3/31/13

Greetings,

Thought I'd try and give back to the WSO community by sharing "10 Tips" on how to maximize your undergraduate GPA. I've noticed that the phrase "get a high GPA" is mentioned in almost every thread discussing recruitment, getting into banking, how to improve, etc., but there isn't much discussion regarding how to go about getting a high GPA.

Obviously these tips won't be applicable to everyone, and grading metrics/systems differ greatly between schools. Some of you may find these helpful, and some of you may not. That said, I've found the following (in no particular order) to be crucial in helping me maintain a ~3.95 (top 0.5%) at a "Public Ivy" majoring in Accounting with a minor in English. These "tips" don't substitute for working hard, being intelligent, and all that other jazz, but they might help you squeeze an extra 0.1 or 0.2 out of your GPA, which, in today's world, can make all the difference when it comes to getting an interview or getting into a top MBA.

1. Go to office hours, even if you don't need to. Whether you need help or actually want to talk to the professor or not, go to office hours. If you're on the border between two grades, the professor is much more likely to give you the benefit of the doubt if he/she knows you personally. There have been classes where, just looking solely at my scores on assignments/tests, I deserved a 3.8, maybe a 3.9, but ended up getting a 4.0. I believe it's because I took the time to get to know the professor. Even though most grading systems are curved, there is usually a bit of discretion for professors to award extra points (or simply a higher grade) to students that show "improvement" or "initiative." You have nothing to lose by going to office hours, so take 10 minutes every other week or so and stop by. You never know - it may get you the grade you want/need (besides the numerous other benefits not related to GPA).

2. Don't take classes in the order everyone else is taking them. At my school, many classes are "suggested" to be taken in a certain order, and it's not surprising that the vast majority of students take classes in this suggested order. If you're on a curved grading system (judged relative to the performance of your peers), you want to make sure you're not in a class with too many gunners. Given that most people take classes in the suggested order, chances are it will be more difficult to differentiate yourself if you do so as well. I've found classes taken in the "off-season" (i.e. out of order) to be, on average, less competitive for those 3.9-4.0 grades.

3. Don't take difficult classes when you have other things going on. This is kind of a given, but it's surprising how many people compartmentalize their academic and extracurricular/personal life and end up taking their most difficult classes during a term where they have a lot of other obligations fighting for their attention. If you know in advance that you're going to have a lot going on (i.e. recruiting season), take some easy classes or get general requirements out of the way.

4. Challenge your grades. At the undergraduate level, most of your assignments and exams are going to be graded by TAs, and the grading will often be inconsistent from TA-to-TA and with the professor's expectations (trust me, I know - I'm a TA). If you feel that the grade you got on an assignment is not indicative of the quality of your work, bring it to the professor's attention. Don't send a lengthy e-mail to the professor; schedule a time to meet with him or her, bring a copy of the work, and attach a written memo detailing your argument so that he/she can reference it after your discussion. It's much more credible and persuasive to point out specific things you believe were mis-graded by the TAs than to simply say "I deserve better than the grade I got."

5. Read the directions. Twice. Yeah, this isn't elementary school, but it's always surprising to me when people miss points on a test or assignment because they misread the directions. Whether you're taking an exam or writing a paper, make sure your answer(s) directly address the question being asked. Having a great answer doesn't matter if you answer the wrong question. Personally, I go through and underline/circle key parts of questions on an exam, then once I've done the problem, I read back through the question to make sure my answer has addressed everything being asked.

6. Use all the time on exams, even if you don't need it. I always stay until the last minute and check my work, even if it means going through the test for a third time. 9/10 times I find something within the last 5-15 minutes that I hadn't caught previously. Don't just skim through your work - literally go through and redo the test in as much detail as you can. If you find one error, it's worth the time. Even if you don't find an error, you can walk out feeling confident in your answers because you had the time to double check them for accuracy.

7. Pick up the slack. If you're in an undergraduate business school, chances are you'll have to do a lot of group projects (yeah, they suck). No matter whether groups are assigned or you get to pick, you're going to eventually be paired with individuals who don't do shit. If that's the case, complaining about it and/or doing nothing isn't going to help you. Suck it up and pick up their slack; literally, just do their work. Chances are you'll do it better than them anyways. The professor isn't going to care that one or two of your group members were lazy when assigning the entire group a grade - they're going to grade based on the quality of the deliverable. If you can make the deliverable better, even if it means doing double duty, do it.

