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What is Preventing Me From Being the Best?

  1. Oct 30, 2009 #1
    Hi everyone,

    I am an 11th grader currently in high school and have been on these forums for about a year now, and well I am just wondering why I can't be the "best" so to speak... I go to a pretty competitive high school (average ACT is 30, average SAT is 2000) and currently am taking 4 AP classes (Literate and Composition, Physics B, Computer Science A, and U.S. History) and currently I have 6 A's, 1 A+, and 1 B+.... but I just can't seem to be quite as good as some of the other guys. I do 4-5 hours of homework per night, but some of my fellow classmates continually do better on tests and quizzes and such so that they have nearly all A+'s and a few A's....

    So is there anything else I can be doing to improve? I am already stretched for time with activities and such so that I get to bed around 12am every night... but is there anything else I could do to be more efficient and/or to be better? I am worried I will not be able to get into some of the super selective colleges next year, and I really need to make Junior year the best I can make it...

  2. jcsd
  3. Oct 30, 2009 #2


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    Why on earth do you care so much about high school.

    4-5 hours of homework per night? That is ridiculous.

    First, do you keep a scoreboard of all of your classmates grades, or do you just think they do better than you more than you them.

    Second, not all people are the same. Some people are just simply smarter than others. Some people know how to study better than others etc.

    Think of how hard a time you are going to have in one of these 'super selective schools' if you actually do get in.

    These kinds of posts make me realize how many people don't give a crap about living their life.
  4. Oct 30, 2009 #3
    Sounds like you're working very hard. Instead of being so critical of yourself, try being more positive. Is school about learning, or is it about grades? I know institutions only 'care' about grades, but life isn't limited to these institutions (uni's etc.)

    Also, book smarts aren't everything. Some people who obtain incredible grades are very good at memorization, yet not so adept at rationalization.

    You're also young. Try and enjoy your youth. It's gone before you know it. You don't want to look back wishing you would've kissed that girl just once, or something along those lines.
  5. Oct 30, 2009 #4


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    To answer your question though, there is a ton of things you can do to improve.

    Here is how it is done (also known as 'common sense'):

    Step 1) You receive a paper/test/hw you get less than a 100 % on.
    Step 2) You make sure you understand your mistakes on said paper.
    Step 3) For the next paper/quiz/etc you should have a slightly better idea of said teacher's style, so try to predict the types of questions/concepts that will be on it.
    Step 4) Rinse and repeat until you only get 100's.

    Step 5) Realize you will never get solid 100's and none of this will even matter past high school.
  6. Oct 30, 2009 #5
    If you want to be more efficient get more sleep. Seriously check out some of the studies about how important sleep is.

    Also you need to learn that grades are not the only thing that matter. The best thing you can do is find someway to use all of these things you are learning and have fun. For example, become a scientist or an engineer and discover or build things. Being able to actually do something with your knowledge is what makes learning worth it.
  7. Oct 31, 2009 #6
    That's the thing that jumped out at me. If you're constantly only getting 6 hours of sleep, you're seriously hurting your cognitive abilities. This is especially true if you're sleeping on the same mattress you've had since 1st grade, like I was when I was in high school. Even when I wanted 8 hours, I'd toss and turn.

    Being chronically sleep deprived is a good way to slow your mind and hinder information retention. Here's an article:


    Emphasis mine. The article goes on even further. So, trust us. Get some sleep.
  8. Oct 31, 2009 #7
    As well as more sleep, make sure to eat a good diet & get enough exercise. Also read books on how to learn - Tony Buzan is a good author. Also ask the A+ guys how they do it, and try and organise a study group with the best of them.
  9. Oct 31, 2009 #8
    I don't think you should worry about your classmates that much. As others have said, try to be more focused on getting something meaningful from your courses more than anything else. Although high schools don't really foster that nowadays, it is important that you go beyond just a grade.

    Also, you are worrying about something that is relative in the first place. Don't forget to be happy with where you are - you seem to be doing a fine job. I'm sure other students would like to be in your place.

