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Adventures in Dole-land: 7 harsh truths that will make you a better student

We offer you some serious advice on how to up your grades…

2.     How to get straight A’s with (relatively) little effort as written by a former C student.

Sleep, check Social life, remedy Good grades – pick 2 out of three – it’s a well-known maxim about college that good grades require sacrifices, either to your social life or your sleep pattern (a more accurate maxim would be Sleep, Social life, Grades, Job but who am I to mess with a tried and true rule of college life?)

Well I say sod that, you can have your cake and eat it too.

Now let’s get down to business; making it happen.

  1. Do you really want good grades?

Ask yourself do you really want good grades?  Picture what your life would be like with that nice well paid job or internship.  Or if you’re an arts student just imagine how the job market is going to chew you up and spit you out if all you manage to show for your years of college is bad grades in something not job-applicable (no, transferrable skills do not count).

If you don’t want it then you won’t put in the effort.

  1. Ass to class

Obvious enough but many people are too lazy to do it – remember:  80% of success in life is showing up.

Try sit at the front of the class – Not only will you learn better by being able to actually hear your lecturer but you will also feel instantly younger by being the only non-mature student sitting in your row.

  1. Do you like what you are studying?

If you don’t like what you are studying then you need to take a long look at yourself and ask why you are here.

Do you hate what you are studying but trudge on in the hope of a well-paid job? – Well more than likely you will not only be bored in your field of work but you will also be very bad at it too.

Are you studying a less job oriented subject (aka most humanities subjects) and find yourself hating it? – Then why are you wasting your time studying it?

  1. Have you looked at the past-papers yet?

I started looking at the past papers on day 1. Did I understand half of what was written on them?

Nope.

Could I attempt to answer any of the questions?

No, not really.

What they did do was allow me to pick up important details though – things like what topics repeatedly come up on exams, what kind of questions are usually asked and what style of questions the lecturer asks?

Y’know, the things the lecturers actually grade us on.

  1. Writing an essay – let your lecturer help you

Now I’m not proposing you let your lecturer write your essay for you (although that would be great) but essay writing is a very subjective field – I think most essay writers have had the experience of having an essay they felt was great only to receive a poor grade and vice versa (the best essay I ever wrote was the one I got the worst grade on).

That’s why I like to meet with my lecturers and discuss what they want from my essays so there is no doubt that I deliver exactly what the assignment asks for.

  1. Form a study group

Studying alone can be boring – why not bring a few friends?

One of the best decisions I made was to arrange a study group.  Not only do I have a group of people to help me if I am stuck on a problem but I also learn by teaching them if they are stuck on something that I know. Another advantage is that it is easier to work on past-papers that you don’t have the solutions for as if the whole study group is getting the same answer then you are probably on the right track. If you can trust yourselves to not get too distracted with chit-chat then study groups can be a fantastic use of time.

Studying alone is hard; it’s easy to get distracted and dry textbooks can make for tough reading, but with a group things can be more interesting.

  1. When in doubt – seek help

If you are having trouble with something then makes sure you seek out help in it ASAP. If you find your lecturer confusing then use the book, if the book is confusing go see the lecturer after class (not enough people do this). For maths related problems there is the maths support centre, for essays there is essay writing clinic, economics has a drop in centre and so does computer science etc…

Remember if you are stuck that Google is your friend.

  1. Ask questions in class

Let me make this clear – I hate asking question in class but it’s really useful. A quick question to clarify something the lecturer said can save hours of work later.

9. Study a little bit

You still have to do a bit of study, stay up to date on your readings and don’t let it all pile up and if possible try to get the most of the reading/research for an essay done in the quieter period of the semester. I had no midterms or assignments in the first 4 weeks so I got most of the work done for an assignment due in week 12 worth 60% of one of my courses.

  1. Plan your semester

Work smart, not hard.

Make sure you put a lot of consideration into the modules you pick. If you know you will have a lot of modules with essays then maybe consider picking something that isn’t essay based.

Also some courses offer modules where most of the work is done over summer and these are a great opportunity to spread out your workload. I managed to get most of a 10 credit module done over the summer so I effectively have 5 modules both semesters.

Choose your modules carefully – try to get people’s opinions on courses and how hard they are and if you take a module that seems too difficult and if you can drop it, then do so.

Little things I don’t do

I don’t look at my notes often. I just take them because it forces me to pay attention in class – 99% of the time the course slides/textbook is a better source of information.

I don’t bring a laptop to class (I don’t actually own a computer) as the temptation to procrastinate would be too much.

I don’t drink – not sure how much this helps my grades but I do tend to get 7-8 hours of sleep most nights.

Best of luck with the upcoming midterms – remember caffeine is your friend and the answer to Q3 on the upcoming MCQ is C.

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