My Secrets for Getting A’s in College (And How You Can Too)

I’ll be honest… it took me awhile to figure out how to study for my college classes. Although I eventually figured it out and was able to get straight A’s in my college courses during the last year or two, there were definitely some semesters that were quite subpar.

Looking back, I realize that I could have done so many things differently. It’s clear that the methods began using in graduate school worked better (I finished with a 4.0 GPA), but I wish I would have started using them sooner.

That’s why I’m here to share my secrets to getting A’s in college so that you can have a strong GPA by the time you graduate. It doesn’t matter if you are a freshman who is just starting out or a senior who is a semester away from graduation… these tips for getting good grades can help you in a bunch of other aspects of life as well.

Are you ready? I’m going to start spilling them out right now…

I'm sharing my secret tips for getting good grades in college! By making these simple changes, I was able to raise my GPA and graduate with honors. These are college tips every student could use. Click to check them out!

*Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links for products that I have found helpful and wanted to share with you!*

Read the Grading Rubrics and Have Them On-Hand When You Complete an Assignment

Y’all, I am appalled at the way I used to write papers. Sure, I still got B’s in most of my classes toward the beginning of my college career, but I definitely wasn’t putting forth my absolute best effort. Why?

Because I wasn’t following the grading rubrics like I should have.

These rubrics are your lifeline whenever you are completing a paper or project. They literally tell you EVERYTHING that you need to know, including what format the paper needs to be in, how many points will be awarded for each section, what information needs to be included, and so much more.

FYI, when a grading rubric is broken down into sections, let those guide your heading and subheadings!

No rubric? Talk to your professor and ask them what they’ll be looking for in your assignment. As they dish out the goods, take detailed notes and make sure you cover everything they just mentioned. You’ll be thankful later!

Typing Notes is Great, but Handwriting Them is Even Better

I get it – technology exists to help you do things more efficiently, including typing notes so that you can keep up with your professor’s hour-long lecture. As much of a blessing it is to have computers, tablets, and other devices, it’s easy to type and forget what you wrote.

That’s why taking the time to handwrite your notes is so important.

I guess you wouldn’t really call this is a secret to getting A’s (or good grades – whatever that means to you) in college, but I would venture to say that this method is quickly disappearing. Even if you type the notes in class, have a notebook on-hand in your dorm room so that you can rewrite everything you just typed.

You’ll be more likely to remember the information if you write it down. Bonus points if you rewrite your notes again!

I know this can be very time-consuming, but trust me – it can help A LOT!

Make an Effort to Talk to Your Professors

I remember sitting in an advertising design class during my junior year of college… Just hearing about the course made me terrified! You see, I was fine when it came to the writing assignments, but anything that had to do with graphic design was just a whole different ballgame for me.

Do you know what I did to make sure I got an A in that class?

I talked to my professor… frequently.

I’m sure my professor was sick of me by the time the class was over, but I wanted him to know that I was really trying. I asked for guidance on assignments, brainstormed ideas with him, and wasn’t afraid to ask questions if I got stuck along the way.

Guess what my final grade was… a 92.5%.

That’s right – My efforts to make sure I was doing the assignments right helped me to turn in work that was exactly what the professor was looking for. Sure, they weren’t the best designs out the class (in fact, my work never made it on the projector for the weekly edition of Top Designs of the Week), but that didn’t matter to me.

All I cared about was that at the end of the semester, I was walking out the door with another A on my transcript to show just how much my efforts paid off.

Organize Your Class Schedule to Promote Studying

My freshman year schedule was a joke (and completely my own fault). I had an 8 a.m. class on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays that was just brutal to go to because I was so exhausted. On top of that, I scheduled classes on Tuesdays and Thursdays as well, pretty much in the pattern of what you would see at a high school.

I thought that maintaining the same schedule that I was so used to throughout the years would help me get A’s in college… I was wrong.

What I didn’t account for was how tiring it was to go to class after class throughout the day, then go to work in the late afternoon/evening. And when in the world was I going to fit in my social life (which included three hours of sand volleyball at least a couple times a week)?!

