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How to Get the Grade at College

Updated on September 11, 2016
Time for study. What you do with it can make a big difference.
Time for study. What you do with it can make a big difference.

1. Be True to Yourself

What does that mean? Sounds pretty abstract, right?

Actually it's the most important thing you should do. It means knowing who you are, your likes and dislikes. It means knowing that your major fits and it's important enough to you to withstand all pressures that may steer you away from your goal.

Tip: Write your purpose down as a life's mission statement.

Meditation exercise: Actually visualize yourself using your newly learned skills in a physical setting. What are you doing?

Now write your life's mission statement. For example: I am dedicated to being the best (fill in with your occupation title) possible, to promote harmony through (name your work), and serve the greatest good for (name the type of people or group you're serving).

Type that statement and place it where you will see it daily to remind yourself to stay focused. You are not just at college to experience dorm life, but have a reason for being there that will set your course for life.

~~~~ ~~~~ ~~~~ ~~~~ My Life's Mission ~~~~ ~~~~ ~~~~ ~~~~

I AM DEDICATED TO BEING THE BEST (name your future occupation's title), TO PROMOTE HARMONY THROUGH (name your work or field) AND SERVE THE GREATEST GOOD FOR (name whom or what you will be serving).


2. Follow Your Biorhythm

You may be asking, "My what?"

Biorhythms are the cycles that naturally occur in your body. Simply put, some people are morning or "day" people, while others are more productive later in the day or evening. Schedule your courses accordingly.

Know your sleep and alertness patterns. Respect these cycles by going to bed at the same time daily, having meals at regular hours, and setting aside times for study outside of the lecture rooms.

The most efficient study periods last about 90 minutes to allow the brain to absorb new concepts, analyze them, and store information for later use. These periods are alternated with physical exercise of some sort (walking is basic) and fresh air.

One's alertness and performance rises and falls in cycles, known as biorhythm. It is helpful to be aware of these and keep a regular schedule.
One's alertness and performance rises and falls in cycles, known as biorhythm. It is helpful to be aware of these and keep a regular schedule. | Source
Audio input can be an effective tool for learning.
Audio input can be an effective tool for learning. | Source

3. Know Your Learning Style

Some students are audio learners, others are visual, yet others need hands-on work to understand a concept. Note-taking is a form of hands-on to the extent it uses fine motor skills. Do you remember things better associating facts with music? Are you blessed with a photographic memory? If you're not sure what works for you, find out and use this to your advantage when studying. A good professor will try to incorporate different presentation techniques to aid students' learning.

If you're not sure of your learning style, a five-minute test with 24 questions can be found at Edutopia online.

Class Tab Topics for Your Notebook

  • Assignments
  • Vocabulary
  • Lecture Notes
  • Reading Notes
  • Questions
  • Graded items

Whether you use a physical notebook or a computer program, such as Microsoft Office, you will want to organize your class materials into the sections listed above. Keep each class separately. For example, you don't want to put your Physics lecture notes into information on your Humanities class.

Approaching your study time with this type of organization will enrich your studies.

4. Get Organized

In addition to procuring the materials and textbooks you need for your classes, you're going to want to organize all the new information you are receiving from those classes.

Whether you use a physical organizer, such as tabs in your notebook, or a computer program, such as Microsoft Office, keep track of what you receive in an organized fashion. The suggested topics at the right are very useful. As you progress in your studies, such as your junior or senior year, you may want to add a couple of topics, such as "Outside Reading" and "Lab Notes" or "Research Notes."

Let's take a look at each topic to see why it's important and how best to use it.


This will be either a planner sheet or calendar where you will make a note about the type of assignment expected and date due. The tool you use can either be physical or technological, such as a cell phone calendar or other mobile device.

You may put all your class assignments in one place or have a separate place for each class for assignments only.


For each class, you will encounter major terms which are a must to know, as well as words with which you are unfamiliar. Jot these down, look them up in a dictionary or your textbook, and make a note of the definition. Vocabulary words are tools in understanding your subject.

My high school English instructor had an excellent method of learning vocabulary words. We used a plain 8 1/2" X 11" paper and folded it into eighths. These were separated and became flash cards for vocabulary. Every time we came across a word unknown, we were to write it on the slip of paper, include the word's definition, and, on the back of the slip, jot down sentences we encountered using the word. Our instructor claimed that once we had used a word three times 'it became ours." Index cards can be substituted for the paper slips.


When the professor gives a lecture in class, you can bet the concepts and information presented will be tested. It's important to keep good notes. This may be accomplished in several different ways, such as follows:

  1. write down key words, not sentences as topics are discussed
  2. use a shorthand or speed writing method for notes
  3. record the lecture with an audio recorder
  4. barter or purchase notes from another classmate

With online courses, note taking is much easier and almost unnecessary because you can play a recorded lecture repeatedly.

Highlighters are wide tipped and come in a variety of colors that can be useful for making key points on notes or reading material easy to find.
Highlighters are wide tipped and come in a variety of colors that can be useful for making key points on notes or reading material easy to find.


The class textbook will have information not presented in class lectures. Because reading was assigned, the professor will expect you to know the information covered in the text.

Two common methods for reading notes are:

1. Outlining

2. Highlighting (if you own the textbook or have a photocopy of the reading material)

3. Summarizing

Tip: The first sentence of a paragraph gives the topic of the paragraph. Supporting ideas follow in the next sentences. The final sentence concludes and often summarizes the key points.


Occasionally you will come across a concept that, no matter how many times you've read it, will make no sense. When this happens, write your question down with a reference to the textbook page number or lecture date so you can have the professor clarify the idea either in class or during one of his appointed office hours. Take care of questions as soon as possible. A missed concept can cause difficulty in progressing with the class.