8. Go to class, actually. Yeah, going to class usually sucks, but is there really a better use of that time? Even if you feel like you know the material, just go. I've had countless classes where the professor tells a story or two in class and a question(s) about those stories come up on exams. If you weren't in class, it doesn't matter how well you know the material if you didn't hear the story. Does the story have anything to do with your expertise/education? Probably not. Does it have anything to do with your GPA? Definitely. Besides providing a leg up on those who don't go to class, chances are if you go to office hours (like mentioned in #1) and attend regularly, the professor will notice (or, at least, they'll notice if you continuously don't show up, which could hurt you).

9. Choose professors wisely, and don't rely on RateMyProfessor (RMP). RMP has, for the most part, two types of reviews on it: people who hated or loved the professor. They're two extreme ends, and you're unlikely to get the full story using just RMP. Most universities have you fill out course/professor evaluations, and all that data is available somewhere - go and find it. My school has a course evaluation catalog (CEC) available online that numerically details several aspects of the class/professor based on feedback from everyone. If you don't know how to find your school's CEC, ask around. The data can help you make sure you pick a good professor (which, in turn, should help you get a better grade).

10. Be organized. I'm sure we've all had the occasional hiccup where we forget an assignment is due and end up getting a zero. Unfortunately, that zero can sometimes make a difference in your grade. Stay organized and make sure you don't forget about any assignments or important dates. Personally, I use (and love) the iPhone app "iStudiez Pro." It's specifically for college students and I usually load my assignment/class calendar into it during the first week of classes. Whatever method you choose, stay organized and constantly double check whether something is due to the next day. Nothing is worse than losing points because you simply forgot. Not to mention this is good practice for "the real world."

I hope the above tips are helpful. Please feel free to comment/critique. Hopefully with the input of others this thread can be a valuable resource for students trying to get as high a GPA as possible.

Cheers!

Comments (50)

3/28/13

^^ +1 SB

Great write up.

Maybe add a part on summer classes? My freshmen year I was locked out of a required freshmen course so I decided to take it during the summer preceding my sophomore year. Met my favorite professor of all time and some great people. My school used your amount of credit hours to determine your order for class registration so I decided to load up with 4 courses the next summer, effectively putting me a semester ahead. Greatest decision of my college career.

Registration day was no longer a day I dreaded but a day I looked forward to. I got into whatever classes I wanted and with the best professor for each class. If I was taking a bullshit elective then I opted for the bullshit teacher (thanks ratemyprofessor!) and if I was taking a course that was aligned with my career I went for the best teacher in the subject.

This goes back to what you were saying about having a balanced schedule. If I knew I had to take 2-3 difficult courses the next term I would make sure to fill the other course slots with an easy required course or use up one of my free electives (unfortunately I did not have many). I couldn't imagine getting screwed in the registration process of a previous semester only to have to pay for it later when you had recruiting, 4 tough classes in your field of study and perhaps varsity / club sports or a great trip or vacation planned with friends.

Financial Modeling
3/28/13

Cookies With Milken:
^^ +1 SB

Great write up.

Maybe add a part on summer classes? My freshmen year I was locked out of a required freshmen course so I decided to take it during the summer preceding my sophomore year. Met my favorite professor of all time and some great people. My school used your amount of credit hours to determine your order for class registration so I decided to load up with 4 courses the next summer, effectively putting me a semester ahead. Greatest decision of my college career.

Registration day was no longer a day I dreaded but a day I looked forward to. I got into whatever classes I wanted and with the best professor for each class. If I was taking a bullshit elective then I opted for the bullshit teacher (thanks ratemyprofessor!) and if I was taking a course that was aligned with my career I went for the best teacher in the subject.

This goes back to what you were saying about having a balanced schedule. If I knew I had to take 2-3 difficult courses the next term I would make sure to fill the other course slots with an easy required course or use up one of my free electives (unfortunately I did not have many). I couldn't imagine getting screwed in the registration process of a previous semester only to have to pay for it later when you had recruiting, 4 tough classes in your field of study and perhaps varsity / club sports or a great trip or vacation planned with friends.


haha I loaded up my summer courses too to get better picks for professors
3/28/13

Thanks for the tips.

3/28/13

Many schools allow you to retake courses to replace the original grade earned the first time you took it, regardless of whether you end up doing better or worse the second time around. This won't count toward your total required credits/# of courses to graduate, so you will have to take an extra class during a semester or over one summer/winter break. You will also have to pay for taking on the extra credits, but this is often well worth replacing that C+ you got first semester of freshman year.

Impossible is nothing

3/28/13

Don't take hard classes during your pledge semester.

-From someone who did and is now trying to fix their fucked up GPA.

4/1/13

StryfeDSP:
Don't take hard classes during your pledge semester.

-From someone who did and is now trying to fix their fucked up GPA.