    In terms of studying, I honestly think the best thing you can do is try to understand the best way you learn and adapt your study habits to fit your particular learning method.
  10. Oct 31, 2009 #9


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    There are many who are naturally gifted who need not even open their books, and STILL get their A+!

    That's of course bloody "unfair"!

    It's called life.

    However, study HABITS is in the long run way more important than mere giftedness.

    Precisely because those naturally gifted need to do so little in order to get high marks, they never get the incentive to work hard.

    For some of them, they are going to "crash" wen the REAL work begins, in college.

    To people of your sort, having already acquired study habits, you might well experience it being paid in the end.

    But, don't forget:
    Try to get something out of your years now IN ADDITION to studying and getting good grades.
    Otherwise, you are going to regret it for the rest of your life.
  11. Oct 31, 2009 #10
    Truth be told our valedictorian was kind of a slacker. The thing was; he scored 30 on the ACT in 7th grade (did the Duke TIP program) and knew most of the high school curriculum before he got there.

    How do you compete with that? If you happen to be a very gifted under achiever you might be able to do so with strong study habits. If not, then you don't really stand much of a chance. There was a girl at my high school who was fairly intelligent and worried about school all the time. She put in an incredible amount of work in order to achieve her goal of being in the top ten in the class, but she still finished in 11th or 12th. There were just too many students who were brighter and just as motivated as she was (along with one absurdly bright one for whom it was all review anyway).

    So what's the good news? Being in the top ten is outstanding, but being in the top 10% is still pretty damn good. There is nothing preventing you from going to a top school especially if you have good extracurriculars and great test scores. So realistically, you are getting diminishing returns from pushing for that top score on the test. Go learn outside material and do something interesting and unusual that will make you stand out. Conduct a few experiments. Learn a programming language and write a few programs. Learn some math or physics or chemistry if that interests you. Try reading some science journals and look up what you don't understand along the way; a few hundred wiki crawls go a long way.
  12. Oct 31, 2009 #11


    Staff: Mentor

    There are around 6 billion people on the globe. The odds of you being the best in any specific category are 6 billion to 1. Enjoy life, don't worry about being the best, just worry about what you want for yourself without comparison to others.
  13. Oct 31, 2009 #12
    personally i don't think there is such thing as "naturally gifted". If someone is good at something, it simply means they have done it before (be that a different variation) or have done a something that prepares them for the said task. There was a guy in our python programming course, we thought he was smart, afterall he understood everything that was taught in class and turned in his projects ~2 weeks before most of us (no lies). At the end of the semester, I found out he have had a another programming course in Java.

    If your classmates are doing better than you then A) they are more well equipped for the material than you are or B) they study more (study more does not necessarily mean putting more hours. One can "study smart" and master tasks in an hour while others would take hours and still would not be able to understand it. But that is a different topic i suppose) than you do. There is nothing more to it.

    BUT i personally don't bother comparing myself with my classmates and i would suggest you to do the same. Fact is everyone comes from a different background, has different interest, and are well equipped (plus devoted) for some concepts than others. At some point there is a time when you simply have to let thing go. For instance, not devote much time in your English paper in order to study for your major subject...and you end up getting a A- instead of a A+...it happens.

    Another thing is, in high school you keep coming across same folks over and over again...and i suppose you want them to look upto you or something else. But in college, you'll lose track of people. There are so many ex-classmates that i simply have not seen around. I can't even remember most of their names (given that i ever knew their name lol). Point being, people come and go, what matters is you.

