Success in school isn’t genetics.
Motivation plays a dramatically bigger role than straight up “intelligence”.
You’re motivated enough to become successful in school.
I know this because you’re doing exactly what you need to do to become successful. You’re learning how.
I understand you’ve probably tried plenty of times in your life before this but the dirty little secret is that most of school advice out there is crap. It’s broad stroke “study more” or “work harder” advice that’s counter-productive.
If you’ve struggled to improve your grades in the past then it makes sense. People have been telling you to look west waiting for a sunset.
Successful students don’t study for extraordinary amounts of time. (Most of them.)
Successful students don’t have less fun in life. (They often have more.)
If you want to be successful then you can be. It just takes a few tiny adjustments.
1. Successful Students Know What They Want
One of the biggest tools a student has is their own expectations.
Expectations are like a thermostat of your AC or heater.
If it’s a little warm in the room you turn it down. Then the bells, whistles, and assorted mouse traps of modern technology rube goldberg (as a verb) the crap out of stuff until the room temperature drops. Then when it hits the right temperature, it stops.
All you do is turn a knob. The thermostat does all the real work of telling you whether it’s too hot or too cold.
Successful students expect certain grades. When their grades drop under that expectation, they work harder. When their grades go over that expectation, they tend to slow down (or burn out.)
Here is where it gets interesting:
When students are used to low scores but want to improve those scores, they need to turn the darn thermostat up. If not, their grades will just drop back down again. It’s never as simple as it sounds though.
When you increase your grade expectations, you need to pay attention to what’s happening with your grades. You can’t just think, “I want better grades.” You need to watch your grades and notice where they’re going.
If your grades aren’t changing despite you changing your expectations, something is wrong with the system.
The next strategies can help you diagnose those problems with the system.
2. Successful Students Give A Crap
Why are you going to remember what geezer The Great Pyramid of Giza was built for?
Why are you going to remember what “Zn” on the periodic table means?
What’s the point of learning anything that you’re learning?
Answer that question with anything that you’re learning.
The answer isn’t all that important. What’s really important is how you feel when you answer it.
Do you feel something in your gut telling you it’s important? Do you feel a hint of curiosity? Do you have some kind of excitement (even the tiniest bit) swelling up somewhere inside of you?
If not, then you don’t give enough of a crap.
Successful students care about what they’re learning.
They care about it because they’re curious. Or they’re interested in it. Or they’re interested in something tangentially related to it.
These are the best kinds of motivations because they don’t rely on results to reinforce them.
A student that’s curious might be disappointed by a low grade but it’s not going to make them less curious.
That being said, successful students don’t need those kinds of motivations.
They could be thinking:
- I can improve my grade if I learn this.
- I will score higher on the test if I learn this.
- I will get into a better college if I learn this.
- I will get to practice test-taking better if I learn this.
- Maybe I can tutor that babe if I score high enough by learning this?
The key to these motivations isn’t necessarily the words. People use plenty of different words to describe the same thing. Just saying you want a higher score isn’t enough.
The key is finding the words that make your gut tingle. Maybe you can find the words that just make your mind raise a question about it. That’s often enough.
Successful students find these motivations.
3. Successful Students Know The Rules
Do you know the old geeky student cliche? It seems to have died off a little recently but I’m sure you know what I mean.
Geeks are shown as well-dressed, studious, and polite. In other words, students with good grades are shown as super boring.
That cliche is crap but it seems to work for one aspect of good grades.
You can’t rebellion your way into good grades.
You need to play by the rules you’re given in your syllabus.
The syllabus to a class is like a cheat sheet of success in your class. If the teacher says tests make 90% of your final score then you need to know that. That’s a rule you need to follow to become successful.
You shouldn’t waste your time working on stuff that isn’t important based on the syllabus. The teacher can’t score you (much) for things that aren’t explicitly listed on that syllabus.
By following that syllabus’ guidelines, you’re putting yourself in the perfect position to win.
If the teacher says something is important then pay attention to it because they know better than you do. (They make the tests. They know this kind of stuff.)
When 90% of your score is something, you should spend 90% of your time on it.
When 10% of your score is something, you shouldn’t spend 90% of your time on it.
Scoring high in class is easy.
It’s just a matter of taking the right steps in the right direction.
When you see opportunity, you need to take it.