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How To Boost Your Grades – Now!

How To Boost Your Grades – Now!

The school year has started, and this means new textbooks are being opened; new ideas are being taught all around the globe. It also marks (pun intended!) the beginning of a long-term partnership with studying and absorbing information. According to Newton’s third law of motion, it is easier for one’s grades to fall freely, than to have to manually pull them upwards – which requires both work and energy. Fret not. There are many more ways than one to boost them. It is not a simple positive correlation between the number of hours spent reviewing and achievement. Take traditional advice with a grain of salt – we are now in the 21st century, thus learning has doubtingly changed.

Ask Yourself, “Why?”

The courses you have on your schedule – why did you take them? Have a good, long moment to reflect upon your choices. Everybody has goals and career directions, and yes, that means that the subjects selected should be of meaning or direct use to fulfill that. If not, maybe it stems from pure interest. If you find yourself losing motivation somewhere during the year, refocus on those aims and think long-term. Do they genuinely bring happiness? Are you emotionally satisfied and energized?

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Procrastinate Wisely

Easier said than done: to not procrastinate is virtually impossible, as stress gets to the best of us sometimes. However, there are manageable techniques to beat the monkey and control your procrastination than letting it control you. To begin, it is all in the mind. Every burst of procrastination begins with a choice. Social media, prolonged periods of eating, digital games and being stuck in the never-ending realm of YouTube are just a few examples of that. The trick is to limit the time spent on each burst using a timing method. The popular Pomodoro technique is an excellent example to increase productivity, and in the end, your grades!

Ask, Ask, Ask!

Don’t be afraid to approach the teacher or professor when there is a point or two that need to be clarified. They will notice the effort you put in and will keep a mental note in the back of their minds. It does not demonstrate a lack of intelligence or inability to listen attentively in class. In reality, it demonstrates the very opposite – a keen, responsible student.

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Set Goals Early

Goals are absolutely crucial in the maintenance of high-soaring grades. They keep us grounded and push us to be hard-working. Although it is not compulsory in school, it does help give meaning to every assignment being completed as opposed to an empty feeling of “Why am I doing this?”. Take out a piece of paper, pen – and get writing. It is never too late to set, modify, or discontinue personal goals.

Be Confident

It is near impossible to find success with your head down. There lies a continuum of hope and ambition, whenever anyone raises their head high. There’s no secret formula or routine to follow to promote confidence is your life – it is learned by repeating positive affirmations throughout the day. There may be times bombarded with countless tasks, making stress levels at and all-time high. Do not panic. It’s alright to cry and let those emotions out once in a while. Stress is what you make of it; nobody has the power to create stress in your life, unless you make the very decision to dwell on it.

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At the end of the day, grades are just numbers, and always remember that your potential is far greater. The sky’s the limit to growth and development – as Einstein once said, “The man who never made a mistake, never learned anything new.” Head up, chin up!

Featured photo credit: www.flrtib.org via flrtib.org

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Lily Yuan

Full-Time Student

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Last Updated on August 20, 2019

Becoming Self-Taught (The How-To Guide)

Becoming Self-Taught (The How-To Guide)

Most of the skills I use to make a living are skills I’ve learned on my own: Web design, desktop publishing, marketing, personal productivity skills, even teaching! And most of what I know about science, politics, computers, art, guitar-playing, world history, writing, and a dozen other topics, I’ve picked up outside of any formal education.

This is not to toot my own horn at all; if you stop to think about it, much of what you know how to do you’ve picked up on your own. But we rarely think about the process of becoming self-taught. This is too bad, because often, we shy away from things we don’t know how to do without stopping to think about how we might learn it — in many cases, fairly easily.

The way you approach the world around you dictates to a great degree whether you will find learning something new easy or hard. Learning comes easily to people who have developed:

Curiosity

Being curious means you look forward to learning new things and are troubled by gaps in your understanding of the world. New words and ideas are received as challenges and the work of understanding them is embraced.

People who lack curiosity see learning new things as a chore — or worse, as beyond their capacities.

Patience

Depending on the complexity of a topic, learning something new can take a long time. And it’s bound to be frustrating as you grapple with new terminologies, new models, and apparently irrelevant information.

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When you are learning something by yourself, there is nobody to control the flow of information, to make sure you move from basic knowledge to intermediate and finally advanced concepts.

