How to Get Good Grades in University

If you are in university, this is probably right around the time you feel like hell, with exams, papers and a million readings that you put off, even though you swore this was the year you would keep up. Don’t fear, you are not alone.

My younger sister came home for the weekend, in a rather perplexed about her current university experience. She is travelling through her first year and, like some foreign visitors, was marred by an experience of unexpected surprises. Rather than brave the university world alone, she got smart and decided not to re-invent the wheel; instead, she opted to talk to her older siblings. It was a rather rousing debate – there are four of us, all at different universities and programs, and it seemed post-worthy for any university student who needs a little guidance to the elixir of good grades. I’ll confess – none of us are geniuses – but I maintain that because we each have averages above 3.5/4.0 GPA, we feel qualified to give a few tips on improving.

This post is a tough-love post: it is for those students who have been cruising through university, and have suddenly realized their grades are not high enough – whether it is for professional school or grad school, for graduation, for your parents, or just for yourself. One thing my sister mentioned is that university students (including herself) feel lost in their student experience, and that a little tough love from some older siblings might have helped. So we’ve decided to play “older sibling” to all of our readers and dish it out, cold (ice-cream!) style.

1. Stop Skipping Class: I make it a rule never to skip class unless it is an emergency. Sometimes, you have a big midterm or paper due, and you’ve fallen behind and every minute counts – and then it is an emergency. But skipping because you feel too lazy to walk to class, or because your relaxing day was so wonderful that you can’t seem to muster enough brains to attend, or because the commute is just too damn long – those are not excuses that will increase your grades. It isn’t rocket science: class is important; and your perception that missing a class or two is not a big deal is just plain stupid.

2. Adjust your Attitude: Can I confess something to you? The majority of university students go through university with the perception that fun and freedom are as equal in the “university” experience as studying. I believe the collective sibling response to my sister’s comment about this was ” Get your head out of your ass, Leah!” (Haha, sorry – it is a family catchphrase!). But in essence – that’s basically it: if you intend to get good grades, or to improve the ones you have, get your head out of you ass and realize that study and fun are not a 50-50 concept. Sorry to disappoint you!

3. Never Hand Something In Late: It is one of the biggest mistakes students can make – you lose marks for absolutely no reason other than you can’t afford a calendar to mark a correct due date.

Get an agenda! And at the beginning of the term, write in all of your important due dates. When you see a week where there four papers due, you don’t  go out clubbing the night before you paper is due and decide to miss class the next day to hand in your paper late. Even if that is an incredibly stupid example (I know people who have done it!), there are still other common mistakes students make. For example: It is not enough to start working on four papers the week before week they are due. Part of having an agenda is that it allows you to look ahead into the future (yup, it’s a crystal ball) to due dates weeks in advance. When you see four papers coming up, or a very heavy week, start a few weeks early so you aren’t swamped with work the week or night before.

This also goes with …

4. Get the Readings Done on Time: this one is an obvious one – despite the fact that doing readings in advance will assist you in class and make life easier, when it comes to exam crunch time, you won’t be cursing yourself for leaving it all to the last minute.

5. Talk to the T.A.s: If I could give a person one piece of advice to succeed in university, it would be to talk in advance to the person who marks your work. It is so important – its like guessing what kind of present someone wants as opposed to just asking them!

Always schedule an appointment with your T.A., come prepared with some ideas/questions, and you will find them to be a resource of great help. Consider your meeting with your T.A. a permanent appointment rather than something you can cancel, otherwise it will be easy to change your mind because you couldn’t come up with anything to discuss. The purpose of the appointment is to force you to think about the paper in advance.

6. Consider a Study Group: Although planning/putting a study group together can be work, they can be incredibly beneficial. Working with like-minded, hardworking people can help you connect with the readings and lectures better, and can ensure you don’t miss any concepts – or better, learn a new way to approach the concepts – so that everything is clear at the end. If you know someone who can help you in a study group, really use that time effectively: students often comment that they retain more from the study group than memorizing on their own, and that when it comes to discussion/essay questions (rather than multiple choice or short answer), the study group helps to better critically analyze ideas.

7. Use your Weekends More Effectively: Students often let their weekends dwindle away – particularly a day off like Friday or Monday. Your weekend should always be a catch-up time rather than a party time. While you may have commitments you can’t avoid, remember that if your fun time adds up to more than 15% of your weekend time, then you can mentally decrease your paper or exam mark by 25%. I know it sounds harsh (you would think I would say 40% fun time is too much), but it isn’t. Unless you are a genius – or even naturally smart and school comes easily for you, expect to work hard if you want 80+ in all your courses.  In a three-day weekend (with Friday or Monday off), I would say an evening off would be fine, but any more than that, and I think it becomes easy to let the whole weekend slip away.