I learned that in order to get good grades in college, especially A’s, I was going to need to build in some study time.

getting A's in college

This daily planner is perfect for keeping track of due dates, homework, schedules, and so much more!

So what did this end up looking like?

For one, I made sure that I had Fridays off. Most of the courses I needed were offered Monday-Thursday at some point, so I made sure my schedule for my sophomore year forward was only on those days. This gave me an extra day at the end of the week to get everything together and to study any new material I had learned.

Second, I made sure I had a break between at least one set of classes.

I was so used to rushing from class to class my freshman year that I never even thought to schedule a study break in-between them. This ended up working out great for me because I could sit on the benches around campus or at a table in a building and do some reading.

By simply reworking my schedule, I saw my college grades improve in just one semester, and that momentum carried through the rest of my undergraduate program!

Think about what your schedule is going to look like and what your study habits are and then plan accordingly.

If you need more help with this, check out my Stress-Free Scheduling ecourse!

Learn How to Apply the Material to Your Life

There will always be those classes and subjects that you have absolutely no interest in, but you have to take them because they are required.

One of the biggest obstacles that was in the way of me getting A’s in college was the fact that I wasn’t applying the material to my life. In other words, I wasn’t making an effort to dig into the material so that I understood it better and could apply it.

I’ve found that when you are able to apply the material and talk about how it relates to life today, you’re much more able to remember it. It’s almost like your brain presses an ‘On’ switch and you start to absorb the material better because you are at least partially invested in it.

I’m not saying you’ll love the subject… in fact, you may forget all the things you learned one the course is over, but taking the time to dig a little deeper in the material can help you make good grades in college.

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Extra Secrets for Getting Straight A’s in College

  • Become a member of a study group
  • Stick to a daily schedule of studying
  • Write all of your assignments and due dates in a planner
  • Reward yourself for reaching small goals (such as getting an A on a paper)
  • Read my post on the best study tips for college students

What are some of your secrets for getting A’s in college (or just good grades in general)?

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65 Comments

  • Reply
    Alex
    March 12, 2015 at 8:45 am

    These tips are SPOT ON! I also did a lot of cramming prior to the tests/quizzes for the courses I had to take that were just there to satisfy a requirement and not pertaining to my actual degree (woopsy…)

    But just knowing HOW to take tests (and this can also vary based on whatever professor you have) is extremely important. Paying a little extra attention to the class/professor/syllabus will prepare you for what the quizzes/tests will be like and what sorts of questions could be asked (and if more of them come from homework, previous quizzes, lectures, etc)

    Glad you shared this 🙂

  • Reply
    Kim
    March 12, 2015 at 8:45 am

    I love this but really wish I had known these things while in college. In fact, I was just thinking about how much I wished I had talked to professors more often because the one time I did, he ended up dropping my failed test score. Really great, thanks!

  • Reply
    Ashley
    March 12, 2015 at 9:01 am

    I took an 8am class my freshman year as well for the sole purpose I wanted to be done everyday by 1pm. That was dumb. I quickly learned it is a lot better to spread out your classes than to schedule them all from 8-1. I also didn’t figure out the handwritten notes stick better until my sophomore year because a lot of professors wouldn’t allow computers, so once I had learned a lot more by handwriting my notes I started doing that in the classes that allowed computers. It made me not surf on Facebook and focus on the class.

    • Reply
      Tori
      March 12, 2015 at 9:16 am

      I’m glad you brought up surfing Facebook, Ashley! Computers are both a blessing and a curse in that sense… I’ve seen so many students get distracted by something online and then miss really important information in the class because of it.

  • Reply
    Logan Can
    March 12, 2015 at 9:40 am

    Aside from studying of course, I found that organization was key to being successful in college. 🙂

  • Reply
    Christine Gallagher
    March 12, 2015 at 11:53 am

    Thanks for the tips as an adult student that went back at almost 40 I am almost finished =)

  • Reply
    LIsa
    March 12, 2015 at 11:57 am

    I love reading all your college tips! It would have been nice to have them when I first started college, I had to the learn the hard way how to get A’s haha. When I first started college I planned my schedule around my nap schedule but by the time I graduated I was taking all morning classes so I could have my afternoons free to do stuff done.

