In the last blog, I discussed Grade Point Average or GPA, how it is calculated and how it makes an essential contribution to the profile you present to colleges at application time. If colleges consider your GPA to be necessary, then you should too. In this blog, I will show you how the key to academic success is not dependent on being smart; instead, it is about being disciplined and efficient in your study habits. These nine strategies will help you raise your GPA without getting stressed and working at all hours.
1. Attend your classes regularly
OK, I know this is obvious, but it’s essential, especially after all the disruption to school during the pandemic. With lessons increasingly being taught directly from PowerPoint presentations, it can be tempting to do something else and download the notes to review them later. Unfortunately, following such a strategy means missing out on several essential 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 for clarification.
2. Participate in class
As a student, this was something that I found challenging; I much preferred to sit in the back of the class, keep my head down and get on with my work. However, 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 remember what you are being taught but will also show the teachers 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 rates. 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 positively contributes to their lessons.
3. Organise yourself
Getting organized 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 to do well.
One of the important aspects of organizing is your note-taking. Teachers have different teaching styles, so having one type of note-taking might only work for some lessons, so develop a style that works for each teacher. Louisa, at LP Tutoring, has some great suggestions about different types of note-taking on her website.
Another great way to organize yourself is to build a list of proven resources you trust and can go to in seconds when you need them. You’ll be able to find your way of doing this, but I use a free subscription to Biology for internet links.
4. Review your work.
Researchers have done a great deal of research into how we remember things 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 studying. At least once a week, you can go back and review your notes for the last month; this repetition will help you to gradually memorize what you have studied and also understand how one concept is built on previous work. Using this approach consistently will reduce the time you need right before a test, making 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. If you need help understanding a concept, please reach out to your teacher as soon as possible to avoid getting lost and falling behind. If you are not achieving the grades you want, ask your teacher what you can do to improve. For example, are there particular topics you need to improve on, 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 behaviors and improved grades.
Make the most of any extra-curricular learning opportunities your school might have; there is a science club, a book discussion group, or a maths study group you could join. These tend to attract pupils with a genuine 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 the wrong crowd; it works the other way; if you associate with thoughtful and actively engaged students, 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: they have not managed their work over the previous weeks and are now trying to make up for the lost time. But, unfortunately, all-nighters don’t work; they harm performance because they leave you tired and stressed, and as a result, you will forget most of what you learned.
A gradual study strategy, including weekly reviews, should mean that all-nighters are unnecessary, enabling you to get enough rest. Sleep improves concentration, solidifies what you have learned, and improves your ability to organize and recall information. Unfortunately, poor performance at school is often directly linked to a lack of good-quality sleep.
8. Have a good learning environment
Studying in a busy area will never be conducive to good learning. It’s not always in our control, but if 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 you are working and shut the door to avoid noise. If that is not possible, see if you can get some noise-canceling headphones or download a white noise app on your phone.
If you work better with background noise, find a playlist that you can have in the background 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 specific time or to learn a new skill. Having a goal helps me 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, and 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. On the other hand, “I will study in my room every day between 4 pm and 6 pm is specific and provides you with an actionable plan.
Measurable – In the above example, saying ‘I will study more’ is not measurable. At the same time, in the second version, you have set a goal to study a certain number of hours, and 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 set your target too high, it can cause stress and decrease the chance of your target actually being within reach. Likewise, if a target is too easy, it will inhibit you from pushing yourself and doing more. Therefore, 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 precise time or date when your goal will be complete. Having that set date will help you judge how well you progress toward your goal.
Alongside setting goals, ensure you are good to yourself by rewarding your achievements. Set a GPA goal and reward yourself with something you want when you achieve it.
Follow these nine 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!