8. Stop Fooling Around: We thought we ought to hammer it home a little more than tip two of getting an attitude facelift:


These are NOT the best years of your life, so please, celebrating these years like the next 50 will be a disaster. University is prepping you for life – and doing poorly in school, or being on academic probation/dropping out isn’t going to help. If you want to be  treated like a grown-up, you have to act like one. It is hard for people to take you seriously when you spend a lot of time fooling around. When you have a busy week ahead, do not waste your time going on dates or lounging about – put a clamp on your libido, and recognize that your brain should always take precedence over your nether-regions. In the end, a little sacrificed fun time can make up big during crunch-time.

Get started early! Okay, not as early as childhood, but you get our point! 🙂

8. Hang Out with the Right Crowd and Learn From Others: Ask yourself – how many of my friends are partying it up, and how many are working hard?  Am I surrounding myself with people I want to be like, or people I have a good time with but who don’t motivate me to study?

It is so fabulous to have friends from all walks of life and I encourage that highly; but when you are in school, you need to be around people who are working hard. It rubs off on you a little easier, and you can learn from others. If you have a friend who seems to be doing well in school, ask them for some tips, and emulate their example. Think of it this way: Studying can be a bit like dieting – it is a little hard to commit to initially, but having a buddy makes it 100 times easier. If you really want to change your ways, it is about making a commitment, and being around others who make it easier, rather than harder, to keep that commitment.

9. Remember it is never too late: Somehow, when people get close to graduating, they kind of give up in frustration. Never give up: learning proper study skills will not only help you this year – still 25% of your university career left! – but it will provide you with skills for graduate school, and life.

Well, that’s some tough love from Surviving Studenthood (it comes from a good place!). We welcome all your other suggestions on helping people do better in school!


Surviving Studenthood


69 responses

  1. […] post by Surviving Studenthood var addthis_language = 'en'; Filed under Uncategorized ← உங்கள் […]

  2. Great advice :o) I qualified last year …really wish i saw this when I was a first year student

  3. Cheers man, excellent advice.

  4. Mavuso Mzozoyana | Reply

    This is a great article and I am really going to take this advice.

  5. Hetchelles de Ville | Reply

    Thanks so much!! I’ll cherish these tips for most of my life coz they are helpful indeed. I’ll also share this with friends who may need these advices like i do. Once again thank you.

  6. thank you, this really helped. I was feeling terrible about how my grades turned put this quarter and I realized that it was because I did not spend enough time studying for any of my classes. I felt like I was missing out on other things, not partying but spending time with my boyfriend and making money at my 9.00 an hour job. Honestly I need to sort out my priorities and I really liked the way you put it as college being a time where I need to sacrifice, because these are not the best years of my life, and that when I finally finish, the years to come will be the best years of my life! awesome! thanks again!

    1. I meant to say out, not put in the first sentence

    2. Hey Shane! So glad our article helped. Many of our writers are working hard, or have worked hard in undergrad, and now they are reaping the rewards in graduate schools and in good jobs. Its worth the sacrifice!

  7. We’re so glad this post is valuable for all of you! If you have any questions, or you have ideas on things you want us to post on, send us an email or leave a comment on one of our pages!


    Surviving Studenthood

  8. This is the Best Advice to all University Students and Graduates who intend to excell at Varsity.

    I made all the classic Mistakes that So many Students Make and I ended up with a Small GPA OF 1.39.

    I certainly made the greatest Mistake of My academic career when I attended the Central University College and when I was attracted by the Ghana Stock Exchange in terms of Equity and Finance in terms of Treasury Bills and Money.

    I wish I had seen this website before.

  9. Take this advice before it is too late wherever you are in the globe.

  10. This is great!! Im starting uni next year and i love this site. I recommended it to all my friends!

    1. Thanks Shoaib! If you have any questions about university, leave us a comment, or send us an email! We would love to help you into your transition!

  11. this is really great advice,i love it and i am recommending this site to all hardworking students

  12. Delighted you are all benefitting from the post, and enjoying our site. Always happy to give students great tips to Surviving Studenthood!