    • Reply
      Tori
      March 12, 2015 at 8:01 pm

      Thank you, Lisa! I think that the transition from high school to college is a big one and it takes students some time to figure out what will work best for them.

  • Reply
    Gina
    March 12, 2015 at 12:24 pm

    Great tips. I agree about writing down the notes twice!

  • Reply
    Sarah C
    March 12, 2015 at 12:57 pm

    Great tips! So agree with hand writing your class notes. I wish I could have had a day of no classes, unfortunately the small school I went to didn’t give you much choice as to class times, darn!

  • Reply
    jessica
    March 12, 2015 at 2:40 pm

    Great tips and certainly will lead to success! I had a hard time staying organized at first, but now I find that when writing a paper or taking tests it just comes naturally!

  • Reply
    HolLy
    March 12, 2015 at 2:57 pm

    no longer in uni but took a gander to see how I could adapt these to my own life! Great tips 🙂

  • Reply
    Tory
    March 12, 2015 at 4:49 pm

    I love these tips, and I’m glad that we seem to agree on some of them! I’m obsessed with handwriting my notes, no matter what – other people may make fun of me for being old-fashioned, but I retain the information so much better when I write it down! I wish it was a possibility for me to schedule my classes so I have time for practicing and studying, but sometimes you just gotta take what you’re given.

    • Reply
      Tori
      March 12, 2015 at 8:01 pm

      That’s true that some colleges don’t offer flexibility with when the classes are offered. I ran into that issue a few times but I always tried to arrange my schedule the best way I could!

  • Reply
    Gema Diaz
    March 12, 2015 at 9:43 pm

    This tips are right on point, I actually follow them all and have kept a 4.0 since I began grad school. You get what you work for, so following these tips will get you that GPA you desire. Talking to your professors and participating in discussion is KEY!!! Plus you need that networking for when you graduate and need a job. I would add to know your learning study (visual, tactile, auditory or hands on). Im glad you are writing these blogs, so many college students are shy to ask questions.

  • Reply
    angela@spinachtiger
    March 12, 2015 at 11:02 pm

    There’s a reason handwriting works. It taps into a different part of the brain and layers the learning, so excellent point. Keep up the good work. One tip I used in graduate school is I taped my classes and then “ran” to them. Exercise done simultaneously while learning increasing the learning power. I was able to manage straight A’s throughout my entire graduate school in clinical psychology with this one trick. I was working full time, so I had to be able to study and exercise. It would work on a treadmill too, but I like running outdoors.

    • Reply
      Tori
      March 17, 2015 at 7:54 pm

      What a great idea! I never though to listen to my classes while exercising. Thanks for sharing!

  • Reply
    Addie
    March 13, 2015 at 8:27 am

    I wish I could have organized my schedule more to promote studying. My goal was to organize it so that I could just get everything out of the way before the week was over, before the semester was over, before the year was over. These are great tips!

  • Reply
    Katie
    March 13, 2015 at 4:27 pm

    This is a great post, I wish I had this resource when I was in college.

    xo katie // a touch of teal

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  • Reply
    Dani @ Dani Dearest
    June 24, 2015 at 3:04 pm

    SO glad I found this! I definitely struggled with keeping good grades my first year and I’m seriously working improving that. I decided to schedule my classes for next semester with at least an hour in between each course and I think it’ll work out for the better! Great tips, thanks so much.

    Dani
    http://www.DaniDearest.com/

    • Reply
      Tori
      June 24, 2015 at 4:55 pm

      I’m so glad these tips helped you, Dani! Hopefully that extra hour in-between classes will help out 🙂 It definitely worked for me!

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  • Reply
    Yolanda
    July 23, 2015 at 11:54 pm

    Great tips but sometimes you can be a hard worker and follow all these and still end up with an A- or B+ because some classes and professors are just DIFFICULT

    • Reply
      Tori
      July 24, 2015 at 3:01 pm

      It’s true that some professors are very difficult. That’s why I always try to get on their good side right from the beginning! Even still, I’ve encountered some brutal exams as a student. College is hard… but where there’s a will, there’s a way, right? 🙂

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  • Reply
    Amy
    August 7, 2015 at 9:10 am

    I love this post! As a high school senior who is starting concurrent classes this year, I’m very nervous but excited! I was wondering…. What planner is that? I love the layout and would love to look into purchasing one like it.