Patience with your topic, and more importantly with yourself is crucial — there’s no field of knowledge that someone in the world hasn’t managed to learn, starting from exactly where you are.

A Feeling for Connectedness

This is the hardest talent to cultivate, and is where most people flounder when approaching a new topic.

A new body of knowledge is always easiest to learn if you can figure out the way it connects to what you already know. For years, I struggled with calculus in college until one day, my chemistry professor demonstrated how to do half-life calculations using integrals. From then on, calculus came much easier, because I had made a connection between a concept I understood well (the chemistry of half-lifes) and a field I had always struggled in (higher maths).

The more you look for and pay attention to the connections between different fields, the more readily your mind will be able to latch onto new concepts.

With a learning attitude in place, working your way into a new topic is simply a matter of research, practice, networking, and scheduling:

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1. Research

Of course, the most important step in learning something new is actually finding out stuff about it. I tend to go through three distinct phases when I’m teaching myself a new topic:

Learning the Basics

Start as all things start today: Google it! Somehow people managed to learn before Google ( I learned HTML when Altavista was the best we got!) but nowadays a well-formed search on Google will get you a wealth of information on any topic in seconds.

Surfing Wikipedia articles is a great way to get a basic grounding in a new field, too — and usually the Wikipedia entry for your search term will be on the first page of your Google search.

What I look for is basic information and then the work of experts — blogs by researchers in a field, forums about a topic, organizational websites, magazines. I subscribe to a bunch of RSS feeds to keep up with new material as it’s posted, I print out articles to read in-depth later, and I look for the names of top authors or top books in the field.

Hitting the Books

Once I have a good outline of a field of knowledge, I hit the library. I look up the key names and titles I came across online, and then scan the shelves around those titles for other books that look interesting.

Then, I go to the children’s section of the library and look up the same call numbers — a good overview for teens is probably going to be clearer, more concise, and more geared towards learning than many adult books.

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Long-Term Reference

While I’m reading my stack of books from the library, I start keeping my eyes out for books I will want to give a permanent place on my shelves. I check online and brick-and-mortar bookstores, but also search thrift stores, used bookstores, library book sales, garage sales, wherever I happen to find myself in the presence of books.

My goal is a collection of reference manuals and top books that I will come back to either to answer thorny questions or to refresh my knowledge as I put new skills into practice. And to do this cheaply and quickly.

2. Practice

Putting new knowledges into practice helps us develop better understandings now and remember more later. Although a lot of books offer exercises and self-tests, I prefer to jump right in and build something: a website, an essay, a desk, whatever.

A great way to put any new body of knowledge into action is to start a blog on it — put it out there for the world to see and comment on.

Just don’t lock your learning up in your head where nobody ever sees how much you know about something, and you never see how much you still don’t know.

3. Network

One of the most powerful sources of knowledge and understanding in my life have been the social networks I have become embedded in over the years — the websites I write on, the LISTSERV I belong to, the people I talk with and present alongside at conferences, my colleagues in the department where I studied and the department where I now teach, and so on.

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These networks are crucial to extending my knowledge in areas I am already involved, and for referring me to contacts in areas where I have no prior experience. Joining an email list, emailing someone working in the field, asking colleagues for recommendations, all are useful ways of getting a foothold in a new field.

Networking also allows you to test your newly-acquired knowledge against others’ understandings, giving you a chance to grow and further develop.

4. Schedule

For anything more complex than a simple overview, it pays to schedule time to commit to learning. Having the books on the shelf, the top websites bookmarked, and a string of contacts does no good if you don’t give yourself time to focus on reading, digesting, and implementing your knowledge.

Give yourself a deadline, even if there is no externally imposed time limit, and work out a schedule to reach that deadline.

Final Thoughts

In a sense, even formal education is a form of self-guided learning — in the end, a teacher can only suggest and encourage a path to learning, at best cutting out some of the work of finding reliable sources to learn from.

If you’re already working, or have a range of interests beside the purely academic, formal instruction may be too inconvenient or too expensive to undertake. That doesn’t mean you have to set aside the possibility of learning, though; history is full of self-taught successes.

At its best, even a formal education is meant to prepare you for a life of self-guided learning; with the power of the Internet and the mass media at our disposal, there’s really no reason not to follow your muse wherever it may lead.

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Featured photo credit: Priscilla Du Preez via unsplash.com

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