If you are struggling to balance your time between studying, a social life, and other activities while maintaining a high GPA then it is time to take a close look at your study habits. This article will focus on how you can become an excellent student without sacrificing everything else in your life.
Find out what motivates you
The first thing you should do is understand your driving force. Are you motivated by grades or the subject matter itself? Try to find the value and the curiosity in the classes and topics that you’re taking. This will help you stay interested in the material which can make it easier to absorb. If certain topics seem more difficult than others, look for ways to break down complex ideas into digestible parts so they won’t be overwhelming.
It’s also helpful to keep your big goal in mind when you’re trying to find the motivation to get you through times when you don’t feel like hitting the books. For example, you might want to look forward to the next milestone in your education or career after college. This could be getting accepted into law school or an MBA program, securing a lucrative job at a renowned company, or starting your own business in the near future.
Set goals that are achievable
It’s important to set high standards for your academic performance, but not have them be unrealistic. It’s feasible to try to improve your semester grade average by a full grade, but it might be more challenging to improve it more than that. So if your last semester’s grade average was a B-, a realistic goal would be to aim for an A- grade average for the classes you’re taking now. Your grades are the result of your habits, which can be hard to change overnight, so give yourself a realistic target.
Take care of your overall health
Your ability to study effectively, complete assignments, and perform well on tests hinges on your physical and mental health. If you’re sleep-deprived, hungry, or distracted by stress when studying for tests, it’s unlikely that you’ll do well on them.
Here are some practical tips on living a healthier lifestyle in college:
- Meal prep ahead of time so that you’re not tempted to reach for junk food frequently.
- Modify the night light settings on all your devices to turn on at 9 pm every evening so you can start to wind down before bed.
- Make an effort to exercise for at least 10 minutes every day. It can be as simple as a walk around the block, some yoga, or some basic functional exercises.
Make a study schedule that works for you
If you don’t schedule how you’re going to spend your time, you’re way more likely to end up doing something unproductive. One great trick is to set aside blocks of time within your calendar when you plan on studying or working on an assignment. This will help you stay on track and make sure that your time is being used effectively.
Another idea is to set up several alerts before a major project or exam. Set them up as both emails and phone notifications 6, 4, 2, and 1 week in advance. This will ensure that you have plenty of time to re-prioritize as needed, and so that you’re never blindsided by a deadline.
It’s also important to set your schedule well ahead of time. It can be very tempting to accept social events or feel like you can scroll through social media for hours on end if you don’t plan ahead. Also, as you progress through your college program, you’ll need to start thinking about things like side projects to beef up your portfolio, planning for internships, or studying for standardized tests for grad school applications. Don’t just consider what’s on your plate this semester – look at the road ahead as it relates to what you want to do next year and beyond.
Make an effort to minimize distractions
Avoiding distractions is key to staying on track. Shutting off your phone, lowering the volume on whatever’s playing in the background, and closing as many other browser tabs as you can are all good ideas.
It’s also a good idea to use distraction-blocking apps such as:
- Freedom – best for blocking distractions on all devices simultaneously
- LeechBlock – a free browser-based website blocker
- Forest – best for motivating you to put down your phone
Remember that when it comes to studying time, it’s quality over quantity that will get you the grades. It’s a lot better to study uninterrupted for two 30-minute blocks with a 10-minute break in between than try to spend three hours attempting to concentrate while checking your phone every time you get a notification.
Stay focused during class lectures and take thorough notes
It becomes very easy to get distracted during a lecture, especially when you’re sitting next to someone chatty, or next to your friends. A good tip to avoid distractions is to sit near the front of the lecture hall. Most people that sit closer to the professor tend to be prudent and focused, which will help you do the same.
Another tip to stay focused while listening to a lecture is to try and keep your mind on the topic at hand, to be present and in the moment, and not think about other classes or assignments. In other words, try to avoid multitasking.
Using a laptop during class can be helpful for taking notes and looking up course material. This is also helpful because you can easily edit your notes and have them in a centralized location, which makes the study process easier in the long run.
Review the lecture notes within a few hours after the lecture is over
It’s best to review your notes within 4 hours of the lecture. Most students don’t bother doing this, but it makes a big difference because you have a better chance of remembering and understanding the information later on if you review the most important prompts from the class.
Don’t be afraid to ask for help when you need it
Don’t be intimidated to ask your professor extra questions. They’re there for you and want you to succeed. Don’t let pride get in the way of asking for help because it’s not worth getting a mediocre grade over something that is entirely avoidable.
If you’re introverted or feel anxious about asking too many questions in front of your peers, be proactive about emailing your professor or visiting them during office hours so that you can get your questions addressed and deepen your understanding of the subject.
In summary, being a straight-A student is about studying smarter, not harder. You need to be able to set goals, establish what motivates you, and abide by a study schedule. Make sure that you make an effort to take care of your body and mind so you can study effectively. Lastly, avoid all distractions during lectures, review your notes afterward, and ask questions freely. You don’t have to study every waking moment – you just need to study with intent.
About the Author
Claire Westbrook is the founder of LSAT Prep Hero, a hub of free LSAT resources aimed to help aspiring law students ace the LSAT. She’s on a mission to help as many students feel prepared and confident in their academic endeavors.
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