Tips to up your game and get the grade

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Senior elementary education major, Amy Fairbank, takes time on a Sunday morning to plan her week ahead.  "It's easier to keep track of my schoolwork if I take time to plan everything out at the beginning of each week," she says. | Photo by Kelley Joe Brumfield
Senior elementary education major, Amy Fairbank, takes time on a Sunday morning to plan her week ahead. “It’s easier to keep track of my schoolwork if I take time to plan everything out at the beginning of each week,” she says. | Photo by Kelley Joe Brumfield

Starting college is never an easy task. Whether one is a freshman, a transfer student or a senior months away from graduating, one can always dream of a beautiful 4.0 GPA stamped on his or her transcript.

Now that I am a senior, I realized how lazy I was as a cheeky freshman who bought a planner for its cute cover and not for its inside powers. I was always the person who was struggling to stay awake in Cook Library the night before a History 101 exam.

  For my first semester of college, I finished with a 3.2 GPA. Not too shabby for my first round, but I knew I could do better. Little did I know my academic wisdom would improve and I would realize that good grades are typically centered on one important factor: productivity. Be proactive and get your work done. But, it’s easier said than done right?

If your study habits are not boosting you on the Dean’s List, here are a few tips that helped me improve my GPA and still gave me relaxation time.

A planner is your best friend.

Everyone should have a planner. Between classes and social life, it is impossible to remember deadlines, assignments and exam dates. Quite frankly, why are you exhausting your brain by fishing around in there for times and dates? Do yourself a favor and buy a planner from the bookstore and write every assignment and exam due date. Men, it’s not weird if you carry around a planner. The bookstore sells plain black ones to match your manliness. If I did not have a planner, I would be that person running around like a scatter-brained chicken. An agenda helps you stay organized and prepare for your week ahead of time.

Balance is key.

For the time you spend shopping for a perfect outfit, shotgunning beers on your porch or having a movie night with friends, spend the same amount of time studying and completing academic tasks. Not everyone may agree with this, but I believe it works. Everything in life should be done in moderation, just like how many trips you take to Taco Bell a week. Work hard and feel good about yourself; then go blow off some steam for a job well done.

Always plan for future semesters.

Do not wait to plan your spring semester classes until December. Think now of what classes to take for next semester. Some problems may arise such as a class you need to graduate is not offered in the spring, so you will have to add it to your schedule for next fall. Always prepare and take at least 12-15 hours every semester. A victory lap sounds like fun, but it is not so glamorous when your tuition check rolls in the mail. Then you suddenly realize your scholarship only lasted four years.

Ask for help when you need it.

Take advantage of the people in your classes. I do not mean copying their work or always asking for a copy of their notes. Most of the time, students want study partners who can benefit them in some way. Be nice to people around you and suggest studying together for the next exam. A study party is definitely more fun than a party with just you and your textbook.

Discover your study habits.

Every student learns and retains information differently. Find a way to study that benefits you. I did not find a good method until my sophomore year. When I study, I will take good notes in class beforehand and go over them every night before a test. If I have an exam next week, I still review at least four nights before an exam. According to USA Today College, scientific studies show that the key to real learning is from the process of revisiting material repeatedly. If you develop good study habits now, it will benefit you in the long run.

Reward yourself.  Once you receive that first A on an exam, jump for joy, hug your professor (don’t really) and treat yourself. It can be as simple as buying yourself a chocolate chip frappuccino or rewarding yourself with that top from your favorite boutique. Giving yourself a pat on the back builds your motivation to keep achieving higher grades.

These techniques helped me achieve a 3.8 semester GPA for spring 2014 and an overall 3.5 GPA. No, I will not graduate Summa Cum Laude, but I will graduate with honors and remember the four great years I have spent at USM. That’s good enough for me.