How to Improve Your Grades

Whether you’re working toward your high school diploma or your Ph.D., grades are important. They matter on transcripts, they matter to other schools, and they matter when you’re applying for a job or internship. It’s always best to make a good first impression, and employers or colleges often look to grades as an indicator of how successful a prospective candidate will be. If you’re interested in knocking your grades up a few notches, read on.

The first and last piece of advice given to people wanting to improve their grades is usually, “try your best.” Trying your best is perfectly fine, but what if it only nets you a C average? In some cases, trying your best may not be the best advice. The good news is that there will always be several options at your disposal if you want better grades. If you’ve been working hard and still aren’t seeing results, try following any or all of the following five tips for improvement.

#1: Make sure you’re the one who wants to make the grade.

All too often, we find ourselves working too hard to please other people. Parents, teachers, friends—certainly, and understandably, their opinions all matter to us, and we want to do well for them. Stop and think for a moment about why you want better grades. Is it because you personally really want them, or is it because your parents want you to have them—or because you’re comparing yourself to others? Is it really you who wants the better grades? If not, then think about why. The best and most effective motivation can only come from yourself.

#2: Change your study habits.

How do you study now? Is it at the library, with total silence and no breaks or interruptions until all your work’s finished? Or is it at home, with the TV mumbling in the background and Instant Messenger at the forefront of your computer? There are advantages and disadvantages to every study environment and method, and yours just may not be working for you. Try a change in scenery—if you normally study at home, go to a coffee shop or even a friend’s room. Organize your notes differently. If you’re used to making charts or graphs, try turning them into spreadsheets or creating big tables on a chalkboard. If you normally just read back over your notes, try rewriting or highlighting. Think about creating acronyms or drawing pictures to remember things. You might retain a lot more information, and find that it didn’t even take too much effort.

#3: Try using a tutor or study buddy.

Many people are terrible at self-motivation. They won’t exercise unless they have a friend to exercise with, and they won’t keep their New Year’s Resolutions unless someone is checking up on them. If you can’t study without someone else goading you, then find someone to help! Send out an email to your classes asking if anyone is interested in a study buddy. If you can’t find anyone, track down a person who you know is good at the subject matter you’re working on and ask him or her to tutor you once or twice a week. If you can afford to pay, then great, but if not, see if you can work out an even exchange of goods or services. With someone else with you every step of the way, you’ll get a lot more work done than you ever thought you could.

#4: Think about whether the classes you’re taking are right for you.

If you’re having so much trouble with that organic chemistry class, why did you decide to take it in the first place? If you knew you didn’t get along with that English professor, why did you go ahead and sign up for the class anyway? Sometimes, course plans are flexible. If it’s early in the term and you’re not required to take the class you’re struggling with, see if you can drop it. If it’s a requirement, things are a little trickier, but you still have options. Are there other sections of the class, or other levels? Does the same teacher or professor handle all of them? If you can, try switching. Just like how students have different learning styles, teachers and professors have different teaching styles, and sometimes learning from someone else can make all the difference.

#5: Talk to your teacher or professor.

Teachers and professors aren’t just there to teach classes and give out homework; they’re there to help you learn. If you find yourself having difficulty with a particular class, schedule an appointment with your teacher or professor. Tell him or her about the trouble you’re having, and about what you’ve tried so far to fix it (hopefully, you’ve already tried at least a couple of things). Then listen to what s/he has to say. Teachers and professors know that their classes aren’t easy for everyone, and they also know how to help. They can explain difficult concepts, suggest tutors or study groups, and guide you toward other resources that might make their class less of a struggle for you. Just make the effort to schedule that original appointment, and any one of the suggestions you receive could add up to a better grade.

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