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How to Get Good Grades – 8 Study Tips for Upping Your “A” Game This Semester

Behold, the almighty “A+”. More than just an honor, great grades can launch you into a top-tier grad school, med school or law school. Also, as top grades are sometimes the sole deciding factor in big scholarships, special internships and unique research opportunities, your future rides on scoring that “A”.

However, some students just don’t know how to get good grades consistently. Without effective study techniques to help them make the grade, they may unintentionally leave their “A” on the table. They may grow complacent as their grade point averages gradually decline.

Whether you’re just starting as a freshman or want to improve your performance for the upcoming semester, knowing how to study effectively in college will determine future success. If you’ve been wanting to get better grades and improve your study habits, these eight effective college study tips will help you ace your next exam or essay.

Lee Holm, Director of Academic Advising, coaches a student on how to get good grades - University of St. Thomas - Houston

At the University of St. Thomas, we provide many services to support your success in college and beyond, including academic advising and tutoring. Here, I discuss with a student how to get good grades and achieve his academic goals.

1. Understand the Difference Between a High School “A” and a College “A”

A college “A” is much harder to achieve than a high school “A”. As director of Academic Advising, I frequently hear: “I didn’t expect college to be so hard!” This shock is largely because college grades are not configured using bonus points. Your chances of getting a 70 that yields 80 points or a “B” that rounds up to an “A” are slim. One of the most essential study habits for college students I can give you is to overstudy and then peel back if necessary.

College is about mastering the material. UST in an elite university, and our curriculum is demanding. You’re going to be required to read and write here more extensively than at other universities, priming you to become a critical thinker and have a successful career. Get in the mindset now that you are working and focusing on doing your best every day.

2. Get Familiar with the Syllabus

A syllabus is not a throwaway document. At the college level, a syllabus is basically a contract between you and your professor, so it deserves a close look. Along with test dates, reading material and deadlines for major assignments, a syllabus also often explains your professor’s individual grading system, helping you understand how to get good grades throughout the semester.

3. Provide an “A”-Level Frame of Reference

Get your professor to associate you with “A”-level performance. When the professor thinks of you, they should associate you with the type of student who cares and takes their class seriously. If you miss class or show up late, you’re telling the professor you don’t care about the course, your grade or your future.

Always be on time and arrive with all your supplies ready to go. Plan ahead, even when life threatens to get in the way, and show your professors you prioritize your education.

4. Manage Your Time Wisely

Perhaps one of the most important study habits for college students, effective time management will help you maintain that “A”, instead of just leaving it on the table. You may be confident you’ll do well in a subject in which you’ve always excelled, but that’s where you might get sloppy and start scoring “B’s”, “C’s” or even lower.

I can summarize my best advice to you in three steps:

  • Strike a healthy balance between social time and study time. You don’t want to cut out all socializing or you’ll burn out, but you also need to prioritize studying and grades.
  • Be in the moment. When you’re at school, focus on learning. When you’re home and finished with studying, enjoy your free time.
  • Budget your time. Scientific evidence shows that procrastinating and working under pressure isn’t an effective technique – it’s just a bad habit. Be smart with your schedule and you’ll produce much higher-quality work.

5. Repetition Is Key

When you learned the “Alphabet Song” as a kid, you retained the alphabet in your memory because repetition works. In college, the necessity of repetition is unchanged but requires added diligence because your professor will not backtrack.

After taking notes in class, sit down and rewrite your notes out again at home. Don’t just review! Make sure your notes are complete and compare them with the content of your textbook to make sure you comprehend the material before you take an exam or write an essay.

6. Access Supplementary Resources

If you look to supplementary resources, it doesn’t mean you’re struggling. Reaching out just means you’re adding to your study skills toolbox. At UST, you have a few options:

  • Visit Your Professor – Visiting your professor during their office hours is a great way for them to meet you and see that you are dedicated to learning. Plus, you can ask them questions that may help clarify concepts in class.
  • Check Out Tutoring – Use tutoring services to get an edge on a subject. For example, help with grammar may go a long way towards impressing professors who are sticklers about comma splices and dangling participles.
  • Sample Study Groups – Although you shouldn’t rely on study groups, I do encourage you to join one. Different students take notes using different methods, possibly covering more information than you absorbed on your own.

7. Be Savvy About Grade Curving and Bonus Points

We don’t have an official policy on grade curving at UST, but some professors use this method. It’s not always outlined in the syllabus, so be aware of this practice and aim for the “A+”.

Also, although college grades aren’t calculated using a bonus point system, extra points may sometimes be available to you. Some profs might offer bonuses for attending a play or doing extra work. Don’t wait on these perks to save a failing grade, but do take advantage of easy points if a professor offers them.

8. Stay Realistic

A strong GPA is not only your golden ticket to grad programs or internships, but it’s also usually required to maintain your scholarship. Can you realistically achieve the grades required in all classes to maintain your GPA? Are you able to do all the work required? If it looks like you’re going to make mostly “C’s” or low “B’s”, come see me so we can work together and figure out a plan. This may involve changing some classes or going to tutoring to improve your grades. We can work it out so you can make progress in the right direction.

Arm Yourself with Stellar Study Habits to Get Great Grades

Getting straight “A’s” is truly a rewarding honor that comes only with excellence and diligence. By practicing these tips on how to study and knowing how to get good grades, you’ll have a better chance of maintaining a high GPA and advancing academically.

If you have any questions about how to get good grades or need advice on achieving your scholastic goals, come see me in the UST Academic Advising office. Together, we can help you achieve greatness!

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