Many graduate programs in psychology will rely heavily on GPA in making their selection decisions. Once you make the decision to attend graduate school, you will be even more motivated to receive high grades and in turn improve your GPA. Click here to read more about GPA requirements for psychology graduate school.
One way to improve your GPA is by enrolling in a few easy courses as elective classes while earning your bachelor’s degree. You will need to weigh the options between filling your units with easy classes to raise your GPA (i.e., 100-level courses) versus filling your units with classes that will be more valued by admissions committees (i.e., prerequisites or other courses relevant to your future area of study). If you have already graduated, you can often still enroll in a community college or even university, but it might be more expensive if you are not enrolled in a regular degree program.
Another way to improve your GPA is by enrolling in non-classroom courses that are not graded the same way a typical classroom course is graded. It may be easier for you to demonstrate your skills and proficiency in a different manner than is used in a traditional academic assessment-based course. For example, some universities have opportunities for students to earn units while completing student-to-student tutorials (or tutoring), assisting faculty with research, assisting faculty with teaching, and completing internships. These can be great ways to learn and gain experience, but also can be somewhat easier to earn a high grade in, in comparison to traditional lecture-based courses. The grades you earn for these courses will sometimes count toward your major, or may only count toward your elective units, but either way, they can be great opportunities to boost your GPA.
However, the best way to improve your GPA is by performing better in your regular undergraduate courses, especially those for your major. Here are some tips for doing well in your classes, and in turn, raising your GPA:
- Participate in class discussions and ask questions in class. If you have a question and you don’t feel comfortable asking during class for some reason, write it down and ask your teacher after class or during office hours.
- Stay focused during class; do not be distracted by devices such as cell phones and laptops. If you find yourself being distracted, turn them off or leave them at home.
- Attend class regularly. When absent, talk to another classmate to find out about any announcements, activities, and lecture notes that you missed. Learning and recalling material is much easier when you were present to learn it in class rather than merely copying and reading someone else’s notes from a class you missed.
- Sit near the front of the classroom. You probably know that research shows that the closer you sit to the front of the room, the higher your grade in the class tends to be. Even students who are assigned seating still tend to show this pattern. Even if some are doubtful that this is a causal relationship, most will agree on the benefits that exist from sitting near the teacher, being able to make eye contact, having more accountability to stay focused, and more. This is especially true for larger size lecture classes; sitting in the front and center of the room will typically lead to higher grades. Closer proximity will surely help with active listening.
- Take good notes in class. Don’t be the student that just sits there and nods his or her head without taking notes. Those students often come to realize that they could not remember material as well as they expected to. If your instructor provides any materials ahead of time to supplement lecture (such as handouts or powerpoint slides) make sure to print them and bring them to class. If you are having trouble with your note-taking, talk to the teacher about it. Show the teacher your notes and ask if you are writing down too much, too little, or what you can do to better document what the teacher expects you to.
- Stay up to date on your assigned reading. You can ask the teacher what he or she recommends as far as completing your reading. For example, it is a good idea to skim the assigned reading before it is discussed in class. After that section is covered in lecture, go back home and read it thoroughly. As you read, highlight in your text or create an outline; this will make it much easier when it comes time to review for an exam. Don’t forget to review your reading before an exam; some students only pay attention to lecture material when studying and forget the importance of their text.
- Study weekly to help consolidate learned information into your long-term memory. Spreading out your studying is much more effective than cramming the night (or even few days) before an exam. Each week, pick a day or two where you review what you learned in class the previous week. Continue that pattern until it is time to study for your exam, and you will find that the material is so much easier to recall than if you were reviewing it for the first time.
- Allow adequate time for reading and studying for your classes. If you are overly busy, your grades will likely suffer. For example, working full-time and attending a university full-time, simultaneously, is not practical. You may want to consider adjusting your family and social obligations to make time for your studies. Remember, it is only temporary. Consider scheduling your reading and studying into your week so that it becomes a routine and a priority.
- Maximize your study sessions. When you study or read for your classes, make sure that it is a time of day where you are very focused or alert. Make sure you have adequate lighting and that you are sitting up at a table or desk rather than lying down on a couch or bed. Make sure that you are free from distractions (i.e., TV is off, cell phone is out of sight, roommates know not to bother you, etc.). Studying is hard work, so you may want to reward yourself after completing a study session (i.e., relax, have a snack, etc.).
- Give yourself plenty of time to complete your assignments and papers. If you wait until the last minute to start your assignments, you will not have time to get help or ask questions when you have any confusion or difficulty. You will be more likely to make mistakes or to complete an assignment incorrectly because you did not leave enough time to figure out how to do it correctly. This is an easy way to lose points and receive low grades.
- Always double-check your work. With assignments and papers, after you complete them, look back over your prompt to ensure that you did not leave anything out and that you adhered carefully to the instructions. You should also proofread everything before submitting it. It is a great idea to have another person (hopefully a student or better yet a teaching assistant) look over your papers before turning them on. Our brains tend to fill in the gaps or fix mistakes when we read our own work to ourselves, so we don’t notice the problems. This is less likely to happen when someone else reviews our work.
- During exams, try to sit in the same seat or same area where you sit during lecture when you learn the material. This may improve recall. Make sure to get enough sleep and eat well before your exam. Read the exam instructions very carefully, even though you may feel eager to begin the exam questions. Read each exam question thoroughly before making a decision, including reading through each answer option carefully. Don’t select an answer just because it is the most familiar one; make sure to carefully consider whether the other options can be eliminated. If you review your questions before turning your exam in, make sure that you only change your answers if you are very sure. Usually your first answer is the correct one, unless you are sure you made a mistake. If you do not understand the wording on an exam question, ask your instructor, rather than just guessing or interpreting it wrong. Your instructor should be happy to rephrase the question to you, unless it would involve defining a term you are supposed to have learned and remembered. After finishing an exam, look back over it to make sure you did not accidentally skip any questions, especially if you were filling in a computerized scoring form.
- Visit your professor’s office hours at anytime during the semester. Some good reasons to visit: you don’t understand some of the concepts discussed during lecture, you want to find out how to improve your exam scores, you need some clarification regarding an assignment or paper, you want advice on how to improve your study habits, etc.
- If you find yourself receiving lower grades than you wish, start making changes at the beginning of the semester. Visit your professor and ask for his or her advice on how to improve. Add to your study routine by using new techniques (i.e., study with a partner or group, create flashcards on paper or your phone using an app, create a matching game to test yourself, etc.). Allocate a larger amount of time for completing assignments and studying for the class. Keep in mind that there will be little room for change if you wait until the end of the semester to start making changes.