First and foremost, you’re in college to learn and that learning is reflected in your GPA. Although it’s “just a number,” your GPA is an important part of maintaining sports and loan eligibility, proving your expertise and work ethic, and demonstrating a level of competency to award givers and job recruiters.
We know it can be challenging to maintain your GPA amidst all the other aspects of college life, but focusing on your GPA requirements is one of the best ways to set yourself up for success now and post-grad. In this article, we’ll take a look at why your GPA matters, how to calculate it, and 7 daily habits that will help you increase your GPA if you’re looking for a boost this semester.
Why does your GPA matter?
Your GPA is more than just a number that tells you how well you’re doing in school. At the worst, if your GPA is too low, you could be put on academic probation and possibly get kicked out of school. If you are utilizing any scholarships, loans, or financial awards, you will also likely have GPA requirements that you need to uphold. For example, if you’re an NCAA student-athlete, you’re required to earn at least a 2.3 GPA in your college courses.
That’s just to “stay afloat,” though. Having a solid GPA could make you eligible for academic honors, research opportunities, internships, advanced classes, and more. If you’re looking to go to graduate school at any point, they’ll look at your GPA as a marker of eligibility and success. Furthermore, your GPA can also help you pursue better job opportunities, negotiate higher salaries immediately after school, and even help you switch career paths if you eventually decide your chosen major isn’t your ideal path (because your GPA is a marker that you’re smart, hard-working, and willing to learn).
Ultimately, maintaining a strong GPA is not only about meeting GPA requirements for financial assistance and sports, but it’s also about demonstrating a strong work ethic and care for your coursework. A higher GPA demonstrates to resume readers that you have academic skills that will be invaluable throughout your life and career.
How to calculate GPA
Not all universities will calculate their GPA the same way, but the basic method for a 4.0 scale GPA is to take the total number of grade points earned (via your “grade letter) divided by the total number of credits attempted. For the first part of that equation, the letter grade you receive in your course will have a corresponding “number of grade points earned.” Here’s the typical scale for that:
- A = 4.0
- A- = 3.7
- B+ = 3.3
- B = 3.0
- B- = 2.7
- C+ = 2.3
- C = 2.0
- C- = 1.7
- D = 1.0
- F = 0.0
For the second part of the equation, you’ll count up the credits assigned to that class. This will usually be on your course catalog. Most classes have the same credit weight (1 or 2), but those with extra in-class time like labs or trips might be worth more. (Tip: If you want to raise your GPA quickly, you might want to focus a little more on those classes that are worth more credit hours, since they’ll have a slightly greater impact on your GPA.)
Let’s say you take five classes that are each worth one credit. That’s a total of 20 credits. If you receive all As, you’ll have a 4.0 GPA average. Let’s say you get two As, two B+s, and one B-. If you add up the total credits of those, you get 17.3 credits. Divide that by the number of classes you take (5). You’d have a GPA of 3.46 for that semester.
Now, let’s say you take five classes and four are each worth one credit but the fifth is a lab worth two credits. You get all As in your first four classes, but you get a B- in the lab. Since the B- is worth two credits, it will be counted twice. That means you’ll have 4 As and 2 B-s for a total credit of 21.4. Now you’ll divide this by six credits for a total GPA of 3.56.
You’ll notice that just one or two bad grades can drop your GPA significantly. It’s often harder to raise your cumulative GPA than it is to lower it, so you’ll need to stay vigilant about your ongoing coursework and grades.
How to increase GPA with daily habits
1. Go to class.
It sounds obvious… because it is. Even if you get PowerPoints and materials posted online, you’re missing out on a lot when you skip class. In class, you get verbal explanations that can help you understand the material, the chance to ask questions and listen to other students’ questions, opportunities for extra credit or projects, and you may even get clues as to what might be on the exam. Plus, most professors consider participation and attendance in your grade—whether or not it’s specified on the syllabus. That means simply showing up to class could be the difference between a B and B+ or even an A- and an A.
Get a college-themed clock to hang in your dorm room, so you can always be on time for class!
2. Sit in the front row.
While in class, sit close to the front of the room. This will encourage you to pay attention and participate more, and this kind of engagement in class shows your professor your willingness to learn, which can transfer to your grade and GPA. Active participation also increases your retention of the material.
