If you’re overwhelmed by the first few weeks of your classes, you may be thinking “What do I need to pass my class?” If you’re ambitious, you’re thinking not about how to pass, but how to ace courses. I always aimed for the A in my classes but I didn’t always get there!
Setting a concrete goal is one of the steps you need to take to pass or ace your classes this semester. College students can always use a few lifehacks to help make classes easier, so check out these 9 college tips on how to make the grade.
Pass or ace?
The truth is, you need a lot of the same skills for making the best of your classes, regardless of how high you’re aiming. Here are some that apply across the board:
1. Take classes you’re interested in. If you don’t want to be there, you’re less likely to do the work. This includes classes to “pad” your GPA. If you’re not interested, you probably won’t do as well in the class, and it might actually bring your GPA down!
2. Go to class. It sounds like a no brainer, but I know I was guilty of taking mental health days in courses where absences were allowed. The thing is, if you’re not in class, you miss all the material your prof is covering that isn’t in the textbook, as well as the discussion your peers have about that material. Being there means that you’re getting all the information, and you’re reinforcing it through conversation.
3. Read the syllabus. That way you know in advance how the class is structured and can plan your studying (and socializing) accordingly.
4. Be prepared for class. Read the material before you get there. Prepare questions to ask during class about whatever you didn’t understand in the material. Do not worry about looking dumb for asking a question—you’re probably not the only one who didn’t get it! Don’t skip lab work, either! That hands on experience is integral to the course.
5. Do the homework. In math or chemistry, that includes problem sets; in lit courses it might involve free writing about your thoughts. All of that feeds into how well you understand the material in class, in your papers and on the tests. Don’t look ahead for answers until you’ve got your own. That shortcut can block out your own problem solving or creative process.
6. Don’t cram for tests. Study throughout the semester and get a good night’s rest the night before the test instead. You’ll retain a lot more.
7. Be friends with someone who’s better at the subject than you are. If you find a peer who can help explain the day’s discussion in your psychology class, it could be that you can help them in organic chemistry. Hashing over the material with a friend, especially on the same day of class, can help get it in your head.
8. Be on good terms with your prof, and don’t be afraid to use office hours to cover something you didn’t understand during the class, or because you need guidance on a research project.
9. Work on writing, in every subject. Writing will be useful to you your whole life, whether it’s memos in an office, the description of a Kickstarter, or a letter to clients. It’s useful in all of your courses, too.
Don’t just pass your class, ACE it
Want to ace courses rather than just passing? There are a few extra mind changers for college students who want to make that A.
- Be responsible for your grade. You’re the only person responsible, so don’t blame a bad grade on a paper on the teacher. You can’t do anything about your prof, but you can work on your own performance.
- If you can, drop a class if you’re not doing well in it. I can remember the relief I felt when I dropped anthropology when I’d taken too many credits. I couldn’t handle the workload, and reducing by one class made a huge difference to my grade in all my other classes.
- Check out “The Straight-A Method: How to Ace College Courses” from Cal Newport’s blog. It’s an alternative way of thinking about studying that involves high level specific goal setting, organizing, structuring your schedule, and learning from your mistakes.