Successful in School
You probably have that one student in your class that you secretly envy. They ace any assignment and any exam, and they make it seem so effortless!
Behind the curtain, however, it’s anything but effortless. The truth is, successful students aren’t born this way. They have to work hard to get the best grades.
This should be good news for you, though. It means that successful students aren’t an exclusive club that you have to be lucky to get into. You can become a stellar student yourself by following these nine simple rules.
Whatever you need to do, if you want to do it well, it takes time. But making time for homework and exam prep always means one thing: you need to prioritize. In other words, you’ll have to choose to study over having fun multiple times.
And it’s not just that. To study productively, you should know how to prioritize different assignments, classes, and exam preparations.
Imagine you have a paper to write, and you know it’ll be a breeze because you’re confident in the topic. But you also have a difficult test to prepare for, and that’ll take you hours. You should ask yourself, “Can I pay someone to write my paper?” and offload the easy task. This way, you’ll have more free time to focus on closing that knowledge gap.
If you put off studying for that exam because you “don’t feel like it,” you might end up waiting for motivation for hours or even days. And it might never even grace you with its presence!
Motivation and inspiration are great, but successful students don’t rely on them. Instead, they:
- Plan study sessions and stick to a schedule;
- Maintain to-do lists and write down their goals;
- Create a routine that helps them get focused;
- Know they need to get started, with no excuses or “five more minutes.”
If you’ve tried to become disciplined and it didn’t work out, creating a reward system can be another way to get yourself to study. The rules are simple: once you do X, you’ll get Y or do Z.
There are two basic principles you should keep in mind when thinking about rewards:
- They should be proportional to the task you’ve completed. If you spend 15 minutes reading the textbook and then reward yourself with a 50-minute episode of a TV show, it’s counterproductive.
- They have to be valuable enough for you. Otherwise, they won’t get you to study.
Writing a 20-page paper on a topic you barely know is an intimidating task. It’s no wonder why it can be hard to start working on it.
To get rid of this fear, don’t add “write a 20-page paper” to your to-do list. Instead, turn this colossal task into more manageable steps and spread them over several days.
Here’s what it would look like for the example above:
- Do your research on the topic;
- Make a plan for the paper;
- Write the section 1, 2, and so on;
- Proofread and edit the essay.
Of course, you can type a lot faster than writing by hand. But that’s the pitfall: you’re more likely to just type sentences verbatim without processing what you hear. As a result, you won’t retain as much information as when you wrote it down concisely.
There are plenty of note-taking systems you can try, with these three ones being the most popular:
- The outline method: write down the key points in a bulleted or numbered list;
- The Cornell method: divide each page into three sections – the main one (notes themselves), the cues (questions and keywords), and the summary.
- The mind map method: write the main concept in the center of the page and add nodes (key points, characteristics, etc.) around it.
After every single day of studying, dedicate some time to reviewing your notes and the material from the day. Ask yourself, “What have I learned today?” and write down the answers or say them out loud.
Besides that, make it a point to test yourself. You can find quizzes on the topic online and do them or ask yourself questions listed in the textbook. Either way, you’ll be able to easily identify what you know well and what you need to go back to.
Distractions will eat up your time and undermine your productivity. So, you need to take care of them before they even have a chance to throw you off the track. And to do that, you need to watch yourself and reflect on what usually distracts you from studying.
As to the how of getting rid of distractions, that depends on the distraction itself. Here’s how you can counter the most common ones:
- Install impulse blockers to prevent you from procrastinating online;
- Put away your phone far away (into your backpack or another room, for example);
- Turn on the “Do Not Disturb” and/or silent mode on your phone;
- Study together with someone else – they’ll hold you accountable if you slack off.
Cramming is synonymous with being a student. But it’s hardly a good way to become a successful one. You won’t have enough time to do a quality job on exam prep or homework, so you won’t be able to get good grades.
Besides, cramming is fine for short-term information retention, but it doesn’t help you remember what you’ve learned in the long run. This happens because:
- There’s just too much information – it overloads the brain;
- You don’t get enough sleep – this is when information is committed to long-term memory.
Since life can be unpredictable sometimes, always plan to finish your homework a day or several in advance, too. This way, you’ll have extra time if you fall sick or have a family emergency, for example.
There’s no way you’re doing a good job studying if you stayed up 3 nights in a row. If you don’t take care of your body, you’ll have trouble concentrating, retaining information in the long run, and being productive.
Here’s what a healthy lifestyle means in practice:
- Be physically active. You don’t have to hit the gym every day – a 20-minute walk can be enough.
- Get enough sleep. Make sure you get your eight hours of quality, uninterrupted sleep. Don’t sacrifice it.
- Make time for rest. Maintain a healthy study-life balance – otherwise, you risk burning out.
These nine principles are just the tip of the iceberg. Here are five other rules that can help anyone ace their grades:
- Analyze and learn from your mistakes;
- Ask questions, both in class and when you study on your own;
- Ask for feedback and learn from it;
- Have a dedicated study space – and keep it organized;
- Remember to take breaks (ideally, 5-10 minutes every half an hour).
If there’s one thing you remember from reading this piece, let it be this: you don’t have to be born smart to become a stellar student. Studying isn’t an innate talent; it’s a skill you can build if you commit to doing that.
Successful students ace their grades because they study hard. So, if you want to see your grades improve, get organized, become disciplined, and keep grinding.