At some point, you must have heard or seen, scattered across the virtual landscape, the saying (originally by the minister and author Norman Vincent Peale): ‘shoot for the moon. Even if you miss, you’ll land among stars.’ It’s an over-repeated line that has sort of lost its meaning, but it does serve a purpose here. And that purpose is with regard to seeking the 4.0 GPA you’ve always wanted in a college.
The key to pursuing the GPA of your dreams is to shoot for the 4.0, but not get too upset if you don’t make the grade, literally; at that point, your hard work will have paid off with, yes, a lower GPA, but certainly one worth being proud and excited about. On that note, let’s find out what it takes to shoot for the moon and all that.
Your GPA in college actually probably matters less overall than it did in high school, but that doesn’t mean it’s not important, especially if you foresee graduate school in your future. But the question remains: how to achieve that 4.0?
And, more importantly, how not to let it overtake your life, i.e. achieve this goal efficiently and realistically. Remember that different programs and fields have different requirements and notions about grade point average. In pursuit of an English or Fine Arts degree, for example, your GPA may mean less than your actual output, aka essays, writing, artworks, etc.
But someone in a sciences or technical field, or even business, will invariably find their test scores and grades mattering a lot more. Such variability is uneven, but that’s simply the way higher education institutions measure ideas of success. So with that in mind, let’s jump in.
This is most likely the most underrated tip on this list. An article on Entrepreneur.com points out that creating an effective schedule allows you to stay “on track and productive.” Scheduling, including giving yourself the all-important break time or hang out time with friends, will also keep you accountable; if you have a calendar written out, you’ll feel more compelled to follow it. This article from Forbes lays out a proper way to do a ‘to do’ list.
College has a lot of perks, but an under-appreciated one is that, at least for high schoolers, it provides the first semblance of flexibility and control to your daily life calendar. In high school, you had a set routine dictated by the class bell, teachers, and parents, but now in college, you’re free to design that class bell yourself.
And this is where the real strategy comes in. Optimize your schedule to the best of your ability. Find class blocks that fulfill your needed requirements but at times that work best for your academic life, social life, and sleeping life too. Going in with a plan for registration will set you up for success for the semester.
This may come as a shock to you students out there, but your professors actually choose to teach (I know, wow!). With few exceptions, they want to help you, educate you, and give you the best shot possible at meeting your academic goals.
In larger classes, where the professor may not meet many of their students, a TA serves a similar function. It’s rare to find a professor or TA who is not invested in their students’ success, sometimes more than even the students themselves.
So reach out to your professors and TAs; ask questions, attend study sessions and office hours, make it known that you’re making an effort. Be sure to express interest in the subject itself (even if means finding something that you’re only remotely interested in) so that it doesn’t come across that you simply want a good grade and that’s all. Your teachers recognize that there’s a transactional aspect to education, but they will appreciate and recognize that you’re showing an interest in their subject all the same.
A NOTE: Every professor and TA has a different approach to interacting with and helping students. Some professors are happy to talk for an extended period, some seem terse and communicate sparingly; some TAs and professors (most really) won’t give you answers outright; they’ll push and prod until you come to the conclusion yourself. For more specific tips on how to talk to your professors check out this guide in LifeHack.
This should go without saying but it’s amazing how many college students don’t do their work, don’t attend class, and are then somehow shocked when they don’t ace their tests. Attend all the classes that you can and work on your assignments diligently and thoughtfully.
All that being said, remind yourself that college is designed to overload you; professors like to think that theirs is the only class you’re taking, and they design their curriculum accordingly. Prioritize (and use that schedule you worked so hard to create!) and recognize which assignments matter most in the percentage breakdown of the class. For example:
Some courses will offer extra credit, and some (believe me I’ve taken them) will have the midterm worth 50% of your grade and the final worth 50%. Optimization and prioritization will be your best friend when it comes to your GPA in college. Sometimes that extra credit is worth it (especially if your test scores have been suffering), but if you’re secure in your class grade I think you’re better off focusing on work for other classes.
A smaller, but no less important, tip is to make a friend in every class you find yourself in. It’s tougher now with remote learning, but by finding an equitable study buddy (and not a person to mooch off of!) you’ll meet your study goals more often. Also, check out this past blog on tips for studying for finals. The tools can be applied to all your tests.
Ultimately, achieving a 4.0 in college is more about balance than it is about anything else. What you should be after is the optimal balance of social life, academic/career life, and self-time that is best for you. Some people need more socializing and less self-time, so adjust your schedule as such. Others want more self-time and need to allocate more to academics so as to achieve the desired GPA.
The truth, as I said at the beginning, is that the 4.0 GPA won’t make or break your life success. By shooting for such a high standard you’re already setting yourself up for success, so give yourself some kudos there. There is no one size fits all way to succeed at life. If getting, or trying for, a 4.0 GPA will make you happy then by all means go for it. But what we should all seek is to achieve the 4.0, or maybe 3.7, GPA of our life overall, not just of school.