Probably the most important thing on this thread. I'm still recovering from that semester, but am going to retake a class or two.

"If it were easy, everyone would do it"

3/28/13

Good stuff.

Another tip: push back hard classes as far as possible into your career. E.g., avoid tougher major/distrib requirements until Junior winter, if possible. This won't increase your GPA per-se, but if will delay the hit you may take from these courses. Which can be huge if you're recruiting, especially for sophomore-summer internships.

"There are three ways to make a living in this business: be first, be smarter, or cheat."

3/28/13

This is just from my experience and may not apply to others---have a flexible schedule if at all possible. I literally saw my gpa drop like a stone since I knowingly took shitty profs due to their convenient time slots, as in tenured profs who didn't give a fuck about teaching but just there to pick up a check. I had no choice since I had an internship during the semester. I've had great experiences with adjunct profs since they usually have a full time job elsewhere and teach because they actually care, but their class time slots were obviously quite limited.

As for RMP, I'm guilty of using it (who isn't nowadays) but do take the time to read the comments behind the scores, 90% of the time you can obviously tell which ones had valid complaints and which ones had a vendetta.

3/28/13

Great post

When luck shuts the door you gotta come in through the window - Doyle Brunson

3/28/13

the only thing i disagree is rate my professors. that actually is a good site to use. I have used it and I have succeed in most of my classes thanks to RMP. This person has a point but what he can do is ask people who has taken that professor.

G

3/28/13

gvc1992:
the only thing i disagree is rate my professors. that actually is a good site to use. I have used it and I have succeed in most of my classes thanks to RMP. This person has a point but what he can do is ask people who has taken that professor.

Did you use RMP for your English courses?
3/28/13

I would take easy electives during your freshman, sophomore, and junior years to bolster your GPA heading into the recruiting season. This is something I wish I would have done. Fortunately, my GPA was good enough to secure an internship and land interviews at several top BBs, but I think I could have landed a few more interviews with a higher GPA.

Also, and to reiterate, going to class is essential for a high GPA. I know several kids that opt to skip class because they deem the lectures unhelpful. While this may be the case for certain classes, I've noticed a positive correlation between GPAs and students that attend their lectures regularly. Those that don't attend lectures have pretty awful GPAs. Now, it's a small sample size, but I think it applies for most students.

3/28/13

All of these are great points, can't emphasize #1 enough, and I am glad it is the first point.

#11. Disregard all bros asking for "help"/trying to blatantly copy you... This ain't charity, brah, and I can see you trying to read my paper from across the room. I used to be "cool" and help people, but now I like getting my A, setting the curve, and watching everyone else struggle, honestly. I have noticed a steep rise in my GPA after adopting this mentality.

I guess what I am saying is this: Don't get lost in the herd. Look out for yourself, period. I recommend avoiding "working in groups". My idea of productivity is not meeting at the library to help other bros do their work. As far as I am (now) concerned, the only relationships that matter are between you and your professors, so focus on those. Brian BroBrah ain't gonna help you, remember that.

I suppose it might be different at a better school, where people are smart and discuss things intelligently. That's great, and I wish I could have that experience, but I am not going to pretend. It's dog-eat-dog where I am, and if you treat it that way, you will have better results.

"That dude is so haole, he don't even have any breath left."

3/28/13

Great advice

Financial Modeling
3/28/13

@Cookies with Milken: definitely a great tip. I took summer term after my freshman year as well, and now every other term I get to register before my peers. Definitely is an advantage for getting into the classes you want, at the times you want, and with the professors you want. Keeping it balanced is definitely important; I usually try and take one elective every term.

@EPS: that's interesting! My school doesn't let you do replace course grades (at least for required courses/non-electives), but that's definitely good information those who are allowed to do so.

@Sandhurst: good tip. Definitely doing that myself. While it may not help your GPA upon graduation, it will definitely help for recruiting as you'll have a higher GPA.

@Y2A: definitely a tough call between choosing a good professor and convenient time/location. Usually when it's a one or the other, I try and wait to see if I can take the class during another term. If I can't, then it really depends on how bad the differences are (i.e. how early/late the class is, how far, etc.).

@gvc1992: I'm not saying that RMP is totally useless; my point is that one needs to not take the reviews at face value. Many (not all, but most) reviews are either extremely negative or extremely positive. The "average" student who probably has input more relevant to your decision usually doesn't post on RMP. That's where your university's course evaluation ratings come in. The data is definitely out there and is immensely helpful once you can find it.

ChicagoBears1: definitely agree. I know several smart kids who don't go to class and end up doing worse than "average" kids who do go to class. The reality is that there are going to be things on the exam that aren't clear/mentioned in the book, and the only way to be fully prepared is by attending lecture.

