Common Myths about Getting Good Grades in College

  1. It’s bad to be a grade grubber. / All ‘A’ students are grade grubbers.
    Not all good students are ill-adjusted and under-socialized, going to practically any length to get an A.  It is possible to get great grades without fulfilling that kind of stereotype. Ask yourself what you think an A student looks like; you might be surprised about what other qualities you associate with getting good grades.  Don’t listen to the voice in your head that says only geeks and nerds care about their grades.  There is nothing wrong with caring about your grades, especially in college. Grades are the currency of college; they are what counts.
  2. Only the diploma counts.
    Your entire transcript matters: GPA, course load, W’s, etc. Just aiming for the diploma puts you at a disadvantage when it comes to opportunities for internships, scholarships, honors, postgraduate options, etc. Also, only focusing on the diploma may mean that you miss out on or ignore the real skills and knowledge you need for your next step.
  3. College will be a breeze.
    The curriculum is not easy; it is not a breeze.  College is tough for anyone, and it takes hard work to be successful.  Seek out programs geared toward improving students’ adjustment and increasing success. Do not assume that your grades will be good enough to get by. Be an active and intentional scholar.
  4. I will get an A for Effort.
    Most professors grade the end result or final product and do not directly consider how much effort you show.  However, an efficient and productive effort will produce a final product that is a reflection of that effort.  Effort counts indirectly, so long as it is focused, efficient, and productive.
  5. Just showing up is enough to get the grade.
    While some instructors do grade participation, which includes showing up, attendance alone is rarely, if ever, enough to get the grade.  Attendance counts only in that you are actively participating in the class.  Sitting in the back of a lecture hall, bored and falling asleep, doesn’t count.  Take notes, ask questions, stay awake, and share during discussions. If the size of your class intimidates you then write down your questions and thoughts in your notebook, make use of online discussions, communicate with an instructor through email, or take advantage of office hours.  Attendance should always be accompanied by active participation and processing.  The combination will get you the grade you want.
  6. “Kissing up” or being a “teacher’s pet” will get me a better grade.
    Professors recognize these sorts of behaviors and may even be flattered, but rarely do these behaviors have an influence on the grades you earn.  Professors often grade blindly to remove these very biases.  They are ultimately concerned with your work and not your personality.  Being well-liked by your professors will not get you A’s—but when you also produce high quality work, it can get you great recommendations.


Modified from:
Professor’s Guide to Getting Good Grades in College, Lynn F. Jacobs, Ph.D. and Jeremy S. Hyman, M.A.