I was a “bad student” for years. (And, yes, I think those terms are silly but I use them for lack of better terms.) I barely paid attention. I wasn’t the type to skip every class but I spent most of my class time jotting down notes for projects I was working on in my free time (or drawing dragons but that’s kind of a given.)
Since bringing my grades up I’ve become insatiably curious about the process I went through (and I’ve seen hundreds of other students go through.) What is the difference between students that make the leap and the students that don’t?
Here are the things I’ve observed:
The first thing most students do in this transition is really simple…
They raise their standards.
When I was scoring C’s and D’s and barely batting an eye, I didn’t really care. I’d pack them away and go back to keeping myself busy with other stuff. One day (or over the course of a few weeks) that perspective changed. I don’t know exactly how but suddenly they weren’t good enough.
Most low scoring students stay low scoring students because they don’t decide to even change it. They don’t care. The first step to increasing those grades is, naturally, to care.
One of the fundamental reasons I didn’t care was because I barely kept track of my grades anyway. I didn’t think about how my grades were going up and down. I just let them happen. When I finally made that change in standards it became fundamental that I actually pay attention to the grades I got.
I actually started keeping track of my grades (internally more than externally at first.)
When my grades went up I let myself feel good. When my grades went down I forced myself to feel bad.
Most “bad students” tuck away their bad feelings by not keeping tabs on their scores.
Once those “bad students” start measuring their progress, or lackthereof, they end up getting the urge to put in increasing amounts of work until they’re able to see their grades boost.
There are a couple funny things about that.
- They need to put in more work to catch up on old weaker concepts to see a grade boost.
- Once they start catching up, if they keep studying the same amount of time they’re grades get dramatically farther from that extra effort.
No matter how hard some students work, it may be almost impossible to go through this catching up process alone. (If you slack for a year then maybe you can make up for it. If you slacked 5 years you might have a problem.)
To solve these tough cases students often use:
- -Diagnostic Tests (What don’t you know?)
- -Free time with the teacher
- -Lots of questions in class
- -Guidance from friends (Not ideal)
Show Up And Do It
Eventually these students get into strong habits of showing up and doing the work they need to do well.
They don’t skip class.
They pay attention in class.
They do important class work.
The actually take the time to study.
They Don’t Do It Alone
This is one of the most common things I’ve noticed about bad students that turn their grades good.
They virtually never go through this process alone. By that, I’m not saying they have a mentor, a tutor, or a physical person with them but they have, at the very least, a strategy.
They create a system and they work through that system.
They decide to study every single night and do all their homework. They’re not making the decision whether or not to study or do their homework every night. They’re just trusting in the system to get them the grades they want and more often than not, it works.
Most students don’t score low because they don’t know how to get good grades. These students usually don’t need the most efficient strategy. They just need to be willing to follow through with any strategy and they’ll end up dramatically better off.
Naturally, as the creator of the 15 Minute Study Strategy, I think that’s an awesome approach to take. You need to account for some extra catch up time but it’s what I would recommend first.
Any strategy is good though. If you have a strategy and follow through with it, you don’t need to wonder if you’re screwing up or succeeding because the strategy can take the blame. If the results don’t show up you can always change your strategy. (I’ve seen some friends go through 5 or more strategies before finding one that works for their lives.)
The simple decisions like choosing to study at night cost you energy. They require you discipline yourself to do what you need to do. They take a part of you that could be used for learning actual class material. By going with a study strategy you can save that energy for when it matters.
Applying this information isn’t quick and easy. It’s actually pretty slow and complicated at times but keep your eyes open because you’re probably later in this process than you think. It’s pretty safe to say being a subscriber for a study blog is a good sign that you’re moving in the right direction.
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Aaron Richardson took his grades from fighting F’s to Easy A’s. In the process, he read over 300 books on personal development. Today he’s founded 2 blogs on studying including Smart Student Secrets. He’s written 3 books on the subject. His work has been featured on some of the biggest news, psychology, and student sites on the internet.
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