    More importantly, what matters is your understanding (AND appreciation) to the subject. Sure the grade is a representation of your understanding in some way but it isn't everything. I know a bunch who got A's in some courses but did not appreciate the course at all...and in some cases did not even understand the concepts and ideas taught in the said course.
    Last edited: Oct 31, 2009
  14. Oct 31, 2009 #13
    I think that this is half true. There are certainly people who are prodigiously talented to the point that simple training doesn't explain it. There are also some people who can not come close to functioning at a normal cognitive level no matter how hard they try. There doesn't seem to be any reason to think that there isn't some degree of variance in ability. However, chances are the guy in your class has seen it before and therefore has an edge. Most people you deal with are probably going to be in the same ballpark as you intelligence/ability-wise. Really, if you want to know how they do so well, find a guy who is getting top marks and ask him. Hopefully he will be friendly and tell you. It might turn out he has a photographic memory and learned calculus at the age of two, but chances are pretty slim. Its more likely that he has a better system for studying than you, and if he isn't a douche he might give you some pointers.
  15. Oct 31, 2009 #14
    then you are prolly being fed with half information about that person. If someone is catching up exceptionally well in highschool algebra then chances are s/he has a darn well background prior to that, which includes mathematics taught by parents in home, taught in midschool (or elementary school) by teachers, or learned on their own.

    imo those people lack background. If someone flunked mathematics course in highschool and is takes Calc in college all the sudden...he'll have a hard time. And of course there are those with deformity.

    not to brag but i have scored top marks in several courses (big and small) and tell you what...i don't have a photographic memory, i don't memorize a thing, i don't study all the time and i sure don't see anything "gifted" about me.
  16. Oct 31, 2009 #15
    ive got an above average memory, not photographic but id say its kind of close. i can create a perfect picture of my great grandmother when i visited her one one day about 16 years ago. her earings her scent she smelled funny) etc. however thats all thats gifted about me. to expect someone who doesnt have this memorization to score as well as me on an exam with memorizing is not fair. just like saying people dont have natural abilities isnt fair also.

    btw the funny thing is i remembered all that stuff, but i just guessed it was sixteen years ago could be 12. not photographic but close.
  17. Nov 1, 2009 #16
    I don't think I really phrased my first statement correctly or it got misinterpreted: I am doing pretty darn well (I just got my report card and I had a 3.9 for the quarter) but I just am wondering how I can improve to get better marks.

    For instance, on our physics test today I could not do the problems as quickly as I would have liked and as such I believe I made a few errors. I spent a considerable amount of time studying and felt I knew the material, but I still made these errors.

    I spend atleast 4 hours on homework a night because its a necessity for me... I have atleast 8-10 full pages of AP US History notes that take an hour, physics problem sets that take 45min, English papers/reading that takes half an hour, russian studying and grammar study, and it all adds up...

    But, some of my friends still manage to do better than me.
  18. Nov 1, 2009 #17
    Don't worry about being the top, since lots of people in high school pad their GPA with easy classes. Just shoot for the top 5%. Grades aren't the only things universities look at.

    Actually what you're doing is good preparation for university, so unlike the majority of American's who go to university you won't smash into the wall that is the difficulty gap between high school and university, followed by crashing and burning leading to a humiliating and soul crushing drop out experience.
  19. Nov 1, 2009 #18
    I find this hilarious since I didn't thought that people in general had problems with high school algebra and that most who studies at higher levels later did ace it without studying at all. High school algebra is extremely intuitive and is a prime example of a subject where many people can get it all instantly.

    As an example I have two younger siblings in the high school age, one of them is going to an accelerated maths program and is among the best in it while the other can't even grasp the concepts of the decimal number system. Note that these went to the same schools, neither of their parents knows any maths above basic high school level and I have spent more time teaching the ones with problems since the other is just interested in gaming.

    And saying that she is just a special case and that most people are exactly the same is just ********. Where do you draw the line where after it people are the same?
    You can't divide the population in discrete steps, small variations matters too. If it takes someone else 30% longer to understand things than it takes for you, that is a quite large difference but it isn't something that you would notice if you didn't do a full scale study of both lives.

    You agree that we can have retards. You must also agree that not all retards are as retarded. Parts of what makes those retarded are in everyone or normal people wouldn't be able to have retarded kids, so in essence we are all "retarded" but to different degrees. Then talented people are those who are less retarded than most.
    To get to the top of the top you need understanding, not just learning how to work problems. The problem with understanding is that it is a very fuzzy term and it is very hard to teach/learn in a good way. Some understands a lot with almost no explanation while others never understands much at all.

