Ever wanted to know the secrets of straight-A students? They seem to do it all and have it all – sports, band, clubs, volunteering – and they manage to pull off stellar straight A’s. But HOW? The truth is that these students are not just “smart” – they’re strategic with their time and energy. We’ll let you in on five secrets of these masters of GPA.

1)  Study Everywhere

Got 10 minutes to spare while waiting for Mom to pick you up? Quiz yourself for tomorrow’s vocabulary quiz. Arrived early to track practice? Whip out The Catcher in the Rye and finish off that chapter. Early to class? Knock off a math problem from your assignment due tomorrow. Working out on the treadmill? Audible.com has audiobook versions of many books— if you’re on the cross country team— who’s going to stop you from “reading” The Scarlet Letter while you jog 5 miles? No one. Make the most out of the little pockets of time in between class and extracurriculars in order to efficiently use your time and maximize productivity. When you find ways to study anywhere and everywhere, those minutes will add up and you’ll easily accomplish a solid amount of work.

2) Prioritize

Getting all A’s doesn’t mean being painstakingly perfect, like doing every assignment on time, and studying hard for every exam.  It means making the most of the resources you have to create the most beneficial outcome on your report card. If it’s finals week and you have an A+ in Algebra— that final is infinitely less important than the English final in the class you have a borderline 89.9% in. Do what needs to be done now, what’s most important, and what most significantly impacts your grade.  Don’t waste time on a science poster that will eat up 10 hours but only get you 10 points.  Think more strategically than that. Weigh the costs and benefits, then wisely invest your time and energy.

3) Ask for Extra Credit — or for help— if you need it.

If your grade isn’t what you want it to be— speak up and say something! Show that you’re willing to go the extra mile, whether it’s volunteering to rewrite an essay or retaking an exam. Do whatever it takes. Teachers appreciate it when they see that students care.  Even if they do reject your request, it doesn’t hurt to ask.  You can also ask for extra credit in general BEFORE you need it.

4) Embrace your teacher’s expectations

Straight-A students aren’t just “good at math” or “good at writing”— they’re adept at reading their teachers’ expectations. Don’t get mad about what your teacher expects of you— find a way to deliver it. Ideally, you should know if your paper is disorganized before your teacher tells you— but you should also know whether your teacher will care.
Don’t just throw out past assignments, quizzes, and tests after getting them back. Use them as study tools, focusing your attention on the areas where points were taken off. Study what you got wrong to eliminate the possibility of ever getting points docked off the next time– don’t make the same mistake twice.  Different teachers have different priorities and ways of grading– figure out what will get you points with each specific instructor.
If your teacher gives you a study guide, pore over it and make sure you can do everything your teacher discusses. If there’s anything on the study guide that’s ambiguous, ask your teacher for clarification.
Overall, if you know what you need to work on, address it. If you’re not sure, ask. Having an awareness of what you need to do to get an A is crucial.  I know some teachers make this hard— but that means you just have to be more vigilant, ask more questions, or work harder.

5) Save face

If you can’t do everything perfectly, then at least do something! Getting straight A’s is something like being a good poker player — you have to be able to make it appear as if you’ve got a strong hand even when you don’t, but you also need to actually deliver on that strength — most of the time.  Keeping a good image, though, starts with doing your best when it’s possible to do so.  Turn in the best work you can when you can.  That means if your teacher says put in 4-8 citations, put in 8.  If you can write 2-3 poems — write 3, or 2 long ones. When you can’t put in your all, do the best you can to save face.  Make strategic choices for maximum impact.
Not getting in an assignment done because you don’t have time is not ideal— do something. If you can write a terrible paper without doing much of the reading – but it’s a journal entry that your teacher probably won’t read closely – do it. If you don’t have time to read the entire book, but do have time to skim through SparkNotes, watch the BBC movie version, or even read a few chapters — do it.  For your math homework, at least write as many diagrams down as you can or write some of the problems down on your paper— do something! For class discussions, raise your hand and confidently contribute, even if you only read a chapter.  Get your book out during discussion and actively skim while people are discussing. Don’t let the fact that you couldn’t be perfect ruin a perfect opportunity to do the best you can. The idea is that even when you can’t do 100% of the work, try to do something.  Never turn in nothing.
When I see B and C students, often what happens is if they don’t have the right amount of time to complete something, they simply give up. They either don’t complete an assignment at all, or they turn in two sentences instead of a full page. It is much better to write a full page of the best fluff you can imagine than two sentences that are perfectly accurate.  Their mentality is that if they don’t try, they cannot fail – it’s not their fault, it’s not their failure. This is a flawed philosophy that will put you in the B, C, or maybe even D range. Straight-A students know that something is better than nothing, and make the most out of every opportunity.
The bottom line is that straight-A students are not just intrinsically gifted with intellect. They are strategic with their time and energy in order to generate the maximum benefit that will reflect positively on their report cards. If you implement some of these tips, pretty soon you should see your grades steadily rising and who knows – maybe you’ll become one of those envied 4.0+ students, too.
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