A cap and gown, a diploma cover, and a tassel lying on each other

College can be such a wonderful experience, but it can also be tough juggling school, work, and family. What most college students don’t realize is that graduating with a high grade point average can set you ahead of the competition and come in handy as you further your studies in the future.

When I first went to college, right after high school, I wanted to excel and do well. Then, as I began to focus more on fitting in and social time, my grades began to slip and I only cared that I was passing classes. I was just an average student and I was okay with that.

Then, right after my junior year, I left college with a 2.1 GPA, and began working for a while to regain my focus.  I transferred to a different college five years later and was ready to study.  After my first successful semester, I had a desire to continue on my “A” streak and graduate with honors. A year and a half later, I graduated Summa Cum Laude with a 3.9 GPA. Not only was graduation such a wonderful achievement, but also wearing the golden cords, symbolizing my hard-earned success, was even sweeter.

Fast forward eight years later, and I decided to go back to school and pursue my Master’s degree. Due to my high GPA from my undergraduate program, I was not required to earn a high score on the GRE.  I was ecstatic because I have always scored poorly on most areas of standardized tests. All of that studying and hard work for my Bachelor’s degree was helping me years later.

While using the same methods I discovered in my undergraduate program for being an “A” student, I graduated with my Master’s degree and maintained a 4.0 the entire time.

A diploma cover and a tassel lying on each other

Below, I would like share some of the strategies that have worked for me throughout both of my degree programs.

1-Turn in your best work on time

Professors despise late work and some do not even accept it.  Be mindful of due dates and turn your work in on time.  Never turn in something that you know you could have done better.  Give 100% on all of your assignments and you will reap the rewards of that hard work.

2-Strategically plan your schedule

Part of being successful at anything in life is being able to juggle a schedule.  Strategically plan your class schedule to coordinate with your other responsibilities.  Know what works best for you and go for it.  If you’re a morning person, you may want to schedule your classes bright and early.  If you are more alert at night, then you may want to take evening classes.  If you need more flexibility than that and sitting in a classroom will not work for you, then online classes could be a perfect fit. However, be prepared for a heavier workload. Never pile on more classes than you can handle at one time. This will depend on how you are paying for college, as some scholarships and financial aid require at least twelve hours per semester. Also, be sure to limit taking all of your most difficult subjects in one semester. Set yourself up for success by knowing how much you can handle per semester in combination with all of your other life responsibilities. Schedule everything accordingly and you will be successful.

3-Read EVERYTHING and take notes

I will be the first to admit that I have despised reading until my late twenties.  When I went back to school to finish my Bachelor’s degree, reading everything was a deal I made with myself.  At times, I had to force myself to read, but I am glad I did.  Instead of highlighting in the book, I wrote down notes on the important parts of each chapter I was reading.  This really helped me to retain information and I had something to study later. After completing the reading assignments, I could participate fully in class discussions, ace quizzes, and pass tests.  Trust me when I say that doing the reading and taking notes makes a huge difference in your grades.

4-Stay organized

Write down all important dates into a calendar, whether digitally or in a tactile one.  Keep up with due dates and assignments that overlap so you can plan accordingly.  Also, keep a binder for each class you are taking and put all notes and handouts neatly in the binder. This helps you when you need to refer back to something, study for midterms, or finals.

Below are a few of my favorite planners to keep you organized.

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Cramming is a thing of the past and does not help you retain and learn information.  In order to learn better and do your best work, break things down into smaller parts.  For example, whenever I have a project or a paper to write, I make sure to start on it early enough so that I can accomplish it in small parts. Then, I come back to it refreshed each time. Some of my greatest work was not completed during one sit down for several hours simultaneously. Breaking assignments down helps you to process what you are learning. This allows you to complete your best work and helps you manage your time more efficiently.

6-Focus on the end result

It’s easy to feel discouraged or overwhelmed in college when you have a tough semester of classes.  The best thing to do is focus on the end result; obtaining your degree, walking across that stage with pride, and entering into the career that has inspired you towards accomplishing your degree.

© Strength 4 Spouses LLC, 2019.

picture of the author Wendi Iacobello

Wendi Iacobello has been an Army wife for three years and part of military life for five years. She has spent the last nine years as an adult educator, has a Master of Arts in Educational Media, and a Bachelor of Science degree in Early Childhood Education. Her teaching career includes; Middle and High School Special Education, Correctional Education, and Community College Instruction in Early Childhood Education, Compensatory Ed, as well as Adult Basic Education. Currently, she is a blogger, freelance writer, instructional designer, aqua spin Instructor, and avid volunteer. In her free time, you can usually find her volunteering at USO’s story time, outdoors in the garden, running, cooking up a new recipe, or playing fetch with her adorable Beagle. Wendi is extremely passionate about helping others find their inner strength by sharing her experiences, insight, resources, and inspirational stories on her blog Strength4Spouses.