Congrats, you got into college. That’s a shining achievement in its own right. Now you’re ready for some secrets to help you excel once you pass through the gates — be they ivy-covered, steelbound, or on a virtual campus you. It turns out that rising to the top of your class academically, like cream in a farm milk bottle, can have important benefits for Gen Z.
With the cost of college still rising (counting room and board, a private college can run up to $80,000 per year, and a public college, up to $30,000 or more), getting straight A’s can help you in key financial ways. It can put you on track for a lucrative career or give you an edge in a competitive internship field.
Our mini crash course has info on:
• Getting into a college major that can lead to a high-paying career
• Good study habits for nailing A’s
• Whether colleges care about your GPA
• Whether employers look for straight A’s in college.
What Is a 4.0 GPA in College?
Your GPA (grade point average) is a number that shows your academic standing, based on the grades you get in all classes. The scale starts at the top with 4 (for an A), 3 (B), 2 (C), 1 (D), and O (for F, or failing). A 4.0 GPA means you aced every class and got straight A’s in college.
Do Colleges Care About Straight A’s?
To get in the college door, the answer is often yes. Many college admissions teams do notice straight A’s in a quest to enroll the best and brightest high school students.
Once you are on campus, your college may not expect all A’s, but some colleges and universities may require a minimum GPA in introductory courses before allowing students to declare a popular major that typically brings lucrative returns later. The list includes mechanical engineering, computer science, nursing, finance, and economics. These universities want students of the highest academic caliber for the highest-earning majors.
Another reason colleges care about your grades: You need to maintain a certain GPA as a sophomore, junior, and senior to continue to qualify for federal student aid. In order to maintain eligibility for federal student aid, including federal loans and grants, students need to meet their school’s standards for Satisfactory Academic Progress (SAP). Each college is allowed to set its own minimum GPA. (Look into a private student loans guide for other lending options.)
Recommended: What Are Merit Scholarships?
Merit scholarships may also have minimum GPA requirements, so maintaining a high academic standard may be important for maintaining eligibility for merit awards as well.
Do Employers Look at Your GPA?
GPA, a benchmark once widely used by employers, is now considered by fewer than half, according to the Job Outlook 2022 survey by the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE). That’s a dip from five years ago, when, according to NACE, 67.5% of respondents said they used GPA to identify promising candidates. The survey found that among businesses that use GPA as a screening tool, 3.0 is the most common cutoff.
According to NACE, the trend away from using GPA appears to reflect awareness that GPA screening may not build an inclusive workforce and can be a disadvantage to students who balance school with work and other responsibilities. Also, as employers compete for talent, they are reevaluating long-used screening tools.
How Hard Is It to Get a 4.0 in College?
Whether you’re getting all A’s often depends on your major, the courses you take (organic chemistry, anyone?), and even the college you attend. But chasing a 4.0 can be hard on your life balance. If all you do is study, with no sleep, social life, or campus activities, your health and mental well-being may suffer.
Instead of overemphasizing your GPA, it may help to also focus on how you’re challenging yourself. A GPA is just one measure of your coursework.
Tips for Getting All A’s in College
If you are after all A’s, this action plan could help you achieve your goal.
Select a Major That You Are Passionate About
College is the time to immerse yourself in subjects that enthrall, inspire, and move us, whether that means microbiology or British literature. But if your mind is in the art world and your nose is in a sociology book, your interest can wane, and you may be far less likely to excel. Choose a major that ignites your brain power and A’s will be more attainable.
Time Your Classes Well
When are you most alert? Are you wide awake in the morning and dragging by 5? Schedule classes accordingly. Can you focus on a weekly 3-hour seminar or would you do better with a shorter class that meets more often? Know thyself, and how you learn and work most productively.
Take Advantage of Professors’ Office Hours
If a calculus formula is not crystal-clear or you want to talk a little more about that short story structure, stop by your professor’s office during posted hours or pop in virtually if that’s an option. Professors post hours so students can get the help they need.
Practice Good Time Management
Make an organized schedule. Use Google Calendar on your phone or get an actual planner with paper pages. (Relieve stress with stickers and doodles. Get pretty markers at the campus bookstore.) Don’t double-book time slots, whether for a study/coffee date with a classmate or your shift at the campus newspaper.
Closely Track Grades
Don’t wait until the end of the semester to see what your average is in Italian class. Keep up to date on every grade and pump up your study efforts if necessary.
Set Study Time Blocks
Build them in wherever and whenever possible. Several short sessions can be as productive as one long one. Review and study notes from day one, to start building a bank of knowledge. When studying, turn off your phone and leave it in your backpack. Avoid looking at emails or other digital distractions. Take notes on relevant readings and review and organize class notes each week so you don’t have to cram come exam time.
Plan your study location based on the lowest possible risk of distractions, such as a roommate who might want to order wings and binge watch the latest Netflix original. Adjust times and places as needed; be flexible. Maybe 30 minutes at Starbucks between classes is all you have one day. But if you block out two hours to study, stick to it. Consider enlisting a study buddy.
Benefits of Getting Straight A’s in College
Excelling in your classes can bring perks like these.
Dean’s List Recognition
The dean’s list, a term dating to the early 14th century, comes from the Latin decanus (“head of a group of 10 monks in a monastery”). You, of course, are at college, not a monastery, but you are at the head of the class when you make the dean’s list.
The distinction is usually reserved for full-time students at a specific GPA. Being on the dean’s list could help you stand out in a field of applicants for plum internships and summer jobs. Consecutive semesters on the list show you can achieve and maintain high standards.
Scholarships and Grants
Straight A’s can potentially translate into money to help pay college bills. Some scholarships have GPA requirements; read the fine print.
Merit-based college grants are awarded to students who demonstrate high levels of academic achievement, a commitment to community service, or excellent leadership skills. While you may not need straight A’s to qualify, it won’t hurt to strive for the gold and set a high bar for yourself.
Recommended: Merit Aid for College
Getting all A’s in college can bring big benefits, from helping you secure a place in a crowded major with lucrative career returns (such as engineering or computer science) to earning you a place on the dean’s list, a marker that helps you stand out in a competitive internship field. With the right study skills, you can seriously up the odds of acing your classes.
3 Student Loan Tips
1. Can’t cover your school bills? If you’ve exhausted all federal aid options, private student loans can fill gaps in need, up to the school’s cost of attendance, which includes tuition, books, housing, meals, transportation, and personal expenses.
2. Even if you don’t think you qualify for financial aid, you should fill out the FAFSA form. Many schools require it for merit-based scholarships, too. You can submit it as early as Oct. 1.
3. Would-be borrowers will want to understand the different types of student loans peppering the landscape: private student loans, federal Direct subsidized and unsubsidized loans, Direct PLUS loans, and more.
What is a 4.0 GPA in college?
A 4.0 GPA (grade point average) means you have an A in all of your classes.
How do you become a straight-A student?
Getting straight A’s takes diligence, good study skills, and some planning. It also depends on the courses you take. It generally helps to pursue a major that taps into your passions and strengths. Are you more comfortable with a paintbrush or camera than in a science lab? Then fine arts classes will be easier for you to ace.
Do colleges care about straight A’s?
Colleges may not care if you get straight A’s, but some schools may require students to have a minimum GPA in introductory courses before allowing them to declare a popular major that typically brings lucrative returns in the work world. The list includes mechanical engineering, computer science, nursing, finance, and economics. Another reason to watch your GPA: Federal student loans and many scholarships and grants have a minimum GPA requirement.
Photo credit: iStock/Luis Echeverri Urrea
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