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How To Get Straight A's In College

A woman studying and trying to get straight a's in college.

Getting good grades takes effort, commitment and motivation, but that doesn't mean it has to stress you out. While there's no cheat sheet for how to get good grades in college, there are some simple steps you can take to improve your chances of meeting - or even exceeding - your academic goals.

Getting Good Grades In College

The pressure to get good grades in college is all too real. To get straight A's in college, you need to make sure you're able to make the time commitment for your studies, but you should enjoy the learning process. Take courses that are not only relevant to your major, but also take courses that interest you. You're more likely to perform well in a course if you're excited to engage with the course content.

How Important Are Your Grades?

Academic advisor Seamus McGuireSeamus McGuire, an academic advisor with Southern New Hampshire University (SNHU), said good grades are more than a necessity to graduate - they're a testament to the hard work a student has put into their coursework. "GPA can affect a student everywhere from the ability to graduate, certain honors programs, job placement and it can even affect your financial aid," McGuire said.

What's a Good GPA in College?

Academic advisor Sierra Bridges said earning a GPA above a 2.0 will get you to graduation, and sometimes that milestone is enough for students. "However," she said, "GPAs that are in the 3.0 to 4.0 range are preferred." Bridges said to make their way onto the Dean's list, a student needs to earn a GPA of 3.5 or above. For the President's list, students need to have earned a GPA of 3.7 or higher.

A good GPA can affect your ability to join an honor society. Between a 3.5 and a 4.0 on the GPA scale is considered an A. Having a great GPA "may even open doors for students in regard to scholarships, honor societies and clubs," McGuire said. Being a member of an honor society may have benefits including scholarships, grants or networking opportunities. While a GPA isn't required on a resume, "being able to see affiliation with an honor society tells the employer all they need to know about how well a student did while earning the degree they hired them for," Bridges said.

There are also financial considerations involved with earning a high GPA. "There are a wealth of scholarship opportunities available, and some of them do have GPA requirements," McGuire said. If you're on a scholarship, you may have a minimum GPA requirement you're required to maintain, or you could lose your funding. "Scholarships may also be the bridge between a student and the completion of their degree," Bridges said. "In that case, GPA means everything."

Academic standards aside, Bridges said what's considered a good GPA depends on the student. There are students who work full-time, have children or are single parents with limited free time. "Their idea of a good GPA could very well be whatever gets them to graduation," Bridges said. "Maybe a student struggles with a learning disability and a 3.0 GPA is something they need to work extremely hard for," she said. For students with little obstacles and plenty of support, they may feel anything below a 3.8 isn't good. "A good GPA is subjective," Bridges said, "and as an advisor, a good GPA fluctuates student to student."

Academic advisor Sierra Bridges4 Ways to Do Better in School

  1. Be Responsible - "To earn straight A's it takes great time management," McGuire said. "That's probably the number one factor that separates my students who struggle from my students who are successful," McGuire said. Between using effective time management abilities and ensuring you've completed your weekly assignments, making yourself responsible for your education is an important aspect of academic success.
  2. Ask for Help - Academic advisors are there to help you. "If you're struggling, it's important to ask for help," McGuire said. "Some students are embarrassed or feel ashamed to reach out for help. As an academic advisor, it's my job to help students connect with resources they have at their disposal."

    "Students should reach out to their advisors to get them back on track. It's my job and my passion to help students find what they need to be successful. Sometimes all it takes is a reminder of the resources available," Bridges said. Before you can get help, you have to admit you need it. "Recognizing the struggle is the first step," Bridges said. "This is harder than it seems. Many times, when a student is struggling they tend to get too nervous to check their grades. Then they lose their motivation and get too far behind."
  3. Remember Why You're Earning Your Degree - Focus on the Motivation for College Students to a furthering your education. "Without purpose and a specific goal in mind, it is hard to remember why you dedicate 30-40 hours a week to your school work," Bridges said.
  4. Develop Excellent Study Habits - "There are many different study habits that students can employ to be successful," McGuire said. To assist in finding your studying style, McGuire posed these questions: "Do you prefer studying in a quiet library or in a busy café? Are there certain days of the week where you have more time to dedicate to school?" Answering questions like these help students fine tune their studying process and can help determine which studying habits would be the best fit.

3 Tips to Get Better at Studying 

Knowing how to study in college is key to getting straight A's. Through organization, a time management strategy and drive to succeed, you'll be ready to hit the books with confidence.

  • Time management - "Time management is probably the most important piece of the puzzle," Bridges said. "Students need to be able to prioritize their tasks and plan for certain assignments. Planning time for specific assignments before the week begins will help the student visualize how each other facet of life will fall into place."

    Some ways you can work on your time management include keeping a weekly or monthly calendar or using a bullet journal. Bridges suggests using block planning. Instead of setting aside 2 hours for homework, be more specific in what you'll be studying by blocking off 30 minutes for writing a short paper and an hour for reading from your course book.

    If you plan out your week in advance, you'll know what you need to study and when you'll need to set aside the time. "If you get to the day of a deadline and cram and rush, you will likely produce work that is not the best it can be," McGuire said.
  • Take breaks - As important as it is to put effort into your studies, it's also important to remember to take breaks. Getting burned out when striving for straight A's can happen quickly if you aren't remembering to take time for yourself to relax. Take some time every hour you study and do something else to give your brain a much-needed break.
  • Make the effort - You'll have to put in the time and effort if you want to make all A's. Bridges said it's important students learn their school's GPA scale and how to calculate their GPA. "With that knowledge, they are able to get an idea of where they are headed close to the end of a term," Bridges said. She suggested the use of an online tool to keep track of your GPA. 

If you want to earn straight A's in college, be organized, put in the effort and you'll see yourself succeed.

Ashley Wallis is an Army veteran and writer with a BA in English Language and Literature from SNHU. She is currently living in the Denver area. Find her on twitter @AshDWallis.

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About Southern New Hampshire University

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SNHU is a nonprofit, accredited university with a mission to make high-quality education more accessible and affordable for everyone.

Founded in 1932, and online since 1995, we’ve helped countless students reach their goals with flexible, career-focused programs. Our 300-acre campus in Manchester, NH is home to over 3,000 students, and we serve over 135,000 students online. Visit our about SNHU page to learn more about our mission, accreditations, leadership team, national recognitions and awards.