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Lessons Learned – How I Went From Average To Awesome In School

After I had graduated high school, which was unfortunately a long time ago now, I was somewhat lost and confused about what I wanted in life. I struggled for a while to find a subject to study that was “right” for me. I finally found one (structural engineering) and started working towards my undergraduate degree. However, when I first started working towards my degree, I couldn’t find the willpower or discipline to complete my work. Therefore, my grades suffered during the first year and a half of my college career. Until, that is, I started to change how I worked in school and how I thought about the work I was doing.

Don’t get me wrong, I wasn’t getting A’s in every class, every semester (well once or twice), I did however, go from a 2.7 GPA to a 3.6 GPA by the time I had graduated. My “in-major” GPA was even better, at around a 3.8. Even if some of you don’t think this a great GPA, I consider this to be a pretty solid GPA for a structural engineering degree.

So here are the 6 lessons I learned in college that took me from average to awesome!

Lesson 1 – I Started Treating School Like A Job

This doesn’t mean working 40 hours a week on schoolwork. Instead, the way I thought about this, was to finish all of my schoolwork and studying during the week so that I could have my weekends relatively free. If you don’t have a job, this is really easy. If you do have a job, this may be a little more difficult, but not impossible. Homework and studying both take up a lot of time, but if you consistently work each day and don’t mess around, you’ll be able to finish everything you need to during the week, and will be able to party on the weekends!

Lesson 2 – I Surrounded Myself With Like-Minded People

I didn’t just surround myself with like-minded people during the hours I was at school, I became genuine friends with like-minded people. I’d see them at school, in classes, between classes, after classes… I even lived with my friend from class for the last 2 years of my undergrad. Surrounding yourself with like-minded, academically driven people is possibly the most important lesson that I’ve learned in life in general. These people will push you towards success and you will push them. You will discuss difficult theories and concepts together and help each other when one of you doesn’t understand something. Once I started doing this, not only did my grades start improving, my life did as well.

Lesson 3 – How To Study

I’ll keep this one simple. Study the homework solutions, study the PowerPoint slides, study your own personal notes, and make sure you know how to do every “practice problem” on the “practice exam” with your eyes closed and hands tied behind your back before going into the exam.

Lesson 4 – Completely Understand The Underlying Concepts/Theories

This was the biggest problem I saw during my undergrad. Students would try to remember problems/calculations step-by-step rather than understanding the concept or theory behind them. Consequently, once the professor changed one small thing on the exam, the students who didn’t know the concepts and theories behind the problems were completely lost. Before going into an exam, you should know how to think about the problem and explain what you are doing in that problem. What I always told myself was, “If I can’t teach it to someone else, I don’t actually understand it.” 

Lesson 5 – Homework: Actually Take Time To Do It.

Don’t copy solutions from online or someone else in class. Take the time to do the homework and take enough time on homework to the point that you understand it completely. It may take more time at first, but when it comes time to study for the exam, your time spent studying will be cut in half and you will be thanking yourself. Other people in your class will be frantically studying and trying to find solutions while you’ll already have them.

Lesson 6 – Don’t Talk To Anyone About Your Grades

Wow… did this annoy me during my undergrad. People would always come up to me asking what score I had received on the exam. At first, I would oblige and tell them what I had scored, but after a while I just stopped altogether. I didn’t want people to know how I did on the exam! If I did well on the exam, people would be angry, if I did poorly on an exam, people would show sympathy. I started to realize that I didn’t have to tell anyone how I scored and it was completely liberating! Your scores only matter to you, and you are the only person you should be trying to impress. Compete with yourself on exam scores and not with other students. This lesson that I learned relieved me of a lot of stress and allowed me to focus on my schoolwork rather than what people thought of me.

So there you go, that’s how I went from average to awesome in school! Give these lessons a try and watch how your life and grades improve!

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