College students spend untold hours worrying about what they will major in at college, when the choice of major is less important than understanding how to get good grades in college.
The skills that you will need to carry you through a life filled with many jobs and multiple careers can be found in most traditional majors and the required core courses that most colleges demand.
An employer or graduate school is going to look at the GPA to see how smart you are. They will look carefully at your college grades to see if you know how to get good grades in college.
If you are passionate about the ideas in your philosophy courses and understand how to get good grades in college and in that subject, then the 3.5 there is going to serve you better than the 2.7 gotten in majoring in accounting which you hate but think is more useful.
It is not useful if you are not good at it and can’t understand how to get good grades in college and in each subject.
Usually professors will spell out in the syllabus how they calculate a grade—particular percentages, for instance, for quizzes, papers, class participation, and final exams so you can figure out how to get good grades in college.
If the elements are not spelled out, you can ask for a breakdown. This makes it possible to keep track of how you are doing, and you will be able to calculate the kind of grades you may get based on what you have done in each of the elements being graded.
When you understand how to get good grades in college it reflects how hard you work and how well you know the material.
It does not serve you well to demand good grades because you want or need them. If you have not done the work, done well on tasks assigned, or engaged in class activities, you cannot expect a professor to change a C grade to a B because, say, your scholarship is at risk. It is actually your job to learn how to get good grades in college.
Study tips to understand how to get good grades in college:
- If you love the subject, the material just comes easily to you, or there is not a lot of work required. Think about the ones that are difficult. You typically approach the easy ones with a willingness to tackle them first. Instead figure out how much time you need to do the work of your hardest classes and then tackle it when you are freshest and most alert and able to focus. Do tough work first to get a good grade in it. Hold out the work you enjoy for last—make it dessert.
- Think carefully about the subjects you enjoy and the way you process information in those subjects will be your clue on how to get good grades in college. Most likely you use the visual learning style, or think in pictures in the subjects you like, and this is exactly what you need to do in order to understand how to get good grades in college in all other subjects.
- If you’re not a good writer plan to spend time with your professor and in the writing center, and have someone look over your drafts. You must have a longer planning horizon for writing papers.
- Find a viable study space for how you study best. Some students need total silence, so the library or their dorm room may work. If you need some level of background noise then you may want study space that has some of ambient noise. If your room is too distracting—the TV and the bed tempt you—then find somewhere else. Your space should allow you to have your notes, laptop, and texts handy. These are just some of the tips you need when understanding how to get good grades in college.
- Learn how to read. Making it to college does not mean you know how to read to get good grades, which will be more about comprehension and interpretation. Read with access to a glossary or dictionary. It is most important to understand what you’re reading to get good grades. Turning pages when you don’t get it does not make sense. Ask an upperclassman, a TA, or your professor, if necessary. I have seen far too many students sit silently, not understanding a word of what is going on, and then blow the test, midterm, or paper.
- It is best to make images of what you read, then you can turn those images into words when you need them for the test. This is one of the best tips to understand how to get good grades in college.
When reading you’re looking for key concepts, and evidence to support them. Look at the table of contents, the index of a book, or the introduction to see where the author wants to lead you. Then read the middle, looking for examples of what the author wants you to believe or understand. Once you know what you’re looking for, you can read faster. Make notes if you disagree with the author’s premises and why. Use whatever tools work for you to highlight key points. Good readers often don't highlight the material, but turn what they read into mental images in their mind. They can help you learn how to do this so you will know how to get good grades in college.
- It helps you learn how to get good grades in college when you read in a difficult field if you ask yourself (or others) why it is important and relevant. The key point about studying is to find the most important ideas in whatever you’re working on Ask your professor what the most important concepts are that you’re expected to master
- Devise your own tools to help you retain material. Make flash cards and carry them around. Make notes in the margins of your class notes. If you keep notes on your laptop, print them out so you can review them offline. Record the key concepts you’re learning as you go, and how they hang together. Develop a short summary of that week’s material. If you’re a visual learner, make diagrams or pictures to remember material. If you can’t summarize, then you have not learned or understood the material. Use what is known as a mind map or picture perfect summary in all your classes to understand how to get good grades in college.
- The students who know how to get good grades in college are not going it alone. If math or science is hard for you, again, seek out the professor, the TA, or a tutor (or all three). Your school may have resources which provide online tutoring. Some subjects, often quantitative, lend themselves to the use of study groups.
Knowing how to get good grades in college is not about working hard but working smarter.
You can easily learn how to get good grades in college if you try and make it your own process that plays to your own strengths.
Marcia Y. Cantarella, Author, I CAN Finish College: The Overcome Any Obstacle and Get Your Degree Guide is a former College Dean and senior administrator.
See Chapters 4 and 8 of I CAN Finish College: The Overcome Any Obstacle and Get Your Degree Guide for more on getting good grades in college.