How To Get Good Grades In College

female student sitting in front of a desk. There is a book one her face. She is exhausted as she studies to get good grades

Good grades reflect a student’s hard work and comprehension of the course material. They show that you are a good student who can succeed in an academic environment as you work toward a degree. They are also needed to keep a healthy GPA. A student’s GPA does more than rank academic standing, it will also determine class rank, graduation, acceptance into a major, continued enrollment in your major, honors, academic warnings, financial aid and scholarship eligibility, future employment opportunities, eligibility for athletic teams and acceptance to graduate school.

Getting good grades isn’t too complicated, any student can get a good grade. Whether you’re just starting as a freshman or trying to raise your current grades, following these basic steps will ensure that you’re in the best possible position to succeed in your academic courses.

Attendance: Good Grades Begin With Showing Up

Attendance is non-negotiable. Seriously, show up to class. It is during class lectures that course material is taught and explained. Being present in the classroom is crucial to improving your grades. Also, you don’t miss out on important announcements.

Showing up to class is how you will meet other classmates and how you will begin a rapport with your professor. These two relationships will be very beneficial regarding motivation and support throughout the course.

Syllabus: Tells You Exactly What You Need To Do To Earn Good Grades

The college syllabus combines expectations for the course and guides the student on how to complete the course successfully. It is often overlooked and underused. I want you to get very familiar with your syllabus as it will be crucial to earning a good grade in the class.

A syllabus is a map of everything you will do and what will be expected of you in class. It will contain everything, and I mean everything. Course description, breakdown of grades, description of assignments, course policies, course calendar, reading assignments and weekly topics, and holidays. If you have a question about the class, it can most likely be answered in the syllabus.

Essentially, the syllabus is your course contract with your professor. It is an agreement that creates a clear understanding of what is to be expected from both parties: the student and instructor. For the most part, professors adhere to their course syllabus. However, your professor can change their syllabus if they need to. Many professors include a statement that reads, “syllabus is subject to change” just in case they need to adjust dates, times, and schedules. Your professor will let you know of any changes, therefore, it’s important to show up to class.

Handwritten Notes: Will Help You Retain More Information

Take notes physically even if your class allows computers or recorders. Physically writing something down keeps a student engaged as it forces you to pay attention to what is being taught. You learn as you are writing, and you can use the notes to study later. They can help you remember important information for exams and assignments. I can’t count how many times a professor would mention, “This will be on the test” or “This information is on tonight’s homework”, I would pay special attention to that content, and maybe even ask for clarification or additional information just to be sure I understood it correctly.

Participation Key: Good Grades Begin With Participation

Participation needs to be a priority. This means not only should you ask and answer questions but make observations. Be an active and engaging student. Active and engaging students do better in class. Participation and effort also get recognized by professors which can be the foundation of a beneficial student-instructor relationship. It also helps you stand out in class.

Reach Out To Your Professor: Your Professor Is Your Most Valuable Resource

I can’t state this enough, professors are a valuable resource who are often not fully utilized. Though they can be intimidating, most professors don’t want you to be afraid of them, they genuinely want to connect with you. They want you to come to class ready to learn. They want to see that you are engaged, focused, and respectful.

Professors want students to learn, grow and succeed in their classroom. Every professor holds office hours at least once a week, giving students a chance to drop in with questions or problems they may be having with the course material.  I met with almost every one of my professors during office hours, I even had a professor who was willing to review and grade my papers before I submitted them because I visited during office hours. Your professors want you to succeed, you just need to reach out and ask.

Prioritize Homework: Homework Helps You Understand The Material

Do your homework. I know this sounds like a no-brainer, but we all know someone who has dropped the ball on turning in homework. They pass all the tests however, their grade suffered because they didn’t get the credits for turning in the homework assignments. If you aren’t doing the homework, you won’t be able to understand and learn the material you are supposed to be studying. Additionally, these are often the easy credits to earn that could be the difference between getting a passing grade and a good grade.

If your instructor lists this information on the syllabus, then it is not their responsibility to remind you about the weekly assignments during class. You need to consult the syllabus to keep track for yourself.

Study: Study Smarter Not Harder

Just as being an active class participant can help you learn the material better, so can studying with a partner or group. Studying with your classmates can be an excellent way to prepare for an exam. Studies show that students have a higher success rate in classes if they work together. Forming study groups with peers leads to better grades and study habits. Having a bit of moral support is great motivation to do better in class. If the subject matter or class is particularly difficult for you then hiring a tutor might be a good option. Check your campus resources, often tutors are free.

Motivation is crucial for students. Studies have shown that motivation in education dramatically impacts a student’s academic performance.  Check out, How Students Can Create Motivation For Success.

Organization Is Key: Clutter-Free Zone Is Key To Success

Being organized will reduce stress and allow you to study and do work efficiently because you will not be wasting time. Buy a planner and write in all your classes, assignments, and tests. Buy separate binders, notebooks, and folders for each class. They are easy to reach for on the days you have class, and you won’t have to search for what you need.   

three students sitting at a table with their laptops learning how to get goods grades

Know How To Take A Test: Learn Test Taking Strategies For Good Grades

Being nervous before a test is absolutely normal, but some students have real test-taking anxiety which can cause a lot of distress and ultimately impact your grade. However, everyone can be a good test taker. Studies have shown frequent test taking has been shown to reduce test anxiety and build confidence in the student.

So how do you become good at taking tests? Some of the best tips you’ve already read in the above article. If you show up to class, take good notes, participate, do your homework, and study you’re 90% of the way there. A student who does those things is confident, a confident student does well when tested because they are prepared and informed. The other 10% is being physically ready. Get a good night’s sleep. Eat a healthful meal and stay hydrated. Relax and take deep breaths through the exam. Slowing down allows you to read each question carefully.

When the test is over, I want you to forget about it. Don’t mull over questions and answers because it does you no good. Don’t worry about how you did. Be at peace and move on.


Sensei Side Note:

If you noticed I didn’t title this post, The Top Secrets To Getting Straight A’s or a 4.0 In College. There’s a reason why. I personally don’t think straight A’s are necessary and they oftentimes can do more harm than good. The stress and anxiety that comes with trying to obtain or maintain a 4.0 can be too much. Especially, if you are going to college the, Your College Sensei way.