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How to Get and Maintain a 4.0 GPA as a College Freshman

Stressed about your college average? You are in the right place.

Photo: Unsplash

SO you are stressed about what your college average will be. Join the highly populated club.

Every high school teacher alive will use the threat, “just wait until you get in college,” striking extraordinary fear into all of us for the future.

But lucky for you, I’m here. I’m a senior in pursuit of both a BS AND a BA, meaning my habits needed to form nice and quickly out of necessity for the lab practicals, sit-down tests, essays, papers, and all the other stuff that needed to get done.

So I have formed a list, a sure-fire way to get the best average you possibly can, even a 4.0, and despite everything everyone has told you, it has more to do with habits and paying attention than it does with being the smartest person in the room.

Step 1. Make a Friend

This is extremely important, but not for your overall social life (though it may be an added benefit) Making a friend in each class is integral-it becomes a "late-night question", a "did he cancel class today," and even "this project is the worst’ buddy." For the moments when you miss information, or are feeling nervous, it sucks to have to email your professor every single time. So try to get a phone number the first or second day from someone else that seems reliable.

Step 2. Every Assignment, including homework, must be turned in AND ON TIME

No one quite gets the importance of this one. If you want to have a good average ZEROS CANNOT BE PLACED IN THAT CALCULATION. I have told all my friends always, “you can recovery from a 70 or a 60, but getting up from a 0 is extremely difficult.”

I’m not going to sit here and tell you that every assignment needs to be perfect. We get tired or frustrated and sometimes we just don’t feel like it. The most important thing is getting the assignment in. And look, we want the assignments to be high grades-the higher your essays and homework, the more wiggle room you have. However, just get it in if you are having a night.

And most professors deduct points for being a day late, the most common I’ve seen is ten points a day-that means you are failing after three days of being late. So even if it isn’t your best, it’s better than getting a 70 for your best work because it's three days late.

Step 3. Go to Class

You know that freedom-urge to miss class just because you can? Don’t. Most Professors deduct an entire letter grade for exceeding 1-3 absences. That means you can get over 6 points to your average just by showing up. Literally. Sitting in that chair will put you in an excellent place.

Step. 4 Listen While You are in Class.

I know this one sounds like your mother or middle school teacher, but you will save a monstrous amount of time studying if you pay attention to the best of your ability in class. But there’s a caveat, bringing me to step 5, and a very common mistake.

Step 5. Ignore the PowerPoint

You have no idea how many students I’ve seen write every single word down that’s on the board, not hearing a single one that is being said. Most PowerPoints are posted online for your convenience, and the Professors say the most important things. They create the exams primarily from their heads. Even stories Professors tell can make their ways to the exams, whether for short answer or extra credit and you want those points.

Do yourself a favor. If you are stressed about having all the information, have two notebooks or two pen colors. In class write down what the professor says and at home, take notes on the PowerPoint. But don’t sit and class and viciously write the “respiratory system” when you write “breath sys”

Both steps 4 and 5 are designed to maximize the efficiency of your time so you don’t spend any extra time studying. We are busy in college and if I want to go get food for five hours, I want to have the time. Onward!

Step 6. Figure Out How You Study

My best suggestion is colored pens and printer paper. I take all the colors, rewrite the notes so that the newness of the color sticks in my head, and draw pictures or diagrams when I can. I use printer paper so I’m less focused on getting in the lines than I am about matching the patterns of my brain-lines and arrows and gigantic pictures of kidneys or neurons. If it’s another way for you, that’s okay.

But the sooner you figure out how you need to study, the better. Index cards, colored pens, and even studying with someone and talking through notes are all great. Find yours and stick to it. And remember, it is not 'One Size Fits All.'

Step 7. Get a Planner

Don't tell me 'you'll just remember' because unless you have a photographic memory, you will 'just forget.' Get a planner and fill it our however it makes you comfortable. It will help make sure that everything runs smoothly and gets done on time.

Step 8. Tell the Professor BEFORE if You Need an Extension

Unlike high school, professors (most of them) are actually super chill about extensions. But not if you tell them day of. No professor in their right mind will look you, no project in hand on the due date, and tell you it’s fine. Because at this point, it’s late.

But if you are an athlete or have a huge show to perform in, you can ask the professor in advance for a day or two, and they will usually say yes.

This is not a privilege to abuse, so I’d suggest only once or twice for one professor, but keep in mind that this exists.

Step 9. Know When to Ask for Help

All these steps are well and good if you aren’t so frustrated that your brain is melting. Sometimes, the class is really hard, and it takes more than just these steps to stay on your A-game, literally.

Nearly all universities have both professor and student tutoring services. If you feel like you are reading a different language, get help. Sometimes an hour of clarification will save you 20 hours trying to figure it out on your own. Remember, the best A-Students get help when they need it.

You got this!


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