You never know if your professor will dismiss the class early, leaving you with extra time on your hands. I often like to reread my notes while I’m riding the bus home or waiting for it. I’ll also sometimes bring mandatory readings with me so I can get a head start!

READ THE GRADING RUBRICS

My professors almost always gave out the grading rubric while presenting the assignment. A lot of students dismiss it like it’s nothing, but that’s a mistake. Read it carefully and become accustomed to it before writing the assignment. That way, you’ll be sure you have everything the professor asks for, and you’ll be putting the chances on your side! Come back to it often as you complete the task. It’ll help you stay in the right direction! I also like to reread my assignment with my grading rubric while next to me before I print it so I can make sure I have everything that is required!

READ THE SYLLABUS

If a grading rubric is not handed with the assignment’s description, go back to your syllabus! Chances are the professor’s requirements and their grading technique are explained in it. You might also find the topics that are going to be covered in the exams and the type of questions your professor might ask. Your syllabus is not something that is only useful at the beginning of the semester. Come back to it often as the semester goes on, and I’ll guarantee it’ll help you getting A’s in your class!

PAY ATTENTION IN CLASS

I think that’s a given. But, trust me when I say that it’s not always easy. Especially when you have three-hour classes and the teacher is just. so. boring. (#beentheredonethat) Even so, try to pay attention to what your professor is saying. Put your phone and laptop (unless you’re using it to take notes) away, and listen to the lecture. Your professor might give tips here or there (very subtly or maybe not) about what’s going to be in the exam or what you’ll need to complete the assignment. But, in order to that, you need to actually…

GO TO EVERY CLASS

College gives you more freedom. No one will check or call you out if you miss a class or two, but let me tell you this: your professor notices when you’re absent. I’m not saying that skipping is a bad thing. You do whatever you want: you’re an adult, after all! But you should know that missing a class because you’re too lazy to get up in the morning or because you partied all night is not a good excuse. Missing a class will not be the end of the world, but you might end up missing crucial information that could help you succeed! And your professor might be less lenient to help you if you’re constantly not showing up for class, especially if the topic was covered in a class you missed!

DISMANTLE BIG TASKS INTO SMALLER ONES

I don’t know about you, but seeing those big projects always scare me. I always feel like I’ll never be able to finish them on time, and I don’t even know where to start. Those thoughts make me procrastinate, as I’m pushing back the project until I just can’t leave it aside anymore. All of that causes a lot of unnecessary stress. Don’t want that to happen to you? Just get started. Once you start, it’ll be easier to tackle the project.

If you feel like you don’t know where to start, make a list of all the steps that needs to be done before the due date. And if you feel like you won’t be able to finish all of the tasks before you, break them down into smaller ones! Like this, it won’t feel as scary, and you’ll feel satisfied once you’ve accomplished them! I like smaller tasks because they make me feel more productive. Every time I can cross something off from my to-do list, it motivates me to get more things done (nothing is more satisfactory than crossing a task off from your to-do list, am I right?). Tackling smaller tasks can also help give you direction and a sense of purpose, because as you finish those small steps, the big picture will be easier to see.

REREAD YOUR NOTES OFTEN

One of the things that helped me get straight A’s during my first semester was to reread my class notes often. I’d read them on the bus, in between classes, during my lunch break… Rereading them often allowed me to become more familiar with the content, and made studying a lot easier! It helps you take your studying to the next level, as you have more time to get in deeper and to understand the content more.

REWRITE THEM BEFORE EXAMS

If you’re tired of just rereading your notes, another great way to familiarize yourself with your class’s content is to rewrite your notes! Handwriting helps you retain the information more, as it taps into another area of your brain. I suggest doing this step before exams because it makes studying easier! Rewriting your notes allows you to reorganize them if need be and make them more legible, which will make studying them a lot easier.

ASK FOR HELP IF YOU NEED IT

That is probably most students’ biggest mistakes. Your professors are here to help you. They want you to succeed. Professors might seem scary, but they can really help you make the best grades! They can give you great insight when it comes to studying, or help you figure out your angle for your paper. I was afraid to ask for help on so many occasions because I thought my professors would judge me, but it’s actually the opposite! They like it when you ask questions. It shows that you care and that you paid attention to what they were saying.

If your professors can’t help you, ask your friends or the people in your group! Sometimes you can’t understand the way your professor explains a concept, but one of your classmates can help you figure it out. I cannot count how many times I asked my friends for ideas for one of my papers or ask them to explain a certain grammatical rule that didn’t make sense to me. If that’s not enough, know that there are other resources on campus dedicated to helping you succeed!

After reading this post, there is one thing I want you to remember: find out what works for you and stick to it! Everyone’s brain works differently, and the tips stated above are only what worked for me. In order to succeed, you need to work hard. Success comes easily to those who work for it!

What are your secrets to getting good grades?

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  • Molly O’Connor

    I think maximizing free time is definitely one of the most crucial parts of doing well in college! That is one of the biggest transitions from hs to college- all the freedom with your schedule! If you use it wisely, you’ll succeed.

    http://www.mollyonthemoveblog.com

    • Exactly! Maximizing your free time can make all the difference, especially if you have a busy schedule!

  • Always aim for straight A’s at the beginning of the semester but then it just doesn’t happen. I have never thought of rewriting notes, it makes sense. These tips will be so helpful to me this semester! Totally bookmarking this.

    • Glad I could help! Let me know if these tips work out for you! 🙂