How to Be a Straight-A Student
In college, as in high school, grades matter. They affect your ability to gain admission to specific academic programs or, later, to enroll in grad school.
A high grade point average can also be a financial boon, allowing you to score or maintain generous scholarships. It should come as no surprise, then, that so many college students make a concerted effort to get straight As.
Unfortunately, a significant gap often emerges between ambition and execution. Issues such as procrastination, ineffective study skills, and a lack of social support commonly get in the way.
The good news, however, is that these roadblocks can be conquered if you know they lie in wait — and plan accordingly. To help, we’ve developed a guide that explains how to get straight As without compromising your health or wellbeing.
Organize Your Class Materials
Develop an organization system early on that allows you to keep track of everything you will need for your classes and extracurricular activities. Keep in mind that no single approach works equally for all students; enact something that takes your unique organizational strengths and challenges into account.
Be sure to include online organization. With so many documents and calendars to keep track of, it can be difficult to know where or when to access much-needed resources. Increasingly, many students find that digital systems such as Slack or Google Drive help with both time management and keeping track of online materials.
Never Miss a Class
When Monday morning arrives and you feel groggy or unmotivated, what will you do? While it may be tempting to stay in bed and assume that “just one” skipped class won’t hurt, this is a risky habit to form. Even one missed class can cause you to fall significantly behind, especially when your course builds progressively on skills or knowledge covered in the first few weeks.
Sit at the Front
The front row might seem intimidating, but it is the best location for remaining fully engaged with the instructor and the lesson. This spot can also be a great deterrent against common distractions, such as social media or chats with fellow students.
Do you treat class as a passive or active experience? If you usually sit quietly and take notes while other students do all the talking, challenge yourself to speak up and get involved.
The easiest way to start? Ask questions. Feel free to formulate them in advance if you struggle to find inspiration during class. The more often you speak up, the easier you will find it to be an active, engaged participant.
Review Notes Immediately After Class
Attending every class is a great start, but how you behave outside of class is just as important. After an intellectually stimulating experience, you may be tempted to relax on campus or head home for the day. If you have a few minutes, however, it is best to review your notes while they remain fresh.
Feel free to add to or adjust your notes as you see fit. You will quickly find that a few minutes of post-class review are as effective as a full hour of cramming later on.
Set Up a Distraction-Free Study Area
Clutter and distracting devices can quickly compromise your study efforts. If possible, establish a dedicated space that is conducive to learning. This means setting your smartphone aside, clearing away visual distractions, and letting roommates or family members know that you need to focus on schoolwork for a specific duration.
Form a Study Group
A blend of accountability and community can make any goal easier to reach. This is certainly true of improving your GPA, so make an effort to get out of your shell and develop a study group as early in the semester as possible. This will make studying more enjoyable and could even lead to strong friendships that span your entire college journey — and beyond.
Avoid Cramming for Exams
Procrastination may seem like an expected part of the college experience, but it doesn’t have to be. A growing body of research suggests that procrastination not only leads to worse test scores, but it also actively damages the health of those who rely on last-minute cramming.
If you struggle to kick procrastination, consider building a less anxiety-inducing version of it into your study process so that you cram at a more effective time. For example, if you regularly meet with a study group, you can work together to develop a practice test to be taken the week before the midterm or final exam. Even if you end up cramming for this practice test, you have a full week to tackle any identified weaknesses before the real deal.
Take Care of Your Physical and Mental Health
Often, students who struggle to keep their GPA up also deal with considerable health concerns. If your body and mind are not in great shape, you will work harder for worse results in your classes.
While it can be difficult to tear yourself away from your books long enough to address your health, doing so will ultimately lead to better grades with less studying — and less stress. These tips will help you stay healthy on a busy college schedule:
- Find creative ways to integrate exercise into your day. A variety of strategies can help you get your body moving daily. Walk or bike to class whenever possible. Take a stroll when you need a study break. Join a sports club so you can combine socializing and physical exercise. Even a few additional minutes of exercise can make a big difference over time.
- Develop a meditation routine. A few moments of reflection every morning can set the tone for a productive and enjoyable day. The practice is simpler than it seems: focus on your breathing and let intrusive thoughts drift away.
- Eat more produce. The stereotypical college diet is heavy on pizza and light on produce, but nutrient-poor meals can harm both your physical and cognitive health. Focus on simple strategies to improve your fruit and vegetable intake. For example, packing an apple as a snack could prevent you from relying on the vending machine.
- Get more sleep. Next time you feel tempted to cram a few hours the night before a test, wind down and get a solid night’s rest instead. Quality sleep is a crucial component of effective learning, and yet, college students are notorious for neglecting it.
Remember: straight-As are a great goal, but they should not come at the cost of your personal health. Thankfully, there is no need to choose between these ideals. With balance and smart study habits, you can improve your health and your grades.
Now that you know how to be a straight-A student, it is time to put your ambitious goal into action. Start implementing the above suggestions as soon as possible to get your semester off to a productive start.