In order to have a fun & successful first semester of college, you need to stay on top of your classes.
Getting good grades your first semester will help you get into the pre-professional club or internship of choice at the beginning of your second semester.
Here is how to Earn a 4.0 in Your First Semester of College:
1. Choose your classes wisely
For your first year, you will likely be taking mostly general requirements. All of your basic math, science, freshman seminars, etc. will be taken the first year.
Make sure that you start on your general college requirements, but don’t overdo it.
For example, if you have to take General Chemistry, Calculus, and Physics freshman year, don’t try to take all of them your first semester.
Instead, knock out some easier humanities requirements and take the more challenging courses later.
2. ACTUALLY GO TO CLASS
Don’t make the mistake of not going to class.
Reasons to go to lecture:
- Actually going to class helps you be more productive. When you go to lecture, you feel good about yourself and are likely to stay productive throughout the whole day. I normally go to the library for a few hours and get lunch with friends in between morning and afternoon classes to keep my work flow going for the whole day.
- You’ll meet people in your major. If you’re taking any major-specific courses, you can form study groups with people in your major and take classes/study together throughout the semester and for the rest of college.
- Professors remind you of big projects and assignments and can answer your questions after class if you have any.
- Participation points. SO many of my classes give points for participation (sometimes as much as 30% of your final grade) so by simply going to class, you can automatically get a huge boost to your grade.
- Increased studying effectiveness. If you go to class, you only have to read parts of the textbook later that you need extra help with (and not waste hours in the library cramming the night before the exam).
- You’re literally paying hundreds of dollars for every class you miss, so GO TO CLASS.
3. Review your notes after class
Looking over your notes right after class is one of the best ways to digest & remember lecture material.
Reviewing helps you determine parts you need to go over and fill in any information that you may have missed if your professor went too fast, so that you can clarify/go to office hours later.
I like to sit in the library in the afternoons and review the material so that it sticks in my brain.
4. Start studying at least a week before exams
About a week before exams, I start preparing my review sheet. A review sheet is basically a condensed version of all of your lecture notes/reading notes.
After making my review sheet, I transfer these notes onto flash cards to review key terms/concepts.
Using flashcards is a great way to study because you review as you write the flash cards and as you practice with them.
Once I’ve gone through the flash cards a few times, I make a pile of the terms/ideas I was unsure about and only review those (so that I don’t waste time learning material that I already know).
5. Do extra credit assignments early in the semester
Extra credit assignments can help boost your grade by 5-10% depending on the class and the professor.
Some professors let you write an extra essay to replace your lowest score, which can make a huge difference in points if you performed badly on an exam.
Other professors give you extra credit points for participating in their research studies or going to outside lectures given by faculty.
The key to getting the maximum amount of extra credit points is by starting to accrue points early in the semester so that you’re not scrambling towards the end when there are less extra credit opportunities.
6. Build a relationship with your professors
One of the simplest ways to get better grades in college is to build relationships with your professors.
If a professor know that you put a lot of work into a course, they are much more likely to bump your B+ to an A- than if you are just another face in their 200-person lecture.
To get to know your professors:
- Introduce yourself to them at the beginning of the semester.
- Regularly attend office hours throughout the semester (not just the day before the exam).
- Participate in their research labs if you’re interested
- Get to know your TA’s, they’re like mini professors who have a HUGE part in assigning your grades!
7. Prepare for the semester ahead of time
Start the semester off on the right foot and prep before you get back to school.
To get ahead:
- Purchase a planner. I use a simple black bullet journal so that I can use extra pages for busier weeks when I have a lot of assignments. Check out my bullet journal inspiration board here.
- READ THIS BOOK – How to Win at College. I read this book before college and it helped my use my time wisely, join the right clubs, and navigate my way through my first semester with a breeze.
- Get the right school supplies. Here is what I keep in my college backpack.
- Make your dorm room a study haven. Check out this post to see what I keep in my college dorm room.
What are your favorite study tips for college? Have you used any of these tips to get a 4.0 GPA at your school?