@FeelingMean: definitely know how you feel. There's kind of a perverse incentive to not help people; everyone is competing for the same grade. I'm not a big fan of working in groups (unless absolutely necessary, i.e. a group project) and prefer to study alone. It definitely could be a product of going to a state school (albeit a good one), but I'm sure there's still a sense of conflict event at the "target" schools.

3/28/13

Zzari:
@Sandhurst: good tip. Definitely doing that myself. While it may not help your GPA upon graduation, it will definitely help for recruiting as you'll have a higher GPA.

Exactly. Think of it as window dressing.

"There are three ways to make a living in this business: be first, be smarter, or cheat."

3/28/13

All of those are great. I do use RMP, and I would advise everyone to do so. You can pretty easily distinguish which comments are balanced and which are bullshit/come from a sub-par student. Definitely check the school's ratings though, too.

"You stop being an asshole when it sucks to be you." -IlliniProgrammer
"Your grammar made me wish I'd been aborted." -happypantsmcgee

3/28/13

OH MY GOD DID THIS JUST TURN INTO AN UNDERGRAD STUDY TIPS THREAD?

*Slams head against wall. Might finally be over WSO for good...

3/28/13

Take an easier course load fall semester, so your GPA looks better in January-March when it matters

"Better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to speak out and remove all doubt." --Abraham Lincoln

3/28/13

IMO - the biggest thing is to
1) pick a classes that matches your strengths
2) avoid classes with unfair competition
3) take recommendations from upper classmen

If you're really good at math - use economics, philosophy, and computer graphics to satisfy literature/arts requirements/social science

if you're better with writing essays and historical facts avoid classes where some math douche bag can't exploit the fact he took calculus at 14 to wreck the curve. Substitute math and science with softer versions of environmental science, evolution, philosophy of science, economics (political economics, law & economics, not theory classes), basic astronomy

I figured out that as a math student, taking econ theory classes was a grade booster since it was all math and didn't require attendance. It was a dick move to rape math illiterate econ students but hey, I'm paying a monstrous tuition and it's all fair game.

3/30/13

couchy:
IMO - the biggest thing is to
1) pick a classes that matches your strengths
2) avoid classes with unfair competition
3) take recommendations from upper classmen

If you're really good at math - use economics, philosophy, and computer graphics to satisfy literature/arts requirements/social science

if you're better with writing essays and historical facts avoid classes where some math douche bag can't exploit the fact he took calculus at 14 to wreck the curve. Substitute math and science with softer versions of environmental science, evolution, philosophy of science, economics (political economics, law & economics, not theory classes), basic astronomy

I figured out that as a math student, taking econ theory classes was a grade booster since it was all math and didn't require attendance. It was a dick move to rape math illiterate econ students but hey, I'm paying a monstrous tuition and it's all fair game.

AMEN

3/28/13

Take the easiest classes possible

3/29/13

Cardinal:
Take the easiest classes possible

This and this alone.

4/10/13

Cardinal:
Take the easiest classes possible

Sadly, this is true. A Goldman banker once told me "we don't give a sh** about the classes you took, only your GPA and major". You can't justify a subpar GPA with a "tough course load" argument in IB.

3/28/13

Take the classes that you're willing the spend the time and effort. It's a matter of motivation sometimes....

3/28/13

I think there are a few tips to keep in mind (if your goal is to get a high gpa)
1. take a few classes you like and that you are good at
2. don't overload yourself with too many classes
3. minimize downside. Better to get 2 A-'s than an A and a C+. If you ensure that there is never a class that will fuck you, you will be ok.

3/28/13

Which class you get the B in?

3/28/13

If you're female, where yoga pants and the like.

When a plumber from Hoboken tells you he has a good feeling about a reverse iron condor spread on the Japanese Yen, you really have no choice. If you don't do it to him, somebody else surely will. -Eddie B.

3/28/13

SureThing:
If you're female, where yoga pants and the like.

And so, today, we learned something about this poster.

"There are three ways to make a living in this business: be first, be smarter, or cheat."

3/28/13

gpa is over rated. i was able to graduate from a state school, make a half a million+ my first year out, get a startup funded by VCs in emerging markets, and get m7 with scholarship with a 2.7 BOOYA

:D

3/31/13

shorttheworld:
gpa is over rated. i was able to graduate from a state school, make a half a million+ my first year out, get a startup funded by VCs in emerging markets, and get m7 with scholarship with a 2.7 BOOYA

:D

Come on. You gotta be a better role model for the kids here! But you do prove the point that not having a high GPA is not the end of it all.

