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8 Realistic Ways To Be A Better Student

As someone who almost flunked college, I hope you’ll believe me when I say I struggled to be a better student, just like everyone else. With the mounting pressures of maintaining a decent GPA and completing enormous coursework, I’m sure you know what I’m talking about. It’s hard just trying to juggle academic requirements and your sanity when the odds are stacked against you.

From demanding class schedules to nerve-wracking exams, it seems difficult to survive college life. Spoiler alert: you’ll still do well. But this is only possible if you follow a few hacks that can help you increase your academic potential and improve your learning mindset. 

In today’s article, you’ll discover

Grad student wearing the graduation cap and gown at the ceremony.

Reasons Why Students Struggle with College 🎓😣

According to Dr. Rolf Gordhamer, there are at least ten reasons college students often struggle 1. Here are some common issues shared by most students:

1. Lack of The Concept of Responsibility

Perhaps it’s the false idea that college is just like high school, which makes students fall into the trap of academic culture shock. They thought they could approach university with the same average performance but would later feel pressured to keep up with its whirlwind pace.

2. Lack of Goals and Directions

It’s not uncommon for some students to still be undecided about their career paths even halfway through college. The inability to see the bigger picture can indeed distract you from the academic effort your degree requires.

3. Wrong Academic Decisions

These refer to choices you make when attending college. A poor choice of electives, courses, and even your class schedule can make your student life difficult at the university.

4. Poor Time Management

Balancing academics with other activities can be aggravating. There would be classes you’ll need to cram for and some that you could probably have just taken at a more convenient schedule.

8 Realistic Ways To Be A Better Student

Now that we have uncovered the hindrances to being a better student, we can proceed to our action plan: becoming a student eligible for top grades or even a Dean’s list. I’ll show you eight realistic ways that can help improve your academic standing while allowing you to make the best of what college life has to offer.

1. Master the art of scheduling smart ⌚

Instead of doing it like everyone else, choose to schedule classes that match the peak of your productivity and focus. If you’re not an early riser, avoid enrolling in classes earlier than 11 AM.

Similarly, you can check “Rate My Prof” for class recommendations to find the most suitable classes under certain professors. It will help you assess if you’re up for the level of academic challenges that those classes require you to pass.

On the same note, don’t try overloading classes up to 15 hours. That’s a drastic move and highly counterintuitive to being productive. It will only leave you burnt out halfway through the semester.

2. Keep a bullet journal 📔

Not to be all fancy-schmancy, but there’s actually a lot to be learned about bullet journaling that can positively impact your academic standing. I used my bujo to plan my classes within a day and update my to-dos for each course to avoid cramming.

For better grad school organization, try keeping daily and weekly planners so you can get an overview of your class schedule and coursework first thing in the morning. But make sure to write down syllabus dates in pencil. Professors are likely to change schedules at least once during the semester.

3. Sync your calendar across all apps and analog devices 📅

What’s more frustrating than confusing important dates in your class schedule at a very critical time, right? So to be one step ahead and be a better student, make it a habit to sync your calendars and update them from time to time.

4. Create a study area in your room 🪑

A study area is a must-have for every college student willing to burn midnight oil. Make sure that the nook is well-lit and quiet during peak study hours.

Go extra by accessorizing your study table with highlighter pens, sticky notes, and a desk lamp to boost your motivation.

5. Take advantage of faculty office hours 👩‍🏫

It can give you direction as to where your academic performance is headed by consulting your professors about your classes and coursework. Taking advantage of office hours can significantly impact your academic success because you’re receiving advice from the professors themselves. 2

I suggest you always schedule a meeting with your professors with whom you have difficulty following through in the class. They can give you a heads-up or academic advice that will help improve your class standing. Make sure to bring your syllabus and ask your professors whether they require additional readings or resources.

6. Take study breaks seriously ⏲️

While it seems intuitive to study for more hours, our brain can only do so much. So whenever you need to extend your review time, make sure to take breaks for every 25-minute study interval. This is similar to a Pomodoro technique, but choose the system that works for you.

7. Keep a brain dump 🧠

College is that phase where information overload is vital as it is frustrating. To avoid missing your important ideas and be more productive in drafting your coursework, try doing a brain dump.

Any notebook would do, but I prefer the blank pages of my bullet journal for this mind practice. Basically, you just need to jot down whatever thoughts that come to you and knit them together later. It is especially useful when writing essays and research papers.

Start with practicing timed prompts. It entails setting a timer to clock the first few ideas that come to your mind and making sense of them on the final draft.

8. Organize and schedule your study groups 💻👋

Since the introduction of Zoom meetings and FaceTime, many students have been using such apps to connect with their college peers and study together over the internet. Take advantage of this technology to conduct live study sessions, especially if you’re the kind to feel more motivated studying with other people.

When you organize virtual study sessions with your friends, you can share notes and analyze the topics with everyone in the group. Make sure that each participant is at the same pace as everyone else to avoid inconveniences in communication.


Being a better student can be feel like an impossible feat, especially if you don’t come prepared for the battle. Whether you’re a college freshman or a struggling senior, you can turn things around in your favor by following realistic hacks for studying smarter.

In this article, you have learned why most students struggle with college life, as well as tips on how you can be a better student at the university.

How do you study smarter and manage your time? Share some tips in the comments!


  1. Gordhamer, R. Accessed September 2022. 10 Reasons Why College Students Struggle []
  2. Guerrero, M., & Rod, A. B. (2013). Engaging in office hours: A study of student-faculty interaction and academic performanceJournal of Political Science Education9(4), 403-416. []