  13. Absolutely fantastic post! Although I still have at least two years before university hits me, it’s always good being prepared 🙂

    1. Absolutely Aleena! Always good to start building the right skills to excel. Let us know if you have any questions about university or high school! We are here to help 🙂

  14. i need help.i am like the nerd in my class who gets more than 8 GPA.i attend class regularly,take notes and do my home work regularly.but i have a group of friends who copies my notes each and every single thing i write call me the day before exam and nags me asking doubts and they expect me to finish the homework so they can’s really annoying and they started get good grades than me.:(

    1. Hey Rameeza,

      It seems like you have a similar problem to that described in the post “When they ask me for notes…”

      Here are some of our recommendations:

      1. Use their questions to your benefit: teaching someone else material can actually serve as an excellent study method. Use their questions as a way to test your knowledge and ensure you stay prepped for the exam.

      2. Set up a study group: Instead of getting mad at them, put everyone in a situation where they need to get some work done on their own. For example, tell your friends “instead of me just answering this question over the phone, lets set up a study group”. Set up the study group at least a week before exams, and request everyone have their homework done so that you can work on the hard questions together, instead of others just copying your notes.

      3. Tell them how you feel: if there is a polite way to share your feelings, do so. Its not fair that your friends copy off of you. Consider finding new study friends, or not picking up their calls, and politely telling them you don’t feel comfortable sharing your notes, and would rather have a study group where everyone can benefit.

  15. Seriously, its a very great article. but I have a very tough time here because I couldnt find anyone to help me for doing study group. Most of my friends study last minute which I never done before. They are excelled in their exams because I knew they are genious enough but Im not. My marks just passed. Plus, if I hve friends who are studying consistently, they are prefered to study alone. I hope to hear any advice from you soon..


    1. Hi Muhamad,

      If you are having trouble getting assistance from others, we suggest you get a tutor. Look up a tutoring service online, speak to an Academic Counsellor or a Professor at your university, and find out if there is a tutoring program at your school. A tutor will be able to assist you in developing your grades.

  16. I really love these tips.actually i hav been having same troubles on how to improve my GPA,but i think with these tips,am good more thing u forgot to mention, PRAYERS HELP ALOT.dats another essential tips.thanks.

  17. Hey Yussy,

    Thanks for your comment. While a lot of people will agree that prayers and a little faith will go a long way, not all people feel connected to a faith or religion, and may not seek additional comfort in prayers. In an effort to respect people of all backgrounds and walks of life, we chose as a group not to provide alternative suggestions like prayers. Thank you for your insight though! Always wonderful to hear different perspectives 🙂

  18. I was just wondering what you thought about managing social/extra-curricular life with university and the importance of those? And also, what do the writer/s of this article believe are the best years of ones life? As soon as you finish university you start working, and then working, and then you get married and have children, and you never really have any time for having fun if you want to get things done. How would you recommend to spend time in your life, not just in university, but in the bigger picture of time? Thanks, Marie

    1. Hi Marie!

      We haven’t forgotten your comment – you asked such a good question, we decided to write a post in response! Will be in touch!

    2. Hey Marie!

      So sorry for the delay! A post for you, and our other amazing readers, with thoughts on your questions.

  19. Takudzwa Phiri | Reply

    Thanks,i was really motivated

  20. Takudzwa Phiri | Reply

    That is true~thnx Yussy for a reminder,prayer is the greatest weapon you can have on this planet-Hebrews 4:16.

  21. Anas Najmeddin | Reply

    Thanks a lot for your insightful thoughts. But then again, it’s easier said than done!!!

  22. […] interests, hobbies and passions – in essence, your future life. I think our tough love post “How to Get Good Grades in University”, where we saw your comment, is trying to draw a distinguishing line between engaging in […]

  23. […] think our tough love post “How to Get Good Grades in University”, where we saw your comment, is trying to draw a distinguishing line between engaging in […]

  24. Good article!
    Never skipping class is so hard to achieve

  25. It is definitely easier said then done, but rooting your goals in practical elements – like planning ahead with your agenda, and surrounding yourself around people who inspire good habits, can make achieving those goals easier.

  26. Well that was really awesome.Tips were great.This is my first year in the university and I am feeling sort of ragged up here a great deal.So, I will try to catch up and emulate the toppers.I know it would be hard in the beginning but I will try my best because,”Where there is a WILL,there is a WAY”.

  27. This is the best piece I have ever seen on how to graduate with good grades. I have already graduated from univerrsity and i really wish I saw this 5years earlier, I gradated with a G.P of 2.35 which is not good enough, I intend going back to school january 2013 and this article will be of great help to •̸Ϟﻉ thanks. Pray for •̸Ϟﻉ.

    1. Emeka – you still do great! You can ease your transition back into school with the help of a tutor, etc. and I’m sure you can make your educational experience exactly what you wanted it to be!

