College students spend untold hours worrying about what they will major in at college.
But if I told you 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, for many jobs and multiple careers, are found in most traditional majors and the required core courses that most colleges demand.
Your Grades Say More About You Than Your Major
They will look carefully at your college grades to see if you know how to get good grades in college.
Maybe you are passionate about the ideas in your philosophy courses and understand how to get good grades in college and in that subject.
The 3.5 there is going to serve you better than the 2.7 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 each subject.
Usually, professors will spell out in the syllabus how they calculate a grade.
They will often provide you with 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 your professor does not spell the elements out, you can ask for a breakdown.
You can then keep track of how you are doing, and you will be able to calculate the kind of grades you may get on the basis of what you have done in each of the graded elements.
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 your job to learn how to get good grades in college.
Here are a couple of study tips for getting good grades!
How to Get Good Grades in College
1. Tackle the Hard Stuff First
Think about the difficult ones.
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.
2. Develop a Visual Learning Style
Most likely, you use the visual learning style or think in pictures in the subjects you like.
And this is precisely what you need to do to understand how to get good grades in college in all other subjects.
Visualization strategies neuroscience-backed for enhancing learning and memory, and will help not just in your major but with lifelong learning!
3. Improve Your Writing
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.
There are various resources available online as well, to help you improve your writing!
4. Find a Good Study Space
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 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.
5. Learn How to Read
Read with access to a glossary or dictionary.
It is essential 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.
You might have reading habits which, unbeknownst to you, are actually slowing your reading down.
Total Recall Reading™ helps you identify these habits, and introduces you to a bunch of science-proven methods to boost your reading speed and comprehension, including a hi-tech reading method which can double your reading speed!
6. Visualize When You Read
Remember the visualization strategies we mentioned earlier?
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.
Images are a lot easier to remember than lines and lines of text, and lots of visualization strategies, like the peg memory system or Method of Loci, can help you boost your memory for learning!
This is one of the best tips to understand how to get good grades in college.
7. Look for Key Concepts and Supporting Evidence
Look at the table of contents, the index, 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.
8. Ask Yourself What the Most Important Idea Is
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 they expect you to master.
9. Devise Your Own Tools to Help You Retain Material
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 the material.
If you can’t summarize, then you have not learned or understood the material.
Use a mind map or picture perfect summary in all your classes to understand how to get good grades in college.
10. Know Where to Go for Help
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 that 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.
If you’re going to join college soon, have you identified any tips that you’ll be working on first?
And if you’re already in college, are there any tips here that you’re going to be trying out?
Let’s discuss how you can improve your college experience and grades!
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.
[ Updated – November 12, 2020 ]