Since starting to work as a writer on a study blog, I’ve come to meet countless students that are absolutely completely committed to improving their grades.
That was one of the biggest surprises I’ve run into.
Commitment is important to improving your grades.
When a student is committed to improving their grades, it’s virtually inevitable that they’ll find a way to improve them because they’ll invest so much time, so much energy, and so many strategies that those grades eventually will happen.
Commitment is the kind of thing that keeps students studying on Saturday night.
Commitment can turn shoulds into musts.
While most students are telling themselves they “should” study, the committed students are telling themselves they “must” study.
This dramatically changes their grades.
That alone can make committing to improving your grades seem like a really good idea. You may already start to notice the flaws with that kind of a commitment but, when the subject is brought up, virtually all students can hear the faint hum of this siren’s call.
They start thinking, “what if I REALLY committed to studying instead of wasting time with all these other things in my life?”
It can seem like an intelligent move but in reality it’s more of an Aristotelian mean. You may want some studying but there is too much.
I’d like to introduce you to one of these committed students I met a few weeks ago:
David’s “Bad” Grades
When I first received a message from David, he sounded desperate.
If you’ve spent any time on college and high school focused forums, you’ve probably read this kind of desperation.
He started by discussing how his grades were plummeting and he couldn’t figure out why. He was terrified that he couldn’t get into college with the grades he was getting. He mentioned a number of personal things about how he was feeling and it was downright depressing. He repeatedly said he felt like he was turning into an idiot.
I responded to his message with some comforting messages and some questions about the way he studied. I was looking to find out where he was going so wrong. In hindsight, there was another set of questions I should have been asking.
He ended up responding with, literally, pages of response to my questions.
As I started to go through the email I started to notice some keywords that made me think. I skimmed through it quickly and saw the words, “Yale,” “A-,” “All-State,” and it hit me.
I read through it completely and could verify this: this wasn’t a student getting D’s and C’s worrying about his future.
This was a student that was near the top of his graduating class. Not only that but he had a huge stack of extra-curriculars that would impress virtually anyone.
By all means, I understand he may have high standards but his messages explicitly discussed not getting into college.
I’m sorry but if you’re still competing for the top colleges in the country then you’re not going to “not get into college,” unless you don’t even try.
He also discussed feeling like an idiot. Really? I knew he couldn’t possibly think getting a couple A-’s could have any relationship to turning into an idiot. That’s like saying you’re getting fat when you happen to put on a pound.
He had such high standards but he had a completely unreasonable perspective.
There is nothing wrong with high standards but they shouldn’t get in the way of a reasonable perspective on yourself and others.
Here’s a question that I like to ask students with this perspective problem:
When Was The Last Time You Had Fun With Your Friends?
his can seem like a bit of an odd and unrelated question but it usually illustrates a lot for me as an observer.
It’s hard to understand much about someone by asking them questions that they already know the right answer to.
If I were to ask, how much time do you spend studying every night or how much time they take to relax, I’d likely get whatever response they’re in the mood for.
(People are notoriously bad at estimating the time they spend doing things.)
With a less direct question like this one, I have a better chance of hitting the core of the issue. A student answering this question is much less likely to unintentionally skew their response.
When I asked this question to David, I already knew the response to expect.
He responded that he didn’t even remember the last time he had fun with his friends. He guessed it had to be months ago.
This may surprise you but when I ask that same question to students scoring higher than they’ve ever scored in their life, they’ve often spent huge amounts of time with their friends having fun.
There is an old cliche that high scoring students score high because they neglect their friendships but that’s usually not the case.
No… hanging out with friends won’t necessarily improve your grade but hanging out with friends can help improve them when done right.
Friends Can Make Your Grades Better
Studies have been mixed on the following subject.
Many studies have suggested that students with more friends end up with higher grades. The better a person’s social network, the more likely they are to be a high achiever.
There have also been other studies that seemed to contradict that result.
When the studies accounted for the personalities of the individual students, this correlation reversed. If two outgoing students were to be compared, the one with fewer friendships would end up with higher grades.
Of course, the number of friends doesn’t give a very good perspective on how committed the individual students are about spending time with those friends. It also avoids one of the most important factors.
Who are those friends?
Students that spend the most time with other students that score higher than them are dramatically more likely to increase their grades than students that don’t.
Spending time with students that score higher than you is a daily challenge.
Everyday you spend with someone that scores higher than you is a reminder of what you’re capable of. When you spend time with these kinds of people, you get the urge to get better. When you don’t spend time with those people, you will stop getting those urges.
This brings me back to David’s story. He eventually told me something illustrative. He realized it without me even bringing it up.
He only started scoring as high as he did in the last couple of years. His grades shot up right when he made a major change in his life.
His grades shot up when he started dating a girl that was at the top of their class. He ended up spending hours and hours a week with his girlfriend getting reminders to worry about his grades.
She would show him her A’s. From the beginning of their relationship she was talking about college. They would spend most of their free time together.
His grades skyrocketed up and he’d never even realized why until we started talking about it. As soon as he realized this he started to see some of the things he’d been doing differently since he and his girlfriend broke up.
Friendships change people.
They help define what’s important.
When you’re spending time with yourself, you have no opportunity to use this influence. You end up being at the mercy of the things you choose to consume your time with.
Sure… if you’re disciplined, focused, and goal oriented then you’re likely to do fine but it might not be very fun.
If you have close friends constantly pushing you to be better than you’re getting the chance for an extra boost.
When students start getting committed to improving their grades it can be easy to get caught up worrying exclusively about the amount of time they spend studying but it can have a huge impact to keep other things in mind.
Humans are social creatures.
There are advantages to having good and influential friendships as a key link in your study routine and, more importantly, your life.
No… a few good friends won’t change everything but they certainly can help you change everything.
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