Tuesday, October 03, 2006
Ten Ways to Get A's in College
The Washington Post summarizes 10 tips to get A's in college starting with the first day of class.

Keeping a good GPA will both help a student maintain scholarships and qualify for upperclass ones. And that helps reduce loan debt.

As for the tips, some of these are intuitive, but 3, 4, and 9 aren't something that I've heard often. And 5 is something most people don't do, but should.

  1. Show up the first day and pay attention, and if you don't like a course, drop it fast and pick another one. This can help you get out of a mismatch between expectations and reality.
  2. Don't load up on easy courses to increase your supply of A's. Taking an occasional basket-weaver, however, is acceptable. I like to tell people that my school loved the liberal arts so much that we had both Slacker Physics AND Physics for Poets. ("Explain how the impending heat death of the universe makes you feel.")
  3. Don't shy away from courses with lots of papers. It helps avoid "exam cram" at midterms. Besides, EVERYONE needs to learn how to write well.
  4. Don't give up if they say the course you want is booked up . Appeal to the professor's vanity, if necessary.
  5. Use office hours intelligently, and often . This is especially useful when developing a draft of one's paper. Also, the professors with whom you build a rapport are the best resort for recommendation letters later.
  6. Go to lectures and take notes yourself. Anybody else's notes might leave out important details or even the entire structure of the lecture.
  7. Use section meetings for more than identifying attractive classmates . In undergrad, I had almost none of these, since our classes were so small. But it can help to talk with a TA if you are confused.
  8. Find some old exams in the course . A lot of these are simply put on course reserve.
  9. Before you start work on your paper, do the analysis in your head. Fresh analysis comes from thought experiments, before note-taking and background research even start.
  10. If you challenge a grade, be careful. Unless the grader really missed something, this is usually wasted effort and a quick way to burn bridges.

Happy studying.



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