The truth most of us don’t want to hear is that getting and maintaining a 4.0 GAP in college actually takes work. However, the students that see that work for what it really is, are the ones who inevitably master the academic game. Baking the perfect pie requires the right recipe, so why should getting the perfect score be any different? The secret behind straight A’s can ultimately be summarized in one sentence:
“There is no elevator to success, you have to take the stairs.”(Zig Ziglar)
STEP 1: Don’t bite off more than you can chew
Ingredients: Self-reflection, honestly, planning, forethought
The first step towards a 4.0 GPA is actually your last: begin with the end in mind. You need to identify your dream outcome or destination and then work your way backwards. If you want to be a clinical psychologist, find out what degrees, experience, skills and connections you would need to become one. A word of advice if I may, browsing through the CVs of top psychologists on LinkedIn is a good place to start.
Once you’ve extracted your must-haves, it is absolutely essential that you divide and conquer each of them. This is the true challenge of step one. How can you effectively split that to-do list in a way that will allow you to ace every single item? Let me give you an example, I made the fatal mistake of wanting to rush through my bachelor’s degree. I was focused on getting rid of the items on my list, and not on mastering them. By taking on a full course load every semester, I was spreading myself thin and didn’t have the time nor the energy to ace all of my courses.
The key to getting that 4.0 GPA is to take on one thing at a time, master it, and then move on to the next. In college or university, I encourage you to consider taking 3 to 4 courses in the fall and 1 or 2 during the summer. This will not only help you score high in all of them, but it will also give you the time to incorporate extra-curricular activities into your student life. Having a bit of both is essential for your mental health, so don’t neglect either of them.
STEP 2: Bitter pills may have blessed effects
Ingredients: Discipline, willpower, consistency, work ethic
Do the things nobody wants to do. This implies going to all of your lectures (yes, even that 7:30am behavioral neuroscience one), doing your readings in time, reviewing your notes before class and studying 1 to 2 hours every day. These are just a few examples of those seemingly trivial tasks every one of us dreads. Straight-A students however, know that the accumulation of all those tiny efforts is in fact what produces the results you want.
STEP 3: Hunger is the best spice
Ingredients: Motivation, drive, inspiration, introspection
Your motivation and willpower fluctuate throughout the semester. Sometimes you’re really into it, and sometimes you procrastinate like you’re trying to set a new Guinness World Record. To stay hungry and to remind yourself what you’re fighting for, it’s important to schedule time for inspiration, and I mean weekly. Find out what fuels you and then setup a way to trigger motivation with a cue you have control over.
If you are competitive by nature, find out which one of your friends got the highest mark on their last exam and try to beat their score.
If you are a sucker for beautiful desk setups, create a Pinterest board filled with your favorite aesthetic work corners to spark that fire in you before every study session.
STEP 4: The proof is in the pudding
Ingredients: Self-assessment, introspection, dedication, consistency
In my experience, the number one secret behind a 4.0 GPA is immediate practice. It’s true, “learners retain approximately 90% of what they learned when they implement it/use it right away.” Whatever you are studying at the moment, make sure you practice the material in some way right after you learned it. An interesting concept that backs up this advice is the Ebbinghaus Curve or the Curve of Forgetting. It truly demonstrates how quickly we forget new information if we don’t work with it straight away.
STEP 5: You can’t make an omelette without breaking some eggs
Ingredients: Determination, accountability partners, long-term goals
A 4.0 GPA doesn’t come for free. In reality, you need to accept the fact that sacrifices are inevitable if you want to get those As in college. Saying no to a party the night before a final, or getting up early to squeeze in a few hours of reading before class are uncomfortable yet necessary decisions you will have to make. Success is a balancing act that never stops; you will always be faced with a choice. But if you have that goal at the end of the tunnel, that purpose we discussed in step 1; you will know exactly which option to pick.