In the last blog, I discussed Grade Point Average or GPA, how it is calculated and how it makes an important contribution to the profile you present to colleges at application time. If colleges consider your GPA to be important, then you should too. In this blog, I will show you how the key to academic success is not dependent on being smart, rather it is about being disciplined and efficient in your study habits. These 9 strategies will help you raise your GPA without getting stressed and working at all hours.
1. Attend your classes regularly
OK, I know that this is obvious but it’s important, especially at a time when so much schooling is taking place online. With lessons being taught directly from PowerPoint presentations it can be tempting to do something else and download the notes with the intention of going over them later. Following such a strategy means that you miss out on several important things.
A PowerPoint presentation is only part of the story. Good teachers don’t just read off the slides, they provide detailed verbal explanations to help students understand the material.
The opportunity to ask questions. If you are in the class and don’t understand something you can ask, sometimes, other students will make a comment, or ask a question that helps you gain a greater understanding of the material.
2. Participate in class
When I was a student this was something that I found difficult, I much preferred to sit in the body of the class, keep my head down and get on with my work. Actively participating was something I needed to work on, and if you are like I was, I recommend you do the same.
Being actively engaged in the lesson not only helps you to remember what you are being taught but it will also show the teacher that you are an eager student which will help boost your academic reputation, this can be important for your GPA. Most grades have some element of subjectivity so your teacher’s perception of you can influence your grades. A teacher is more likely to give you the benefit of the doubt and round your mark up if they know you as an engaged student who makes a positive contribution to their lessons.
3. Organise yourself
Getting organised is one of the easiest ways of raising your GPA. Having a study strategy that complements your schedule and learning style enables you to make the most of your study time, reducing the time and effort it takes for you to do well.
One of the important aspects to organise is your note taking. Teachers have different styles of teaching so having one style of note taking might not work for all lessons so develop a style that works for each teacher. Louisa, at LP Tutoring, has some great suggestions about different styles of note taking on her website.
Another great way to organise yourself is to build a list of proven resources that you trust and can go to in seconds when you need them. You can devise your own way of doing this, but for internet links, I use a free subscription to Aboogy.
4. Review your work.
Researchers have done a great deal of research into how we remember things that we are taught. One alarming outcome has been the ‘forgetting curve’ which shows that within one hour, people will have forgotten an average of 50 percent of the information they have been taught. Within 24 hours, they have forgotten an average of 70 percent of new information, and within a week, forgetting claims an average of 90 percent of it.
Trying to go back and relearn all that you have been taught right before a test is practically impossible, you will find it much easier if you take a gradual approach to study. At least once a week go back and review your notes for the last month, this repetition will help you to gradually memorise what you have studied and also understand how one concept is built on previous work. Using this approach on a consistent basis will reduce the amount of time you need right before a test, which in turn makes tests less stressful.
5. Talk to your teachers.
Teachers are busy people but if you approach them in the right way, they will often make themselves available to help with any questions you might have about your studies or assignments.
Lessons often build on previous material, so if you are having difficulty understanding a concept you should address the problem with your teacher as soon as possible to avoid getting completely lost and falling behind. If you are not achieving the grades you want, take time to ask your teacher what you can do to improve, are there particular topics you need to improve or are there additional resources you can use?
6. Mix with the right people.
Research shows that the quality of your learning experience is directly related to the attitudes of the people you work with. Working with strong students is more likely to facilitate good learning behaviours and improved grades.
Make the most of any extra-curricular learning opportunities your school might have, perhaps there is a science club, a book discussion group or maybe a maths study group you could join. These will tend to attract pupils with a real interest in those areas and you can build friendships that can help you out if you are stuck with an assignment.
Who you work with, can also affect your academic reputation, we have all heard about a person who has fallen in with a bad crowd, will it works the other way as well. If you associate with students who are smart and actively engaged in their learning, your teachers will assume you are the same, unless you prove otherwise.
7. Avoid all-nighters
Generally, there is only one reason why people pull all-nighters and that is because they have not managed their work over the previous weeks and now are trying to make up for lost time. All-nighters don’t work, they harm performance because they leave you tired, stressed and as a result, you will forget most of what you learnt.
Using a gradual study strategy, including weekly reviews should mean that all-nighters are not necessary, enabling you to get enough rest. Sleep improves concentration, solidifies what you have learnt and improves your ability to organise and recall information. Poor performance at school is often directly linked to a lack of good quality sleep.
8. Have a good learning environment
Trying to study in a busy area is never going to be conducive to good learning. It’s not always in our control but if at all possible try to set up a learning space where you can get on with work without distractions. Here are some simple tips:
Let people know that you are working and shut the door to avoid noise. If that is not possible see if you can get some noise cancelling headphones or download a white noise app on your phone.
If you are somebody who works better with background noise find a playlist that you can have in the background but that won’t disturb you.
Make sure you have everything you need before you settle down to work.
Turn off your notifications on your phone and computer.
9. Goals and rewards.
I’m a great believer in setting goals for myself whether it be to complete a piece of work by a certain time or to learn a new skill, having a goal helps focus my effort. Improving your GPA should be your ultimate goal but reach it by breaking down your work into smaller achievable goals.
When setting goals be SMART, that’s an acronym for Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, Time bound.
Specific – The more specific a goal is, the easier it will be to focus on it and take the necessary action to accomplish it. For example, a goal such as “I will study more” is rather vague. “I will study in my room every day between 4pm and 6 pm is specific and provides you with an actionable plan.
Measurable – In the above example, saying ‘I will study more’ is not really measurable, while in the second version you have set a goal to study a certain number of hours, you have a concrete expectation to work towards.
Achievable – Objectives should be challenging, but possible to achieve. The point of a target is to challenge and motivate yourself to complete a piece of work, if you were to set your target too high it can cause stress and so decrease the chance of your target actually being within reach. Likewise, if a target was too easy, it will inhibit you from pushing yourself and doing more. Setting yourself a reasonable target is crucial!
Relevant – Your objective should align with what you need to achieve, otherwise, you might achieve your objective, but it does not have any impact on your GPA. If you need to improve in English, spending extra time studying Maths is unlikely to help your English!
Time bound – You need to keep on track by setting a clear time or date when your goal will be complete. Having that set date will help you judge how well you are progressing towards your goal.
Alongside setting goals make sure that you are good to yourself by rewarding your achievements. Set yourself a GPA goal and reward yourself with something that you really want, when you achieve it.
Follow these 9 steps and you will see an improvement in your GPA and as a result, you will have improved your chances of being accepted into the college of your dreams!