“I seriously need to switch out of this class,” Jamie was telling me, “This teacher is just busting my balls. I can’t get a B…” Jamie was usually a straight A student.
I tilted my head and pursed the corner of my lips. We were talking about our A&P teacher’s seemingly impossible standards.
“I’d fail before I switch,” I said laughing. I was barely scraping B’s in the class.
And… I was completely serious when I said that.
This realization was huge for college.
I scored lower than I was used to in that class. But… I was learning stuff like crazy. The teacher was an absolute beast when it came to violently shoveling A&P knowledge into my skull until I just couldn’t take it anymore. It was a tough class and an amazing teacher.
It would be worth failing that class just to learn as much as I did. You get teachers like that once every dozen classes. Take advantage of it.
But it’s not that simple, there are a few complications:
The High School Dilemma
Some high school students are forced to maintain a precarious balance in school.
They want to learn from their teachers but, at the same time, they’re trying to keep their grades high enough to get into a competitive college. Would they rather score an A and learn less or score a B and learn more?
An ‘A’ may get you into a better college.
But… learning more means you’d do better once you get to college and your future in general. Learning less just feels like a waste of talent. If you can learn more, shouldn’t you want to learn more?
The solution to this dilemma isn’t hard to find when you understand the value of college:
95% of colleges aren’t worth competing to get into. Sure… they’re good investments. They’re just not hard to appreciate the benefits of. They’re a dime a dozen but cost you 400,000 times that. 5% of colleges are top-notch investments in your future.
Are you competing for that top 5% of colleges?
Take Your Success has a great take on this. Sometimes your GPA matters. Most of the time, it doesn’t.
If so, you’re not in the business of learning more. You’re in the business of competing for limited spots. The vast majority of students that get accepted to these colleges will be using every advantage they can get. Choosing the noble act of learning more is a symbolic gesture that will not pay off in the short run. It will just decrease your chances of getting accepted.
If you’re not competing for the top 5% of colleges then you’re in the comfortable majority.
You’re going to school. (I’m assuming you’ve decided that already.) You don’t need to waste your time in easy classes. It’s pointless. Sure… you can do it but it won’t help you. You’re stuck going to class anyway. You might as well learn as much as possible. (Sometimes that will be in a class where you struggle to score high. Sometimes it will be in an easy to score high class.)
It may not feel good to go home with a mediocre looking grade but that’s not all you’ll go home with. You’ll also have the experience and knowledge to deal with your future classes better. In the long run, you win.
What About The College Dilemma?
The high school dilemma revolves around the choice between a better college or learning more.
The college dilemma revolves around the choice between a better gpa on your resume or learning more.
Should you focus on scoring higher to get a better job or learning more?
Scoring higher may give you better job opportunities. Learning more could do the same. The difference is ultimately the time frame.
When you’re applying for your first job, your GPA may be a factor. This is particularly true if you’re competing for exclusive internships. But if you can’t back it up with knowledge then, like it or not, this is going to be a short term head start. You might make more but eventually the lower scoring students that learned more will catch up.
For the most part, I don’t believe there is a college dilemma. Whatever you pick, you’re not losing out. Manage your college schedule in a way that makes you happy. Both ways can work.
One Quick Exception: If you’re not planning to work in the field more than 5 or 10 years then consider focusing on your GPA. That means you’ll start with a higher paycheck. By the time the more prepared students catch up, you’ll be leaving the business and enjoying a higher return.
A Worse Grade Doesn’t Mean A Better Teacher
This is the most important caveat to my point in this article.
This isn’t about finding classes where your grades suck or your teachers are miserable buffoons. It’s about how to deal with those oddball courses where you know your grade will suffer but you also know you will learn a lot.
Sometimes good teachers hold students to high standards. Sometimes bad teachers hold students up to ridiculous standards. Try and distinguish the difference.
Once you start to notice it you’ll be able to manage a ton more in school.
These are the usual signs to look for:
Do poor students complain about the teacher being tough?
Do high-scoring students complain about the teacher being tough?
Do average students seem to enjoy the class?
If you get a yes to all three questions then you may not have an easy to ace course but you probably have a wonderful learning opportunity. If you’re in the right situation then take advantage of it.
You will only have so many great teachers in your life. A great teacher is the most valuable resource you’ll ever have in any subject. A great teacher can permanently improve your future in any and every field. They can get you motivated. They can make you appreciate subjects you’ve never appreciated in the past. They can change your life for the better.
Naturally, you need to manage your grades in some situations but don’t miss a great opportunity to learn when you get it.
This is an absolutely essential read for anyone on this blog.
I’m about 4 hours away from something big.
The story began a decade ago when I first started to share my study strategies with other students.
I had figured out the Holy Grail of academic optimization strategies – and every intermediate step to get to it. Using this strategy, I pulled a nearly 4.0 GPA while running a double course load in college – and once I started sharing it.
Droves of them.
And then teachers noticed.
Most of the teachers that were looking out for their student’s best interest got what I was saying and supported the cause. Others… well… not everyone has the student’s best interest at heart.
Early on (even before Smart Student Secrets,) I started writing for average students.
I knew… I was NEVER one of the “smart kids”. I was mediocre at best. And I knew, if these strategies worked for me then they could work for just about anybody. And that’s who I wanted to connect with.
But… There was a problem…
I built an audience giving these strategies away. Sure…
And I’d get messages from them. And we’d talk. And I’d hear their stories.
I’d hear from A+ students that cut their study time by 90%.
I’d hear from B students that took their grades up to A’s.
I’d hear from teachers that were sharing my strategies with their students.
I’d hear from older students how these strategies changed their life.
I love it. I love introducing these strategies that changed my life to other people.
But there was always this… but…
What about the C students?
What about the D students?
What about the students that are currently failing?
Sure… Some would reach out.. but…
They never followed through… They’d take a small step. They’d sign up. They’d learn some killer strategies. Seeing right there how powerful they were going to be…
And then… life kicks in. They lose sight of their goals.
And it’s gone.
Student’s came to this site to improve their life. They see the possibilities. But then… they move on.
In about 4 hours, I’m going to be introducing something – an email subscriber exclusive – that can help change that.
It’s going to make more Smart Students than at any other time in this site’s history.
If you’re ready to take your academic game to the next level – if you want to see it for yourself.
Write your email in the box. Check the confirmation you want emails. Confirm your email. And see for yourself.