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What does it take to get a 3.8 GPA?

  1. Jul 14, 2013 #1
    If a thread like this exists then admins can delete my thread and I will happily read the existing ones.
    I will need a 3.8 GPA in a science/engineering degree, most likely will major in something physics related.
    I read that I will need to study minimum of 6 hours a day which doesn't really seem that much since i will be living on campus and I also read that I need to have flawless algebra, calculus and good at logical thinking.
    These all seem like very general and basic requirements to do well but I want to know how to actually study i.e. make study notes or mostly solve problems or use the Feynman method (try to explain concepts to myself) or etc.
    I know that I should do what works for me but I hated high school because it is very rote-learning focused and I didn't like the structure of courses in high school so my studying experience in high school is mostly useless (except may be for maths because high school maths isn't that bad).
    Any advice would be very appreciated!
  2. jcsd
  3. Jul 14, 2013 #2
    Just a couple of thoughts along those lines:

    Probably doesn't need to be said, but just going to class AND paying attention goes a long way on its own.

    When you get a little behind, there's a temptation to catch up by just learning "how to do" the things you missed, without making sure that you have a complete understanding. Memorizing the formula for some type of problem doesn't mean you have a thorough understanding of the underlying concepts; always learn why the formula is what it is, why it works, etc.. Good professors usually find a way to write exam questions that will test the thoroughness of your understanding, not just the rote calculations.

    I've learned this the hard way, because I'm naturally a bit averse to conversations with strangers, especially ones that I don't want to sound stupid in front of, but take advantage of TA/professor office hours when you're having trouble. Even if you think you can figure out the problem yourself eventually, talking with the TA/prof is often a much quicker and more efficient way to remedy your confusions. 20 minutes in office hours can often save you from several hours of reading web pages or papers by yourself.

    Student groups can often serve a similar, but more broad purpose. SPS has chapters at many schools, mine included, and early in college it can be easier to ask for help from friendly upperclassmen than intimidating professors. I also just find it enjoyable to hang out with people who have similar interests. Having casual conversations about physics (and an assortment of other interesting topics) with your peers is always both pleasurable and enlightening.

    This is another undergrad advisor talking point, but get try to get involved with research early on. It's usually very interesting and exciting, and at least for me, it's served as a motivation to work harder on learning in my classes. I waited until the summer before my junior year to find a research project, and I wholeheartedly regret not doing so earlier. A lot of people don't feel ready/capable freshman year, but you don't need to know as much as you probably think you do to be a useful research assistant, and a lot of professors are happy to receive the free labor. As an underclassmen, you may start out doing some variety dull tasks, but as you learn, you'll quickly be given more interesting and important jobs. Last but not least, working on research means you'll form personal relationships with the people you work for, and recommendation letters (important for summer internships, grad school, etc.) from them are almost always much better than the ones you would get from professors whose classes you just happened to get A's in.

    Most of these things are certainly in the realm of common sense, but when I got to college I probably could have used someone to tell me, "Yeah... you really should do all of that stuff." So, hopefully you'll find something in the above suggestions useful.
  4. Jul 14, 2013 #3
    I read your post and found it very helpful.
    I will try to improve my critical thinking and understanding skills before I start university. The only way I can do this at high school is by studying maths as other subjects are mostly rote-learning.
    The degree I am thinking of doing is called Bachelor of Philosophy (Science) and it is research focused so I will have to do research and I will also have to maintain a mark higher then 85% in all exams otherwise I will be kicked out haha
  5. Jul 14, 2013 #4
    You probably know this, but I just want to emphasize that there's no magic rule like "at least 6 hours a day" that will guarantee you a certain GPA. It's going to vary from person to person, degree to degree, and even from day to day throughout the semester. Quite simply, if you want to attain a certain grade, you should study until you understand the material well enough to achieve that grade. To do that effectively, you need to get good at self-assessing how well you understand things. Not knowing exactly how well you understand all of the things you need to study can mean being shocked when you fail a test, and it can mean wasting a lot of time going over things that you really don't need to study.

    Now, aside from understanding what you're learning (which is the most important advice), there are some other things you can do to help your grades. One thing is to be efficient about what you spend time on. Assess how much a given assignment is worth in terms of percentage of your final mark and how much it's going to help you understand, and allocate time to it accordingly. If you have an assignment that's worth 1% of your final grade and doing it isn't going to help you study (maybe you know that topic really well already), then it's probably not worth spending hours to get a perfect grade on it when you could spend that time studying other things that will help you on more heavily-weighted things like tests.
  6. Jul 16, 2013 #5
    Thank you for the helpful reply thegreenlaser!
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