Time limitations aren’t grade limitations.

You don’t need tons of time to score top notch grades.

I’ve worked with students that have gone from C’s to A’s while spending less than 20 minutes a day outside of class. (It’s pretty typical to see a little time increase over finals and sometimes midterms.)

I’m thinking about students like: Erika brought her B’s up to A’s while studying less than 10% of the time she did before.

This isn’t even unusual.

These are the typical cases I run into.

The mainstream opinion on working outside of class is massively perverted.

The Outside Of Class Time LIE!

Have you ever heard a college professor recommend you study 2-3 hours per hour in class per week? So… for a 3 hour a week course, they’re recommending you spent 9 hours on it outside of class each week.

Imagine you have 5 classes and are expected to work that much.

5 classes * 3 hours inside of class * 3 hours outside of class = 45 hours of studying outside of class…

Then you have the 15 hours of class time.

You’re *expected* to work 60 hour weeks.

Yea… right…

Naturally, no one does this. Not even the teachers recommending this did this through school.

You go to the most intense universities around the world and you’ll find only a few students that even try to study this much.

Everyone knows this is crap but people still spread it around hoping it fertilizes your motivation.

People say massive ridiculous numbers to make you feel guilty no matter what you end up actually doing.

(If you try to study that long but fail because you’re human… they’ll blame you. If you don’t try to study that long then it’s also you’re fault because you didn’t study that long.)

Here is the truth:

It’s not your fault.

These are false narratives that, I’m guessing, are spread to try and motivate you to study at all.

If you were taught that studying is usually optional then you’d be more likely to settle for the ease of slightly lower grades. Instead, they try to scare you into studying some amount of time.

Studying outside of class is optional. I’ve written a whole book about it.

There are a lot of aspects of school that are optional.

These optional aspects of school are the number one challenge you’ll need to overcome when you’re limited on time.

This Is What Kills Your Free Time

Have you ever closely examined your syllabus for class?

If you’ve read this blog awhile then you’ve probably heard this a few times. It’s one of the most important strategies for improving your grades.

On your syllabus, the teacher will often list the percentage of your final grade each aspect of the course makes up. They might make something that looks like:

  • Tests 25%
  • Homework 20%
  • Class work 20%
  • Essays 10%
  • Class Participation 25%

That’s pretty much the perfect roadmap you need to bring your grade to whatever you want it to be.

Look for some opportunities in that syllabus.

Specifically, look at that 10% of your final grade that comes from essays.

Now imagine the teacher gives you an essay to do every single week. In a 15 week college course, that’s 15 essays.

That would mean each essay is worth less than a single point to your final grade.

You could skip every single essay in that course and still score an A in the final course. (That certainly wouldn’t be my recommended strategy but keep that in mind.)

You shouldn’t spend hours and hours writing these essays. It could be much better for you to spend that time doing other things in the class.

Take note: this does depend on the specific course and workload of each aspect. If there are only 1 or 2 homework assignments worth 20% of your grade then you’d want to spend a massive amount of time on those assignments.

If you want to dig in really deep with the data, ask your teacher how many tests (homework assignments, essays, etc.) they have in the class plan. Then you can verify you know the exact value of most assignments.

How To Do What Matters (Instead Of What Doesn’t Matter)

There are two ways you can use this information to keep your grade high when you have a limited amount of time:

  1. You know what assignments you should focus on.
  2. You know what assignments you can skip.

On the first point:

When a single assignment is worth more than a few points on your final grade, it’s worth putting a ton of effort into perfecting the assignment.

This is often the case with class essays.

For example, teachers will assign 4 essays through the semester and their total value together is 20% of your grade. That means each essay is worth 5 points to your final score.

These essays make a huge impact on your grade.

They’re worth double checking and working on for hours.

In contrast, if there were 15 essays like I showed in my previous example, each essay isn’t all that important. You might as well not treat it too seriously.

If an essay is worth 1% of your final grade then a 50% failing score on it will lose you ½ a percent on your final grade.

If an essay is worth 5% of your final grade then a 50% failing score will lose you 5 times that (2.5%.)

That’s the major discrepancy.

That brings up the second point.

Some assignments are so completely worthless and time consuming that you shouldn’t do them.

You have only so much time in your life.

If the teacher gives 40 multi-hour per night homework assignments that in total add up to 10% of your final grade then you’re talking about a quarter percent of your grade per assignment. Each individual assignment is virtually worthless.

I know… you want every point you can get but life doesn’t work that way.

If you spend hours for a fraction of a point, you’re not going to have the time or energy for the important assignments.

Sure… you can rush them and get something on paper but you shouldn’t let useless assignments waste your time and energy.

Most assignments are worth doing. Some are not.

Work Full-Time – School Full-Time – Perfect Scores

This is a question I heard from an older student before.

How can I get higher (essentially A+’s) scores while working full-time?

It just doesn’t work that way.

If you have a limited amount of time for class work then you can’t expect the same results in your grades as you could if you had tons of time.

It’s usually possible to score straight A’s with only a couple of hours of school work a week outside of class. (This is less possible in harder schools and programs.)

It’s much harder to get near perfect scores in that amount of time. There is a massive discrepancy between the easy to score early points and the more difficult later points. It’s the perfect test score problem.

Time limitations may make hitting perfect scores significantly harder. At a certain point, you should be comfortable with that.

Your grades don’t mean that much.

Your grades may be lower on the academic scale but if you’re busy in some other area of your life, those score may mean more than a higher score from a regular student.

If you have a job through college, you’re doing more for your future than a typical student (even if they score higher than you.)

If you’re dedicated to something outside of class, you’re also doing more for yourself than the average schlub going to class. It doesn’t matter what score they get.

You may be doing something amazing just doing what you’re doing.

Don’t lose sight of that.

Image Sources: flickr, PixelsMaxPixel, pixabay, pixabay

How To Win In Class When You Never Have Enough Time


This is an absolutely essential read for anyone on this blog.

We just had to throw out more members from our email list. Sending out these emails are expensive and tossing out the non-participants (lazy bums, don’t tell them I said that,) is our best tool for keeping costs down.

My goal is to help MOTIVATED students improve their grades.

If you’re comfortable with your grades and workload then please don’t sign up – I don’t want to just have to delete your email later.

If you’re looking to:

  • Improve your scores
  • Waste less time with CRAP studying
  • Actually learn the class material

Then I would love to teach you what I know –

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