3/28/13

Need another bullet for using unlimited resources that is the internet.

Other than that, one of the most useful posts for students that I've seen on here.

3/29/13

number 6, perosnally

3/29/13

Awesome post

3/29/13

SB +1 this shit, also helps being Asian :D

3/29/13

befriend your teachers!!! Ive had teachers give me hints and correct me during exams and cut me alot of slack during the semester.

"And the last thing, how much do you charge for a career consultation and would you accept a check?"

3/30/13

Pretty good points. Although at the end of the day, it doesn't really matter THAT much as long as its at a fairly decent level.

3/30/13

O.K:
Pretty good points. Although at the end of the day, it doesn't really matter THAT much as long as its at a fairly decent level.

True, although GPA can be important for things other than banking recruitment (i.e. grad. school, scholarships, insurance, etc.).

As for the comments about taking easy classes, I definitely agree but with a slight caveat. If you're dead set on banking and/or a career path where GPA is important without regard to classes taken, then take the easiest classes you can find. However, if you might be applying to grad school or for scholarships, etc. then being able to write about/mention how you took relatively challenging classes for electives can be a strong point (shows you're not lazy). Obviously this isn't a huge deal, but I figure I'm paying a ton of money for my education so I might as well take classes that interest and/or challenge me in some way.

Glad many of you are finding this helpful. I may try my hand at writing another guide in the near future.

3/30/13

totally agree with OP, especially with point 6 (use all the time)

3/30/13

https://www.myedu.com/course-grades/

Actual grade distributions by professor and class.
Don't know about other universities, but it was 100% accurate for mine. Find the profs who give out more A's.

4/1/13

Doing well in the first (initial) tests/papers/first part of the semester has worked for me.

First impressions count a lot, so even if you slack off later in the semester, the professor is more likely to give you the benefit of the doubt.

4/1/13

Surprised this hasn't been mentioned. The actual major you choose is probably the biggest factor which determines how difficult it will be to maintain a high GPA. If you were to choose engineering, for example, you can look forward to a significantly higher course load and much stiffer competition (especially for a school with a large foreign student population) than your business pals. Also, it is not uncommon for certain majors to maintain a higher curve than others. Moral of the story is if you're looking to maximize your GPA and nothing else, choose the communications major (another pro: the major attracts serious babe-age).

4/1/13

islandbanker:
Surprised this hasn't been mentioned. The actual major you choose is probably the biggest factor which determines how difficult it will be to maintain a high GPA. If you were to choose engineering, for example, you can look forward to a significantly higher course load and much stiffer competition (especially for a school with a large foreign student population) than your business pals. Also, it is not uncommon for certain majors to maintain a higher curve than others. Moral of the story is if you're looking to maximize your GPA and nothing else, choose the communications major (another pro: the major attracts serious babe-age).

totally agree. lots of people don't want to admit that, because they feel offended when their major is called "easier than others". but it is definitely true. engineering is harder than many other subjects. same applies to mathematics and physics btw
I just hope that potential employees do not only consider the GPA but also the major

4/1/13

For classes that revolve more around writing, like freshman writing or some crappy elective on arts where you have to write about movies or any other bs, definitely befriend your professor. Last semester in one of my classes I didn't get any A's, but because I went to office hours and befriended the TA, I got an A :)

4/1/13

Hello,

I have been lurking for a bit, but I would like a bit of advice now. I recently broke up with my g/f of 2.5 years, and at first it hurt but now I want to use this separation as a means to awaken my potential. My question is how to develop top-notch study skills that would enable me to be successful at Wharton or Booth. I have read Cal Newport's book, but my problem is implementation. Could someone who has these topnotch graduates care to give me a rundown of how exactly they master the material. I know the general answers of reading the chapters and do problems, but what I am looking for is more exact answers. I go to class, and I take notes, but I somehow feel that I can give good answers to the suggested problems. I do not want to be able to memorize the information, but to actually know how and why I am doing things inside of financial formulas. Any and all advice welcome.

Thanks,

Josh

4/1/13

Great post. On 7: Pick up the slack: I found that it was very helpful to have completed a big part of the projects when other group members were lazy/not competent enough to turn in an "A" product. Case studies helped me to apply what I had learned in class in a more practical way than a test. In other words, don't assume that you are getting screwed by putting in an "unfair" amount of work.

With that being said, try to find opportunities to delegate parts of the project that you know that your group members are capable of completing.

4/3/13

Take things you're actually interested in. If you're into abstract math, great, but don't expect to always be able to will your way through hard classes that you don't like.

4/3/13

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