Triangle Guide to Great Grades
Be here for a reason. The only way to do something well is to care about it. Ask yourself why you are in school. If its because your parents want you here, thats not likely to inspire you to greatness. Think about what you would be doing if you werent in school. If it seems appealing, maybe you should go ahead and do it. There are a lot of places to get an education, and college isnt necessarily the best one.
Dont study what doesnt excite you. If you find you are enrolled in a boring class, there are three things you can do:
Pick one of the first two choices. Make a decision early in the quarter as to whether you are happy with your selection of courses. Remember the words of Jim Rohn, You are not a tree. If youre not happy where you are, move.
- Find something more interesting to take in its place,
- Find a reason that it is important to you, and get excited about it for that reason, or
- Stay bored and miserable.
Forget about grades until later. Focus on the subject matter of the course. Learn it because you want to learn it, and dont be concerned about how the teacher is going to measure what youve learned. If you have read all the material covered in the course, and done the practice exercises in the homework, chances are you will know how to answer the questions on the exam. If youve been graded unfairly, or incorrectly, there is nothing wrong with going and respectfully discussing the matter. But if all you wanted all along was the grade, then you dont deserve it, and it probably shows.
Take charge. Decide now that the one person who is responsible both for your success and your happiness is YOU. Decide now that if you dont do well, youre not going to blame it on your girlfriend, or your roommate, or your TA. You are the one who decides how to spend your 168 hours each week. You have the books, the lectures, the libraries. Its all there for you. Take it. Use it. Be in control.
Your course has a name. Use it. The course number is a convenience for a catalog listing and computer scheduling. You dont care about that. What you do care about is the subject matter of the course, which is summarized in the name. Develop the habit of referring to your courses by name, and when you do, see if you can say the name with pride and enthusiasm, because in just a few months, you intend to understand this stuff!
Stand guard at the door to your mind. If you watch what you eat to stay healthy and grow physically, then to stay healthy and grow mentally, you must watch what you think. Dont believe something just because someone said it, or wrote it, or because everyone else thinks they know it. Check it out, think it over, ask yourself if it makes sense and what you could do to confirm or disprove it.
Being a student is not a 9 to 5 job. If you dont want to work overtime, maybe you should be a waiter. Only a genius can learn all you have to learn in your courses without studying every night, and on weekends.
Time management. Working long hours is not enough. With all you have to do, you have to make effective use of your time as well. Keep a schedule, not just of your classes, but of your whole work week. Set priorities for your time, and set aside time each evening and between classes to study the materials you need to work on. Leave plenty of room for partying and sports, but make sure partying and sports show up in your schedule as breaks from studying, and not the other way around.
Find a place. A doctor has his office, a sculptor has his studio. You need to find a place where you can do your work. It should be a place where you feel comfortable, where your tools (textbooks, dictionary, computer, etc.) are close at hand, and where you can stay focused on your work. It might be your room, a library, a study lounge, a cafeteria, or a series of good places.
Take tough courses. Youve heard the expression, If you want something done well, give it to the busy man to do. Look around at the people you know. Are the people who get good grades the ones who take the easy courses? No. Good grades come from an enthusiastic approach to schooling, and its hard to get excited about bird watching. Challenge yourself, then go out and show yourself you can do it. You can.
Use your resources. If the subject matter of your courses is truly interesting, you will not find everything you need to understand it in your textbooks and course lectures. Go outside the assigned material and see if you can develop a deeper sense of what the professor is getting at. Look for related materials in the library, ask your professors and TAs probing questions, discuss what youve learned with your friends, and use your own mind to ponder its meaning. This is where learning comes from.
Do it NOW. The right way to take an exam is to go to bed early the night before, have a good breakfast, do a light review of the material, and go in with a clear head and a relaxed attitude. You cant do that if you just started learning the stuff a few weeks or days before. If you have found good reasons to be studying these courses, then use those reasons to motivate yourself to study them all through the quarter.
Dont forget all the other things that go into a good life besides learning. Pick a few good friends, and let loose now and again. Stay physically active. And if your grades dont come in this quarter the way you wanted them to, take it in stride. If you would have benefited from doing something differently, think about how you might do that next quarter. Remember, your grades are not you; youre okay, even if they arent. The reason for getting good grades is to confirm that youve learned this hard stuff that you were excited about learning. It feels good. Do it.
If you find yourself, down the road, enrolled as a science or engineering major (undergrad or grad student) at UCLA, dont hesitate to check out Triangle Fraternity at UCLA. Its a great bunch of guys and a great place to headquarter yourself while you work on that degree. Not to leave the women out of this, you may not be able to become a brother, but Ill bet the brothers wont mind if you drop by to introduce yourself as well!
Good luck in this course, and good luck in all you decide to do.
With warmest best wishes for your career,