Full disclosure: I'm currently a senior about to graduate in May, and unless I flunk every class this semester, I will leave with a 3.9 and summa cum laude honors from a public university. I see a lot of people on Wall Street Oasis who I feel are much smarter than me-- at least brainpower-wise--, but simply can't get good grades. I figure that I may as well share what's worked for me and what hasn't during my four years of college.
I can already predict what the critics will say. If I had gone to an ivy league school, I probably wouldn't even be able to muster up a 3.0. If I had majored in a S.T.E.M. field, my grades would be nowhere near as good. This might be true, as I did not attend a top school nor underwent a S.T.E.M. major, but please note that I worked part time, 15-30 hours a week every single semester after my first and that I double majored, had a separate minor, was on an honors track, and held leadership positions in my fraternity and random organizations on campus.
I achieved the above through a combination of smart time management skills, being intensely honest with myself about behavior I was prone to, and having a unique outlook on schoolwork. Let's jump into it:
- Always study in isolation - Forget about study groups, and eliminate any kinds of distractions. When I need to study, I go to my school's library with just a textbook, a notepad, and a pen. I don't bring my laptop as I know I'll jump on Facebook or start surfing the net. Self-awareness is a beautiful thing to have. I will go to the highest floor in the library, find the spot with the least number of people, and just go H.A.M. (hard as a mafucka) with the preparation.
- Have a purpose in studying - I found early on that I couldn't just "study." I had to maintain a tangible objective. Did I want to read 300 pages in my textbook? Be able to answer all of the practice questions? Memorize a certain set of words? Rote memorization never works-- always have a measurable goal that you're trying to achieve during every study session.
- Don't fight procrastination - You know you're going to procrastinate, so don't bother promising yourself you'll finish a project a week early or study for an exam every day for two months. Use procrastination instead of fighting it, but move the deadline 1-7 days in advance. For example, I once had a 30-page thesis paper to write. Like all good teachers, my professor told me I should do a little bit every day. I knew I wouldn't do it until the very end of the semester, so I didn't. Instead of trying to do a little bit each day, I simply forgot about it until the last two weeks. I then briefly mentioned to my professor that I'd probably be giving him a final draft a week ahead of the deadline, in case he saw anything that needed major revision. At that point, a tight deadline motivated the hell out of me, and I ended up deeply focus as I wrote the paper. I got an A+.
- Use nontraditional resources - When I took Intermediate Microeconomics, or Price Theory, I found myself overwhelmed by the professor's materials. The textbook was extremely dense, and her lectures were often rushed and confusing. I ended up doing well in that class. How? I would watch youtube videos teaching price theory, and bought a price theory study guide. I tailored what I found in these resources to fit her syllabus, and found myself engaged and understanding the material on a very intuitive level.
- Sit in the front of class and participate - Not enough people do this. So many students immediately sit in the back of the classroom on the first day, thinking they're brilliant for now being able to surf the net or text during class. Instead, if you sit in the front and participate, you're forced to pay attention-- quickly putting you at a distinct advantage.
These are just some things that aren't usually taught, but help tremendously. It's not enough to just "study harder," you need to have tools and a plan.
Please share the tips and tricks you've found to help get better grades in school.