The Grading System

Do your best and strive for the "A." Keep your graded items for review.
Do your best and strive for the "A." Keep your graded items for review. | Source


These may include quizzes, essays, and tests. Keep them. They will be useful when reviewing for a final test. Also, these help point out missed concepts that you may wish to review with your instructor before proceeding to a new lesson.

5. Attend Classes

This may seem too obvious to mention, but many students skip classes, which can easily result in a poor overall grade. If you absolutely must skip a class, be sure to arrange to get class notes from another student who attends class regularly. Make this arrangement before actually missing the class, if possible.

6. Meet with the Professor

Take advantage of the professor's office hours and make an appointment to speak with him about questions you have about the class. Not only does this clear misunderstandings, but establishes a personal rapport, which can help put you at ease in the classroom setting. The professor will remember you as a serious student who is trying to do his best. This may be a factor when making a decision about a borderline grade.

7. Study in Group Settings

Take advantage of help rooms on campus where tutors volunteer their time on tough subjects. Math, for example, is one subject that often has a corresponding help room.

You might also team with one or more students from your class to work on a project or study together. This is a great way of sharing ideas that put things into a perspective which you might not have realized. A companion or group effort also reinforces focus, which can be a real boost to successfully passing the class.

Help rooms with volunteer tutors are available at many universities.
Help rooms with volunteer tutors are available at many universities. | Source

8. Test Preparation

Finals can be a chore, but if you've been attending classes, taking notes, doing your reading, and turning in assignments, a moderate review of concepts will establish your confidence when actually taking the test the next day.

Your review should take the professor's point of view into consideration. What things would you ask if you were the professor?

Tip: Make a mock test using fill-in-the-blanks, multiple choice, true or false, and essay questions. Take your mock test the night before the actual testing and review it five minutes before class.

9. Maintain Your Health

Nothing can replace regular sleep hours (6-9 hours, depending upon the individual) and physical exercise (30 minutes, 3-4 times per week minimum). Diet and a sufficient amount of pure water (1/2 oz per pound of body weight) are also important. Your bloodstream carries the fuel your brain needs to function.

Foods that support memory are blueberries, deep-water fish or wild salmon (if you eat fish), and nuts and seeds that are rich in omega-3 fatty acids. The herb Ginkgo biloba aids memory. Some supplement manufacturers offer blends that aid brain function. These are now available in many grocery stores at a reasonable cost. It's your choice as to whether you wish to make such supplements part of your lifestyle. When in doubt, consult a physician during your next regular checkup.


10. Time Management

Plan your class schedule and blocks of study time outside the classroom to best suit your needs. Next, you allow for personal hygiene, meals, and exercise.

During my college years, I got a lot of exercise just walking to and from classes. I never rode the student buses. I also made sure to take a physical education class each term (or semester) to make sure I got some exercise away from the books.

Whether you need extra income or not, it is good to work part-time while going to school. The work habit develops a momentum, and the increased activity rolls over onto your study habits; you actually become more efficient with your time.

An Interview of Students Who Work


A few times a month, engaging in social interests through clubs and meetings helps round you out as an individual. When you've satisfied what I call the "love plume" or "pink ray" of your being, you are happy and do well with studies because you're approaching them with a healthy disposition. There are clubs, organizations, and activities for nearly every interest on student campuses.

A Final Pep Talk

You have absolutely no reason for under achievement. Following the basic steps I have outlined will set a healthy course for your student life. Undoubtedly, you'll make some mistakes along the way, but mistakes are fine as long as you learn from them and don't make too many.

Above all, enjoy your studies. Like other events in life, it only occurs for a time and then the experience is done. Make your time and efforts count. If you do, you'll have developed a self discipline that will carry you through life and you'll be a balanced, happy individual doing so.

A Question to Answer

Do you find the suggestions outlined in this article helpful?

See results

© 2014 Marie Flint


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    • Writer Fox profile image

      Writer Fox 4 years ago from the wadi near the little river

      This is a wonderful checklist for college success. The importance of healthy eating habits and getting enough sleep cannot be over-emphasized. Enjoyed and voted up!

    • Marie Flint profile image

      Marie Flint 4 years ago from Jacksonville, Florida USA

      Thank you for the read and comment, Cecile. You've been wonderful to me that way lately. I do hope your son will find inspiration and direction in this life-experience article. Blessings!

    • cecileportilla profile image

      Cecile Portilla 4 years ago from West Orange, New Jersey

      Great tips Marie. When I was in college I found study groups and meeting frequently with professors to be very helpful. I will have my son read this hub. Hopefully he will apply your suggestions.

    • Marie Flint profile image

      Marie Flint 4 years ago from Jacksonville, Florida USA

      Note: Unlinked photos are my own work.

      My elder daughter, with whom I reside, is studying Computer Software Development in hopes of a career change. Her activity brings back memories of my own college days, and responses to a Hub Pages survey question resulted in several people regretting not attending college either right after high school or before getting married. So, college is definitely a topic of interest even today.

      The outline for this article is based on memories of my own college experience. At the time, I wished I had had a good counselor or mentor. College just wasn't "in" for women from my hometown area during the time I attended.

      I know now more than I knew then. The higher paying jobs require a degree. In fact, I would recommend at least a master's for today's competitive job market.

      So, if you're college bound, these tips will help you. They work.

      Wishing you every success in your endeavors, --Marie