  28. Just wondering if you can give me some advice on how to do well in a language course. I have been working very hard in a course, (hours upon hours) and not getting the results to prove it. The prof is very unapproachable and doesn’t like being asked questions. Please give me some advice, I feel so frustrated right now and have cried quite a bit as well. Please help.

    1. Hi Laura,

      So sorry for your frustration and the delayed response! Our best recommendation is to get a tutor – someone who did well in the course. Ask your Prof for a recommendation of a strong student, or go to academic counselling centre and see if they can connect you to a tutor. If there is a student-run club that is based on the language you are studying (e.g. the French Students Club) contact the students that run the club, and ask them. There are lots of resources out there for you, and you aren’t alone!

  29. oh geez! just my luck! i ran into advice in the last week of school for the year lol and its my final year … just great! i so wish i actually read this post 4 years ago. planning on doing honours next year so hopefully i will take note and follow the amazing advice that has been offered :)thanks.

    1. Sounds great Tammy! If you have any questions about an honour degree, let us know 🙂 Good luck with your studies!

  30. Good thing i clicked this website in my first year. Im gana delete all my pc games and focus more studying on my weekends

    1. Sounds good Ammar! Keep us posted on your studenthood journey!

  31. hey, i really believe all these tips are going to be very helpful as i’ll be starting university in a month. can u help out about how exactly should a person study in a university because in college and high school it is easy and one can coup up with the syllabus a lil easily but here i know i’m going to have huge books and courses. so what things should i keep in mind while i study?? if u can guide a little that’ll be really helpfull:) thanks.

    1. Hi tehreem,

      University courses will also have a syllabus, which will help you, but it won’t be as easy as high school. An important tip is to attend class, that will (1) clarify things you read in the textbook; (2) show you what the professor considers to be important in terms of class material.

      How you study may be more specific to the type of area you plan to study. Courses in English Literature, for example, require students not simply to read the words of the text, but rather, to make connections to broad themes. Something like engineering may be completely different. When you go to class, you will get a sense of what the Professor is looking for, and expecting from students.

  32. i’m glad I came accross this article,I’ve been having issues with my grades.Hopefully do better from now till Lawschool.

  33. Thank you great advice 🙂

  34. thanks for d article,i really benefited from it,i am a first year student and i will apply what i have learnt from you.thanks much.God bless you

  35. Wow that was truly awesome!! Loved it! Thank you somuch. Helped me a lot—we all need tough love!

    1. Lily, you are going to do fantastic! Work hard and you will succeed!

  36. no problem

  37. Fantastic.iam first year and i learned something here.

  38. great and so helpful , i want to graduate as the best student and i think this post is the best start, Thank_you

  39. Wow! I am a second year Engineering student who is struggling to get good grades. Although I work hard throughout the year I still don’t get satisfying grades. I was in a notion that ‘Engineering is hard’. But this blog is really super helpful and it kinda changed my perspective. I am definitely going to incorporate some of the advices from here and input in my studying scheme. Hope next semester goes well for me 😀
    Thank you!!

    1. You are very welcome! Good luck, you will do great!

  40. I really needed this, thanks! I usually don’t absorb advice very well, but your comment on how these aren’t the best years of my life resonated with me. These AREN’T the best years of my life; I’ll have plenty of time to enjoy myself after I graduate and get a steady and fulfilling career. Better work hard now while I have the stamina and drive than later, when I’m burnt out and full of regrets. I need to improve my work ethic, and you’ve given me that much needed kick in the ass. Thanks!

    1. Fawzia, you are very welcome! I promise it only gets better from here! Buckle down, work hard, get educated, and you will do marvellous things!

  41. iyanda abdulwasiu | Reply

    nice one

  42. Reblogged this on Urbanippie and commented:
    I just love the it’s never too late” part. I know I’m almost there but man why does it have to be so hard? I feel like giving up, seriously. Somebody… HELP ME!!!

  43. Walter Lent Sinehanue | Reply

    I need to get regular student advises from you.Especially advises to succeed and have best grades in universities.

  44. Cheers bro! Nice device…appreciates.

  45. Reblogged this on Dust and Quills.

  46. Gem of advice. Eng student in my last year. Kinda hit that flat zone of burnout and this got me back on my feet. Thank you!

  47. great advice I was struggling to understand to how to get ur self ready to get good marks on my exam but after that messages up there it really revil something,thanks great work

  48. […] Taken from here by Surviving Studenthood. […]

  49. Thanks for this awesome piece. I was looking for a good article like yours online since last year December. Not until now that I just found you, I was able to write something about, How To Pass Exams With Good Grades

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