For a lot of high school seniors, the process of applying to college consumes their attention. You worry about SAT scores and college application essays. Acceptance becomes a goal, rather than a step on the journey.
Unfortunately, that means that many high school seniors don’t give much thought to how they’ll succeed if they join the approximately 19.4 million college students in the US.
That can mean that you don’t give enough attention to getting your grade point average, or GPA for short, up or raising it if you have a bad year. If you’re thinking about how to improve GPA scores, keep reading for some key tips.
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What Is a GPA?
The acronym GPA, or grade point average, is something that can cause confusion for new college students. The GPA system itself is often new ground for students. Beyond that, there are two or even three GPA scores that you must keep in mind.
In basic terms, a GPA is a score based on a 0.0 to 4.0 scale. However, those scores are not based on a 0 to 100 percent scale.
The scale bottoms out at 0.0 for a65 percent or lower. 65 percent is an F. 4.0 is an A, while a 2.0 corresponds with a C.
With those basics out of the way, let’s look at the different kinds of GPAs you’ll come across.
You’ll get a GPA for each course that you take, although some colleges still give letter grades. If you score 88 in your course, you’ll get a 3.3 GPA for the course. It’s important to note that even if the school issues you a letter grade, you’ll still get a GPA for the course itself.
You’ll also get a semester or trimester GPA. This GPA is an average of your GPAs across all your classes for the semester.
Finally, there is your cumulative GPA. This is the average for all your courses across your entire college career.
You should, of course, pay attention to your course and semester GPA. Your cumulative GPA is the one you should keep in the back of your head at all times.
Now, let’s take a look at how to increase your GPA or at least maintain it.
Related Read: What Is a Good GPA in College? Is My Grade Point Average Too Low?
Start with a Plan
The reality is that it’s far easier to maintain a good GPA than it is to boost your GPA down the road. Every semester, you add more grades to your cumulative GPA. That means that every class means less for your cumulative GPA.
Let’s say that you rack up a lot of C’s in your first three semesters. You’ll have a much harder time bringing that GPA up than if you pick up a few B’s in your later semesters.
That means you must go into your first semester with a plan. The plan should amount to this: Get the best grades possible from day one.
The good news is that many students find getting good grades easier in introductory courses than in higher-level courses.
Create Schedules for Yourself
Many students work off-campus when they aren’t in class. This situation can make building schedules difficult, especially if your job doesn’t involve regular hours.
Even so, you should make an effort to build schedules for yourself. For example, you should set aside time specifically for studying and doing homework.
That may mean doing homework from 10 to 11 four nights a week. Even so, it will help you build solid habits that will pay off later.
You should also set aside time to stay healthy. Maybe that means hitting the school gym for weight training or maybe it means jogging three times a week. Either way, build that into your life.
It’s easy for students who come into college with good fitness to lose that fitness over time. Hanging on to good fitness will make your life easier in college.
Related Read: How Does College Work? University in the United States Explained
College is an environment with almost boundless opportunities to eat poorly. Pizza is everywhere. Fast food joints often thrive around campuses.
All of that high-fat, low-nutrition food starts taking a toll after a while. While you might not have to worry about things like high cholesterol, you should worry a bit about gaining weight.
Weight gain can have a lot of negative effects on you. Putting on weight can disrupt your sleep. Poor sleep has negative consequences for your concentration in class and while doing schoolwork outside of class.
Beyond that, your body and brain need the right kinds of vitamins, nutrients, and even proteins to work at optimal levels. Eating right gives those things to your body and brain.
The better your brain functions, the better you’ll typically do in your courses.
Develop Time Management Skills
Few freshmen walk into college with good time management skills. It’s not your fault. It wasn’t necessary for most new college students to develop those skills in high school.
In high school, teachers, parents, and coaches do a lot of the heavy lifting when it comes to that. They tell you when things are due or when to practice or when to study.
Once you head off to college, a lot of that oversight simply vanishes. It’s on you to start paying attention to things like how long it takes you to research and write papers or study for exams.
Once you figure those things out, it’s also on you to give yourself enough time to complete those tasks.
Related Read: How to Apply for College: Process, University Application Tips & Advice
Develop Good Study Habits
With any luck, you did come out of high school with some study habits in place. You’ll face a lot of new material in college. So, you need those skills to help you review and reinforce that information in your brain.
If your study skills are only so-so, here are some important pointers:
- Pick a quiet location
- Rewrite your notes
- Make flashcards
- Study with classmates
- Bring the right materials along
Granted, these aren’t the only things that matter. Paying attention to these things, however, will help you get the most out of your studying. Minimally, just creating a studying routine will help.
The better your study habits, the more you’ll remember the material. Mastering the course material is a big step in the right direction for getting better grades. Getting better grades is crucial for bringing up your GPA.
Take Advantage of Available Resources
Most college students have at least one ridiculously talented friend who can coast through all their classes without any obvious effort. The odds are good that you are not that friend.
In general, people have areas where they excel and areas where they struggle. The good news is that colleges usually offer a lot of resources to help students manage their problem areas.
For example, most colleges have tutors. In some cases, the college pays students to act as tutors or even brings in professional staff for the job.
You’ll also likely discover that your college has dedicated spaces for getting help in certain areas, such as writing. Find out what resources your college offers and then take advantage of those resources to shore up your weak spots.
Related Read: Common Types of College Degrees & How to Choose Among Them
Do Course Planning
Every college has specific classes or professors that prove more challenging than others. While you’ll struggle to identify those classes or professors in your first semester or two, you should have a better idea by the time you enter your sophomore year.
In some cases, a higher grade in college means avoiding a specific class in favor of a substitute. In other cases, you can avoid particularly difficult professors by taking online college courses taught by other professors. Always avoid skipping class, as regular classes and class participation are crucial to maintaining a high overall GPA.
Let’s say that the only professor who teaches a course is a hard-grading professor. In that case, look for ways you can make your semester schedule easier. For example, limit yourself to 12 credit hours during the semester you’ll take that course.
You can also save up electives to take that semester and load your schedule with easier courses. That lets you focus more time and energy on that one difficult class to keep your GPA up.
Ditch Toxic People
Most students struggle a little to avoid all toxic relationships. After all, you don’t know that a friendship or romantic relationship will prove toxic until after you’re in the relationship.
Once you recognize that you are in a toxic relationship, ditch that person. Toxic relationships soak up time, mental energy, emotional energy, and even money. Those are personal resources that get drained away from doing things like studying and homework.
Ditching toxic people will help you keep or even improve your grade point average by letting you reclaim those resources.
Related Read: How to Make Money in College (25 Ways to Earn Money as a Student)
How to Improve GPA? Plan Ahead
The question of how to improve GPA in college mostly boils down to planning. You must plan to do well from the beginning. Maintaining a good GPA takes less effort than repairing a bad GPA.
Plan your time. Setting schedules and developing habits that support studying and completing your coursework lead to a good college GPA.
Spend a little effort on personal care, such as staying fit, eating right, and ditching toxic people.
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