Sitting closer to the front also makes you more visible to the teacher so you can develop a relationship that can lead to having your questions answered, boosting your grade, or even getting a mentor in your field. It’s always a great idea to network with professors in your desired field or major and sitting up front is an easy way to start building that rapport.
Recommended read: How to Make Your Freshman Year of College Incredible
3. Wake up early.
If you sleep until 11, you’ve already lost 6 or 7 hours of your day. Waking up early has been shown to reduce stress by minimizing “rushing around” while also leading to greater happiness levels throughout the day. One study even found that early birds tend to have a greater average GPA than night owls—sometimes even a whole point higher (3.0 versus 2.0). So, stop wasting the day. Get up and go.
Some students prefer to stay up late and sleep in, and that’s okay too. There are different “sleep chronotypes,” and yours might be the wolf. That’s okay, as long as you’re using your late nights to be productive. Find out your sleep chronotype (and how to use it to your advantage) here.
4. But also get enough sleep.
Although you don’t want to oversleep and cut into your day, you also want to ensure you’re getting adequate sleep. Studies show someone who is well-rested has about a 0.14 GPA advantage over their sleepy counterparts. Sleep impacts your critical thinking, your study retention, your focus, and your test-taking ability. Yes, that means you should be avoiding all-nighters.
If you’re looking at how to increase GPA, the fastest solution might be simply to get better quality and quantity of sleep. This may not always mean sleeping more hours (which will cut into your day). You may need to change your environment so you’re sleeping better through the night. For example, you might want blackout curtains so the room is dark or noise-canceling headphones if your roommate stays up later than you. Learn how to design the ideal bedroom for sleep so you can fall asleep faster, sleep better, and wake up feeling refreshed. Get a comfy blanket in your campus colors to cozy up for a good night’s sleep.
5. Go on the internet.
Weren’t expecting that one, were you? The internet is often the Bermuda triangle of productivity since it’s the home of all the best procrastination tools. But are you fully leveraging the internet to your advantage? There are infinite tools to help you learn online. A quick Google search about a confusing topic can yield thousands of videos and resources that can help you learn better.
Instead of watching makeup or video games on YouTube, use that time to watch engaging videos about what you’re learning in class. This is an easy way to make better use of your time to increase your GPA quickly, easily, and effectively.
6. Find a dedicated study spot.
Pick a few “study spots” that you’ll dedicate to your work. Whether that’s a corner of the library, a comfy outdoor blanket under a tree, or a spot on your common room couch, you want a place that is consistently used for your studies, because it can actually trick your brain into focusing more. After a few good study sessions in that spot, the next time you go to sit down there, your brain will instantly pop back into “work” mode. It’s like creating your own college office or workspace; you just might have to get a little more creative on a shared college campus.
Try to avoid studying in your bed, if you can. Mixing leisure/relax time and work time can make it hard for your brain to tell the difference when it’s time to go to sleep. Keep your studies away from your bed whenever possible, so your brain can instantly settle down once it hits the pillow.
Although this article is about working from home, it has great insights for setting up your space and day when you live and work in the same dorm room. Also, check out the dorm room essentials you need to help organize your space.
7. Plan your social time.
College isn’t just about studies. It’s about being social, too. From being involved in college sports and extracurriculars to volunteering and hanging out with your friends, there’s a lot of extra time spent on things other than schoolwork. And that’s important! College should be a well-rounded experience. But these things aren’t going to boost your GPA. So, if you’re working to increase your GPA, some social activities may need to take a backseat for a little while.
If you’re a college athlete, talk to your coach about your concerns with how you’re handling your academics (and learn how to balance your life with college sports). If you’re spending a lot of time with friends, tell them you need to buckle down for a little while. Actively plan your social time and exciting college events in your calendar so you can ensure you’re still getting that free, fun time without overextending yourself or sacrificing your studies.
Check out these other 50 unique tips to prepare you for college.
Maintaining your GPA
Maintaining a good GPA is one of the greatest challenges of college, but it’s also a great way to ensure you’re prioritizing learning and setting yourself up for success in the future.
Make studying more fun by throwing on some school gear like comfy sweatshirts, cool home décor, and awesome hats, so you always look spirited when you’re working. Shop for your school gear here.