Getting Straight A’s in College
by Katherine J. Chen
Back in high school, you were at the top of your graduating class. Getting straight A’s at the end of each term was no problem. Maybe you didn’t even study that hard. While others were floundering in British Literature, you were receiving A’s on every single paper.
Now, you are in college. Again, you find yourself in a British Literature course that others tell you shouldn’t be that challenging since it is only a 200-level class. The grade distribution is as follows: 75% for four essays, 10% on a midterm, and 15% on a final exam. The first essay is due in a few days, but you leave it to the night before.
“No sweat,” you think to yourself. Everything should be fine. You have kept up with the reading, and you have participated in class. The professor seems to like you, and in short, you have nothing to worry about. The next day, you hand your essay in on time.
A week later, you get it back with written comments and a grade. You skip all the little notes scribbled in the margins to the last page where a big fat C is circled in red pen. After hyperventilating for a few minutes, you return to your room and resolve to argue it out with your professor the next day.
In college, the academic standards will be inevitably higher. Quite frankly, you can’t expect to receive the same grades as you did in high school without putting in a considerable amount of work. The following tips are aimed at getting you to think in the right way about what kind of work you should be putting in to start securing those elusive A’s.
1. In college, effort doesn’t really count the same way it did in high school. No matter how many times you visit your professor during office hours to discuss how your essay can be improved, the only thing that will matter in the end is the paper that sits on his desk. He won’t consider how many days you spent wracking your brain for a strong thesis. The only object of interest to him is the content of the paper and the quality of those five or six pages. What can you do in such a case? Have others read your paper and share their thoughts. A strong paper is, at the end of the day, a strong paper. Your professor may not agree with you, but if you support your conclusions, he will have to give you credit where it is due. Be conscious of what you are handing in, and make sure that every single paper you submit is your best work.
2. Manage your time well. A’s don’t just appear out of thin air. Actively participate in class. Don’t reserve all of your questions to private office hours. The classroom is meant for collaboration among students, and participation will usually count for at least a percentage of your final grade. Why be the one sulking in the corner of the room when you could be an active force in the classroom?
3. Attend as many lectures as possible. This point really can’t be stressed enough. If you have lecture three times a week, go to every single one. Lectures form the basis of a course. Even if you complete all three hundred pages of reading each week, that won’t replace the lessons being taught by your instructors during lecture.
The most important point to take away from all of this is that effort counts in a different way on the college level than in high school. Standards are continually being raised, especially with grade deflation now being instituted at a number of highly respected universities. The focus should be on the product, not on the hard work and the hours spent staring into an empty Word document. An essay can earn an A+, if it has the right concept and all the appropriate supporting material. But some things are still the same: Go to class, attend lectures, listen and participate in the classroom, and your hard work is sure to pay off in the end.