Spring semester starts tomorrow and I thought I’d reflect on last semester in order to prepare for this one. Not going to lie, I’m pretty proud of myself. I managed to pull off A’s in all seven of my classes (albeit two of them were technically an “A-“, but that’s fine by me). However, I was sure that my GPA would plunge into a pit of despair when finals rolled around. In high school, I wasn’t a genius. Sure, I took a few AP and IB classes, but I always ended up with a B somewhere on my report card. I was ready to take a hit in college. People always say, “the average college student’s GPA tends to drop by X percent during the first semester blah blah,” and I was ready for that. But I got my act together, and here’s how I did it:
- My room was (semi) organized
Everything in my room had its place. My books were on the bottom shelf, my wallet was in the front pocket of my backpack, my jeans were hung on the bottom rack, etc. This enabled me to know exactly where everything was at all times. Was my room always clean? Of course not. But I put everything where it belonged, which helped me be efficient when getting ready to leave my room in the morning at 8:30, as well as being efficient when doing work at night.
- I kept a planner
I wrote down everything- assignments, activities, days off, breaks, “to do” lists… All of these things created a visual game plan. I knew what days I would be swamped with work and which days I could go off campus with friends. I was also a little motivated by seeing winter break slowly approaching with every turn of the page. A planner was necessary, especially since I sleep for about 5-6 hours a day. Exhaustion mixed with a dependence on coffee = a questionable memory.
- I figured out how to study
I’m not going to sit here and pretend that I’m perfect. I’ll admit that one of my Music Theory quizzes was bad. Really bad. Seeing that grade tarnish my otherwise excellent track record gave me a wake up call. I wasn’t studying enough and I wasn’t studying efficiently (here we are with the whole “efficiency” thing again, see a pattern now?). I found out that writing the material and making my own flashcard set on quizlet helped me retain the information the most. I also benefitted from group study sessions. My friends and I would sit in a coffee shop (addiction confirmed) until midnight teaching each other the material that we didn’t understand. Friends + studying (+ coffee) = best of both worlds.
- I went to office hours
Don’t be afraid to go to your professor’s office hours. I was scared at first because I thought for sure that he’d be judge me for being behind in material that I should’ve already known in the first place (memorize your Circle of Fifths, kids). I go to a small school…and I’m a music major…so there’s like 8 people in my class (no joke), and I knew I was the only one not getting it. But he was actually really understanding about all of it. He said I was doing fine in every other part of the class, which was a huge relief, but he basically advised me to try harder (please see the previous point). Professors want to help you because they want to see you succeed. Going to office hours also shows them that you’re trying to do well. You can even bring a friend for support if you’re nervous (I did). I understood it eventually and I turned one horrendous quiz grade into an excellent final grade.
- I went to class and did the work
This should be a no-brainer, but it needs to be said. Go to class! Do your homework! You are not paying thousands of dollars to party all night and sleep in the next morning (unless you’re an athlete… :p ), so just go. I only skipped three (different) classes the whole semester, and you bet my professors noticed. Music Theory only had 8 people in it, so he was going to notice. Even if you could “get away with it”, don’t skip. Being present for the material and building a good reputation with your professor is what will get you an A. And finally, do the work. Turn in quality assignments on time and take all the extra credit you can get. Even if you think you don’t need it, it’ll be a nice little cushion for you just in case you have to miss class once (and go to Halloween Horror Nights #sorrynotsorry).
I hope these tips can give you some ideas about how you can be successful in college. I learned my lesson, so hopefully you won’t have to!
Stay classy (and go to class!),