Measuring Up

Let's hope you're already convinced of the importance of a high GPA. Although not the only factor, it plays a substantial role in college applications and in measuring the success of a college career. Raising your GPA is straightforward, but there aren't any shortcuts. It takes time and hard work, but the following tips will help you stay on track and watch that number climb.

Start Early

Imagine those two words in all caps, bolded, underlined, in italics. Your GPA is an average (obviously), so it is much easier to maintain a high GPA than to recover one that has tanked. And remember, college applications are sent in before you complete your senior year, so your first three years of high school are the only ones reflected on your application.

But what if you're already getting a late start? If you are nearing the end of your junior year, or already a senior in high school, you might want to focus instead on standardized test scores. You have another chance to maintain a GPA once you get to college, but for now there is little you can do to improve your score before sending off college applications.

For the rest of you starting a little late, it's time to knuckle down. Raising your GPA will take diligence, but it is entirely possible and worth the effort!

Take Every Class Seriously

Sydney is a bright, hard-working student with one slight problem: she thinks her French class is dumb.

Course Letter Grade Grade Points
English 101 A 4.0
Geometry A 4.0
American Government A 4.0
Biology 101 A 4.0
French 1 D 1.0

(Looking at her transcript, you might be able to tell which is her least favorite class.)

In her mind, the "D" in French doesn't matter because she has straight As in all her other classes. In reality, that one poor grade dropped her GPA from a straight A (4.0) to a B+ (3.4).

Here's the thing: if you want to maintain a high GPA, you have to take every class seriously. You may get stuck in a class that you don't like, but you can't afford to write it off. If you do, it may pull down all the other grades you worked hard to earn.

Top 10 Ways to Raise Your GPA

Starting early and taking every class seriously form the foundation of a strong GPA. In addition, here are 10 practical tips for raising your GPA.

  1. Set Goals

    A vague wish to finish school with a high GPA is about effective as wishing you were a pro tennis player while eating ice cream on the couch. If you want to go somewhere, make a plan for what it takes to get there. Use our GPA calculator to find your current GPA, set a realistic goal for raising that number, and then figure out what grades you will need to earn.

  2. Get Organized

    Read the syllabus for each class and plan ahead for assignments. Get started on homework and projects early, set reminders for work that is due, and organize your study space so that your notes, resources, and assignments are easy to find. Check out this list of apps specifically designed to help students stay organized. You know that science project where you plan to grow four varieties of peat moss? Let's not start on that the night before.

  3. Take a Balanced Course Load

    Taking advanced classes that are worth more points can raise your GPA; however, if you are taking several harder classes and making "C"s, you might be better off switching to some regular classes where you have a better chance of making an "A". Keep in mind that colleges don't just look at the bare number of your GPA.

    Yale University gave this advice on what colleges look for in a high school transcript. Your transcript should reflect a solid education in core subjects and serve as an indication that you challenged yourself in your studies. Also consider the number of classes you take per semester. Adding courses can boost your GPA, but don't take so many that you burn out or can't keep up.

  4. Go to Class

    College students, I'm looking at you. It's easy to justify skipping class—especially if your professor makes the lecture slides available online—but if you're interested in a solid GPA, discipline yourself to show up. Not only will you get a better education by being present for the actual lecture, you are showing your professor that you care about your education. Grades are slightly subjective and the difference between an B+ and an A- might come down to whether or not you cared enough to show up for class. And oh yeah, there are such things as pop quizzes.

  5. Participate

    Class participation has two main benefits. One, it is another way to build your reputation as a student who takes the class seriously. Two, the more engaged you are, the better you will understand and remember the material. Read up on the material ahead of time, sit up front, stay off of your phone, and be willing to answer questions. If speaking up in class seems intimidating, take small steps like making a plan for answering questions.

  6. Do All Your Homework

    This will be far easier if you have already organized your schoolwork and assignment schedule. The individual homework assignments may not be worth many points, but they add up. Turning in all of your homework shows your teacher that you are diligent and willing to follow instructions and will also give you a cushion for any unexpected grades.

  7. Study Smart

    Focus on building good study habits to make the most of your time. These include tips like creating a study space, figuring out your learning style, taking good notes, and implementing a routine. No doubt you've also been told that smart studying includes getting enough sleep. But it's not just about getting a certain number of hours. A recent study also showed that students with regular sleep schedules had higher GPAs than students who got the same amount of sleep at irregular times.

  8. Form a Study Group (with the Smart Kids)

    Seek out other students who take studying seriously and who excel in the class. Spending time with them can help you keep a positive attitude about studying, provide accountability, and give you the opportunity to interact and ask questions about the course material.

  9. Take Advantage of Extra Credit

    This one is pretty self-explanatory. If you aren't satisfied with your grade in the class and extra credit points are sitting there, go get them. You can even ask your professor about opportunities for earning extra credit. Of course it will take extra work (that’s the point), but if you budget your time well, you’ll be able to complete the main assignments and then bolster your grade with extra points.

  10. Go to Office Hours

    One-on-one interaction with your instructor is a resource that many students hesitate to use. If the thought of meeting with your professor sounds intimidating, check out this article for ideas on how to start a productive conversation, and advice for how to talk about your grades.

    Remember, your instructors are there to help you succeed, and taking the time to talk with them will help you get the most out of your education. It also gives you a chance to show initiative in your studies and contributes to your reputation as a serious student. The fact that you cared enough to meet with your instructor outside of class may have a positive influence when it’s time to hand out grades.

The Bottom Line

Raising your GPA takes good old-fashioned hard work. But understanding how GPA works and focusing your time and energy will help you reach your goals efficiently. Start early, make every class count, set goals, and learn how to study strategically. If it were easy to raise your GPA, the number wouldn't be as significant.

Remember, however, your GPA is only one part of your academic career. Don't neglect other aspects such as extracurricular activities and standardized tests. Especially if your GPA is lower than you would like, your experience and your performance on other tests can augment your GPA on a transcript or resume.

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