Not too long ago, in a critical discussion on gender theory, one of my professors drew my attention to a post on the Spartans Speak blog called “How to Look Good for Class Without Actually Trying.” During that discussion, we came to some interesting conclusions about the way gender norms impact young women in college, and they can be summed up by looking at the first sentence of the article: “Between staying up late cramming for an exam and waking up with enough time to grab Starbucks and make it to your 8 AM, the struggle to look presentable for class is real for college girls.”
It is true that, stereotypically, there is more pressure placed on girls to look their best (or, at least, better than their male-identifying counterparts) for class, perhaps even with the added undertone that maybe looking good will yield her better grades. Now, as a female-identifying student who chooses to dress in a t-shirt and jeans every day with a hat pulled down to my eyes, I cannot speak to my outfits’ influence over my grades. But I find that to be just fine, because my grades speak for themselves.
Every college student would love an article titled “How to Get A’s Without Actually Trying.” Let’s face it: we would all love some easy life hacks to boost our GPAs by a few points without expending the extra energy. But the fact of the matter is that, no matter how intelligent you think you are, and no matter your gender, if you want good grades, some work will be necessary on your part for their upkeep. I cannot offer any quick and easy tips to maintain your grades, but I can offer some guidelines that have worked for me in the past. Warning: Some effort is required.
Step 1: Stay Healthy. This step seems kind of silly, but take it from someone who knows: It is nearly impossible to keep up with school work when your body is wearing down. There is quite a bit involved in this tip, such as making sure you are eating healthy meals, managing stress levels, and even (believe it or not) taking time out for yourself. Everybody needs a mental health break once in a while. Pay attention to the signs your body is giving you; if you are feeling run-down, there is a good chance you are taking on too much.
Step 2: Participate in Class. Both a blessing and a curse inherent in STAC’s small size is that you cannot stay anonymous in your classes; chances are that you are one out of ten, twenty, or thirty, not one out of 400 like at larger universities. Professors get to know you and your thought processes better when you offer insightful feedback during discussions. It shows the professor that you are paying attention and willing to invest in the class. Even asking questions shows that you care, and professors are more likely to look favorably upon you when you show a bit of enthusiasm. (Really, it makes their day, I promise.)
Step 3: Go to Office Hours. The best perk of STAC’s small size is the time for one-on-one attention with your professor. Having visited some larger universities and spoken to some professors at other colleges, not all undergraduate professors are as willing to work individually with students as they are here. Visiting your professor, whether it is to go over a paper, ask a question, or simply say hi, shows initiative and allows your professor to get to know you and your work habits better. And, as mentioned above, showing a little initiative and enthusiasm will make your professors more likely to look favorably upon you while considering your grades.
Step 4: Adjust Your Social Life. This is the step that people seem to object most strongly to. But before you get all in a tangle, remember that I wrote “adjust” your social life, not “abandon”. Because we are in college, most people seem to associate “socializing” with Thursday nights on the town and weekends spent half-conscious. My social life, on the other hand, consists mostly of the clubs I choose to be involved in and the study groups I have formed with friends in my classes. You might be thinking, “Psh, nerd…”, and perhaps that is a fair statement. But I have to say, my social life, spent with people who care as much as I do about community service and thriving academically, has never been lacking. Study groups do not have to be all about studying; they can also be about having a good laugh and blowing off steam after a long week of work. Change your work ethic and your grades will change, too.
So, as you can see, there is no easy life hack to better grades. You have to do the work to yield the reward, and what they say is true: those papers will not write themselves. I can say from experience, though, that it is worth the plunge. Giving a little extra time over to your school work and getting to know your professors will not actually kill you. In fact, you might even find getting A’s starts getting easier when you are willing to put in a little more effort.