    • Reply
      Tori
      August 7, 2015 at 12:02 pm

      Hi Amy! Thanks so much for stopping by. I’m sure you’re going to rock your classes this upcoming school year 🙂 The planner is by Action Day… I went ahead and included a link just below the picture so that you could check out all the cool details it has. I’ve had many planners over the years and this one has definitely been my favorite!

  • Reply
    Alexa
    August 17, 2015 at 10:08 pm

    This list was perfect! All these “back to school”-esque posts are getting me so excited to go back to college, as crazy as it is! I’m mainly just excited to kick this semester’s butt! I’m hoping to do a back to school post in the next week or two, so thanks for all these awesome tips!

    • Reply
      Tori
      August 17, 2015 at 10:13 pm

      I kinda wish I was going back to college this week like everyone else! I miss the football games, the awesome events around campus, and the learning environment (as weird as that sounds).

  • Reply
    Emily
    August 19, 2015 at 10:25 pm

    Im going to be a freshman this upcoming week! I was wondering about taping lectures?! How do people typically do this.. use a phone or what?

    • Reply
      Tori
      August 20, 2015 at 8:51 pm

      Hi Emily! Most of the people I saw recording lectures were doing it via a recorder, but I’m sure a phone’s voice memo would work fine if you sit toward the front of the class 🙂 The only caution I would say about phones is that some professors can be very strict on having cell phones out, so double check with them first!

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  • Reply
    Samantha
    November 30, 2015 at 4:20 pm

    love this! Thank you very much!

    • Reply
      Tori
      November 30, 2015 at 6:10 pm

      I’m so glad you enjoyed it, Samantha!

  • Reply
    Samantha
    November 30, 2015 at 6:03 pm

    Sorry if this is a silly question, but what do you talk to your professors about? I understand if you don’t understand the requirements for a paper or something like that but other than that, what is there? One class I’ll have to take is “Technology and Engineering in Western Civilization, 1400-Present” and i honestly don’t know how i would bond with a teacher over that ??? Sorry if this is a weird question, Thank You!

    • Reply
      Tori
      November 30, 2015 at 6:09 pm

      Great question, Samantha! You may not bond with EVERY professor you have, but it’s always great to have what I like to call “small talk” with them. Ask them how they’re doing and to share pointers with you in regards to what they think it takes to be a successful student. Share your goals and aspirations with them. Show them what you’re excited about! It doesn’t have to be anything super lengthy… Just show them that you care and that you are making an effort. I hope that makes sense 🙂

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  • Reply
    Varsha
    December 9, 2015 at 8:37 pm

    OMG It’s so good to see someone else who has the same story as me! I’m in my final year looking into doing an extra year but I’m seeing that these are all tips I finally figured out. First three years were a joke XD. It’s good to know I’m doing something right 🙂

    • Reply
      Tori
      December 10, 2015 at 5:25 pm

      So glad to hear, Varsha! I’m sure you are going to kick butt now that you’ve got it figured out. It’s amazing how quickly things started to turn around for me once I followed these tips!

  • Reply
    Fouzia chan
    December 13, 2015 at 9:41 am

    So I repeated my freshman year and I have 5 subjects and 15 days to my exams week and I’m really scared to fail again this year cause I don’t have much time and I’m not use to prepare a lot so ,,,,, I don’t know if I could makit through with ur advises even I luv ur article nice one actually I’m planing to do some of ur steps next semester .