    Anyhow, to improve your understanding read the text book. Don't read it in the same way as other books, make sure that you understand exactly what each sentence says. Remembering things is worthless if you don't understand the meaning of them. Yes, this will take a lot of time, but in the long run it is worth it and there is really no other way.
  20. Nov 1, 2009 #19
    Your GPA is a 3.9 so there really isnt even much room for improvement in that category. I assume you are applying for college so at this point other activities are going to matter a lot so you shouldnt worry so much about your grades.

    If you feel like you understand the material on your physics test but you made a few mistakes dont worry about it. Once you get the test back look at what you did wrong, if you understand your mistakes then there is nothing to worry about. We all make mistakes even if we understand the material perfectly. You might just be a nervous test taker or maybe something distracted you or maybe you just made a stupid mistake. It happens.
  21. Nov 1, 2009 #20
    And, just for perspective, people care alot less about where you did your undergrad than what you did while you were there. I know people who went to a state university and still got in to Cal Tech for PhD. Don't buy into the whole my life is over if I don't go to Harvard, Stanford or Yale thing.
  22. Nov 1, 2009 #21
    An extreme case, just to try to prove my point:

    "Kim Ung-Yong (born March 8, 1962) is a Korean child prodigy. Kim was listed in the Guinness Book of World Records under "Highest IQ"; the book estimated the boy's score at about 210.[1]

    He was able to read Japanese, Korean, German, and English by his third birthday. On November 2, 1967, at age 4, he solved an advanced stochastic differential equation. Later, on Japanese television, he demonstrated his proficiency in Chinese, Spanish,[citation needed] Vietnamese, German, English, Japanese, and Korean. Even in childhood, he began to write poetry.

    Kim was a guest student of physics at Hanyang University from the age of 3 until he was 6.[1]. At the age of 7 he was invited to America by NASA.[1] He finished his university studies, eventually getting a Ph.D. in physics at Colorado State University[1] before he was 16. In 1974, during his university studies, he began his research work at NASA[1] and continued this work until his return to Korea in 1978.

    When he returned to Korea, he decided to switch from physics to civil engineering and eventually received a doctorate in that field. Kim was offered the chance to study at the most prestigious universities in Korea, but instead chose to attend a provincial university.
    Cite: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kim_Ung-yong

    I can't see how to explain that level of awareness and dedication at such a young age
    and the seemingly endless "natural ability". Admittedly this is an extreme case, but it is enough for me to suspect that there may be some degree of truth to the natural ability.

    Don't get me wrong, I think that most people can get to the level of getting top scores on tests in high school (unless the have a cognitive defect of some sort), but I think some people have an easier time of it overall due to some combination of prior exposure to material, natural ability and study.

    I've certainly had an easy time in some courses; number theory for example. I scored 100% on one test and the final with minimal study(maybe a quick review a half an hour before the test). We had to present problems and I would always do the 'hardest' ones (someone had to do them and I already had been doing proofs for a good while). It was probably because I took number theory after abstract algebra 1(though I also found that course to be pretty easy). So I fully understand your position. I just think it doesn't totally account for everything. There is still a nature component, large or small.
  23. Nov 1, 2009 #22
    Live your life. Stop caring about other people. None of this will matter. Not saying don't work hard for your future, I'm just saying work enough to have a future you want and live your life now.

    There's no point for anything your doing. Try to get into a good university, work hard there, land the job you want and that's it. You don't need to over due it!
  24. Nov 2, 2009 #23
    "For instance, on our physics test today I could not do the problems as quickly as I would have liked and as such I believe I made a few errors. I spent a considerable amount of time studying and felt I knew the material, but I still made these errors."

    Welcome to my world. Seriously, I think that experience is also due to the stress of the exam.

    Try to relax before you write the exam and learn how to accept the outcome. I know it's alot easier said than done, but writing a test while "stressed" is a handicap.
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