How to Earn an “A”

Here are Some Basic Classroom Tips that will Give You an Edge at Any Level.


Attendance is Mandatory, Always.

Unlike high school, many professors will not take roll, and your attendance may be completely optional. However, if you want to succeed in college, you must hold yourself accountable to be both physically and mentally present to each and every class. Maintaining perfect attendance will give you a huge edge for multiple reasons:

  • You will never be out of the loop on what is going on in your class. Classes move quickly, and sometimes missing just one lecture can make or break your understanding of what is going in your given course.
  • Depending on how large your class is, your professor will notice that you are always there, and it will help foster a positive relationship for you both.
  • Other responsible students will recognize that you are always present, and you will find that your similarities breed positive relationships that will be helpful for all parties involved. Cream rises to the top.

Reward yourself for going to class when you didn’t want to go.
Here’s a little subsection that I (Jake) find to be pretty useful. I used to have this one class that was really late in the day, and it caused there to be a huge gap (about 5 hours) between when my morning class ended and my afternoon class began. It was extremely tempting to just pack up and head home. In order to convince myself to go, I’d reward myself by always splurging on some overpriced latte at a local coffee shop during that 5-hour break. It may have been expensive over time, but it was an investment in myself. Find something that works for you.

Arrive to Class 7-10 Minutes Early.

By arriving to class early, you gift yourself the opportunity to get to know the professor. Odds are, you will probably be one of the only people, if not the only person, in the room when the professor arrives. This is huge; It allows the professor to associate your name with your face, and it will show your efforts in the class are not limited to the confinements of class assignments. Further, you may experience some, if not all, of the following:

  • You will get to know the professor personally. At the beginning of the term, ensure that you introduce yourself and bring forward some light topics for conversation. Eventually, this will lead you both down the path of actually getting to know each other. I (Jake) can say from firsthand experience that almost all of my professors turned out to be really great people, and I still keep in contact with them from previous years.
  • Once you know each other, subjective grading may slightly go in your favor. If a short answer on one of your exams is perhaps on the border of correct or incorrect, having an established relationship with the professor may help you out—maybe you’ll get the benefit of the doubt over someone to whom the professor has never spoken. Obviously this isn’t always the case, but it doesn’t hurt.
  • You may later ask the professor for a letter of recommendation. For detailed information on this subject, visit our Letters of Recommendation page. For now, just know that the best letters of recommendation come from individuals who know you as a well-rounded individual, not just as a name at the top of an assignment.

Sit Front and Center, Every time.

Alongside perfect (or near perfect) attendance and arriving on time, sitting front and center helps you in multiple ways. Of course, we’re speaking more so about a classroom here than a giant lecture hall, but these are generally some major advantages of sitting front and center:

  • You and the professor will get to know each other, especially if you’re constantly arriving early and present for every class session. We don’t need to spell this out for you. This is an edge in every way possible.
  • By sitting directly in front of the professor, you will feel pressured to pay at attention at all times. Think about it, with someone giving a class directly in front of you, you are essentially forcing yourself to pay attention—there is nobody to hide behind to sneak a quick text or doze off.
  • The other students who sit in the front (or near the front) are often times some of the most responsible students in the class, and you will want to befriend them. Ask yourself, would you rather associate yourself with the people messing around in the back of the class, or have a group-text with the five individuals who sit around you in the front of the class?

Turn Your Phone Off, Not on Vibrate.

This one is up to you, but I (Jake) can’t keep my phone on vibrate during class unless it’s in my backpack. If I’m sitting in a lecture or discussion and my phone vibrates in my pocket, it may not disturb the class, but it distracts me. I’m now questioning who called and/or texted, and it takes my mind off of the subject matter at hand. Of course, if you’re expecting a very serious call, inform your professor before class that you may have to get up and go in the middle of lecture, and then leave your phone on vibrate accordingly. Be the mature individual you are, and take care of your business.

Complete Every Single Assignment, Including Extra Credit, Regardless of Your Grade.

No matter the point-value, complete each and every assignment, to include extra credit opportunities. Assignments add up over time, and at the end of the semester, you will be glad that you spent the extra hour to complete that tedious homework. At the end of the semester, you may run into the issue of being just on the border between earning an “A” and “B,” but perhaps that one single 5-point assignment was the slightest of edges that you needed to throw you over the 90% mark.

Further, if any professor offers you an extra credit opportunity, you do it. Even if your grade is spectacular, by completing extra credit, you’re giving yourself a comfort buffer where you can enter into finals season with perhaps just a slightly lower level of stress. Maybe instead of having to earn an 85 to keep your “A,” now you only have to earn an 80.

Raise Your Hand: Ask and Answer Questions

Participating in class is critical to keeping yourself engaged. If you have a question, ask it. Shake those nervous jitters about what everyone else will think, and gain some ground. If you have a question about something, chances are other students do too. The direct result will rest in the fact that the professor will help clarify your uncertainties. The indirect result comes from the fact that your professor and fellow classmates know you are not only engaged, but curious. Asking questions does not mean you are one of the lesser intelligent individuals in class; It means you have the courage to speak up and set aside your pride in order to clarify something for you and your peers.

Further, if the professor asks a question to the class, volunteer (if you think you know the answer). Again, this is just another way to remain engaged with your coursework and prove to the professor that your interest in the subject is not confined to strictly point-based assignments. You’re there to better yourself and bring others with you.