I can tell you right now, you have an A-student in you. You have even a PhD student in you. Or so says Dr. George Kyei. “Once in college, you have the ability to make all A’s with a bit of hard work and guidance on how to study more effectively” (12%).
Let the past go. Some of us may have bombed our first classes. Some PhD students fail their first undergrad semester. If they succeeded with a fistful of F’s, then, surely, we have the power to go beyond a PhD, too.
“Yes, you can! Perhaps you are thinking ‘I am not as smart as that other student, I did not get to college from the best high school, I am from a poor neighborhood, and my parents are poor’, etc. Well, that was yesterday, this is now. You are now in college …. Forget about your background and your problems” (12%). After all, a man with a severe psychiatric disease nabbed a PhD. Hey, he even won a Nobel prize (see John Nash).
I know you and I can achieve top drawer grades, too. Perhaps some of us are thinking “But I’m a B student.” If we’re not getting straight “A”s, then I believe we are performing below our potential. “Your potential is your innate ability – what you are capable of achieving. In other words, if you’ve got the ability to get an A in a course and you end up with a B, you have performed below your potential. If you could have graduated with magna cum laude honors and you graduate with cum laude, you have underperformed. The vast majority of students perform way below what they are capable of because of a variety of reasons” (13%).
Here are five reasons Dr. Kyei gives as to why students underperform:
“1) They do not believe in their abilities – they see themselves as incapable of achieving greatness” (13%). Students who scraped by during k-12 can end up in PhD programs. Perhaps we didn’t have good mentors or inspiring teachers. Or perhaps we shared a room with a sibling and had no study privacy. Many things can hold us back from realizing our true intellectual stardom. But let me tell you a well-kept secret, you and I have got more than a PhD within us.
“2) They do not get proper counseling and guidance. Specifically, a lack of direction on how to study for examinations” (13%). Schools tell us what to learn, not how to learn. At the university, I scrambled to gain any study trick I could find. Fortune found me when professors off-handedly shared study techniques. But mostly, I spent many hours learning study habits through trial and error.
“3) They do not get the resources needed to achieve their potential. You may be on a tight budget and so unable to afford some of the books others can afford” (13%). I lucked out with a dad who paid for my undergraduate degree, textbooks, and materials. But when I tried to return to school without his aid, I no longer had the ability to buy my textbooks three weeks in advance. In the past, pre-reading gave me a huge edge in every class. And always having twenty sharpened pencils and endless graphing paper gave me an advantage, too. Without my dad’s help, I struggled just to get Internet access. But the trick is to get resourceful. Buy books off of abebooks.com or other used books services, for instance. Or sell your books online after each semester.
“4) They do not work hard and smart enough. Hard work is important, but it is not about brute force. It requires strategies, skills and productivity hacks that make you work smarter to achieve your goals” (13%). Tricks can help you ace your exams—tricks such as using cue cards for citing quotes for term papers and imagining funny visuals to help you memorize concepts.
5) They do not read several books on grammar and writing before returning to school. If not for a pre-reading of a grammar book, my high school English upgrading class may have been a letter grade lower. And if I had read Helen Sword’s Stylish Academic Writing and Joshua Schimel’s Writing for Science, I may have found myself in the PhD program. Just three books—Sword’s, Schimel’s, and a grammar book—can boost your grades from novice to PhD.
6) They did not purchase the appropriate style guide (such as APA or MLA) for their field of study. Or no-one told them what a style guide was during their first university classes. In a class I tutored, one student wrote me the night before papers were due. She asked, “How do I make a citation and what is a bibliography”? She had no idea what a style guide was. I too had a paper due the next day. So, she ended up with little direction from me and wound up with a C. The saddest part was that she was capable of straight A’s. Which leads to the last point:
7) They had teachers or mentors who failed them. The best way to prevent this from happening to you is to research the professors’ ratings way in advance of signing up for your courses. A good math professor can help you score a final grade of 97% in a course you dropped the prior semester due to a bad teacher. (That happened to me.) Five-star professors means higher GPAs.
And if you end up with a Nobel prize, I wouldn’t be shocked. Whether you’ve got good grades or bad grades, we’ve all got the power to achieve miracles.
Kyei, Dr. George B. (2017). How to Get an A in Every Examination: Get the Grades You Need, for the Future You Deserve. E-book.