    • Reply
      Tori
      December 13, 2015 at 12:57 pm

      I say do what you can and never give up! 15 days is still a lot of time to try to get the best grades you can. I’m pulling for you! No matter what happens this semester, remember that the next one is a fresh start to make some changes 🙂

  • Reply
    AbIgail baEza
    December 14, 2015 at 3:47 pm

    The only thing that I do to help me memorize things are to write everything I need to know five times then copy every single thing once again on flash cards and review those flash cards during any extra time that I have:)

    • Reply
      Tori
      December 14, 2015 at 7:05 pm

      That’s a great method, Abigail! Writing things down over and over increases your recall and retention of the subject matter 🙂

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  • Reply
    Amber
    December 31, 2015 at 6:15 am

    YouTube!! I wish I had realized what a great resource YouTube was when I was in college. I went to a small college with only one prof that taught all the chemistry classes. I hated his teaching method and didn’t understand most of what he was saying. But I was a science education major, so half of my required science classes were taught by him. Then I had to teach some chemistry myself, so I had to re-learn it first, and I used the Crash Course Chemistry videos on YouTube, and it suddenly made so much more sense.
    There are so many different tutorials and different people teaching with different styles that one of them is bound to make sense to you. And there’s a video for virtually every topic you could wish to study. For a visual learner like me, lectures were just not enough to get me to fully comprehend that tough content. If I went back now and used YouTube, I would ace every class.

    • Reply
      Tori
      January 1, 2016 at 11:24 am

      Amber, you’re so right! YouTube can be an awesome learning resource. Just as long as you don’t get distracted by funny cat videos lol.

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  • Reply
    Ashlee
    January 9, 2016 at 5:46 am

    God bless your soul for taking the time to give such wonderful tips. Thanks a million!

    • Reply
      Tori
      January 9, 2016 at 1:51 pm

      I hope they work out for you, Ashlee!

  • Reply
    Taylor A
    January 20, 2016 at 9:03 am

    Wow, I can not believe how incredibly accurate this is. I can TOTALLY relate to this article; I was a freshmen 6 years ago and I had absolutely no idea what I was getting myself into. I didn’t realize how much learning on my own I would have to accomplish vs. high school when everything was practically spoon fed to those who showed up. These tips, if followed and used both correctly and persistently WILL help college students understand how to study more efficiently. I am a graduate student in a clinical exercise physiology program, and I must say one of the most important skills I acquired during my undergraduate program was the ability to study effectively so I could retain and apply the information on exams. I wish the best of luck to all in their educational endeavors, try new things, and never be afraid to ask questions.

    • Reply
      Tori
      January 20, 2016 at 3:46 pm

      Thanks so much for your response, Taylor! And congrats on being in your grad school program 🙂 I 100% agree that knowing how to study effectively can make or break you in college. My first year was tough because I never had to study in high school, but college is a completely different world and requires that extra level of discipline.

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  • Reply
    Shelby
    May 22, 2016 at 6:17 pm

    I really struggle with math, and I have learned that if I study ahead of time the material the professor will be teaching the next day, then it is less stressful to simply watch and listen than quickly writing every example problem and taking notes, while simultaneously trying to listen to the lecture and remember all the separate steps. It really helps me to relax in class knowing that I already know the methods and material that the textbook used. Using this method, the actual classes are just extra reviews and the professor may even introduce an easier strategy than the book taught. (And I feel I need to add that, even though I use the class as a review, I still attend every class, as I may need clarity of the lessons or I might have misunderstood the book’s teaching).

  • Reply
    donna
    June 1, 2016 at 11:18 am

    I am actually a college advisor and your tips make a lot of sense and I wish I could get more student to listen. It helps that you are the same age as most college students. You are very wise and smart, as well! Enjoyed the article you wrote. Keep listening and encouraging others!

    • Reply
      Tori
      June 3, 2016 at 4:40 pm

      Thanks so much, Donna! That means a lot 🙂

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    Leigh
    January 4, 2017 at 8:32 am

    Thanks for this article! I’m making A’s and B’s, but I really want to strive to make all A’s. I’m going to try studying between classes like you suggest. (p.s. my freshman year was horrible too.. wish I could go back sometimes!)

    • Reply
      Tori
      January 7, 2017 at 3:07 pm

      Glad you enjoyed the article, Leigh! I really wish I could go back sometimes, but I’m glad I was able to figure it out finally and start maximizing my time better – that made a huge difference!

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