Getting straight's A's in college is tough enough. If there are ways to make earning those A's simpler and easier, I'm all for it. Because once you learn how to use resources to help get those A grades, you can focus on making your work better and better, so that by the time you graduate you're a hot candidate for grad school or a killer career. (Not a career as an assassin, unless that's your thing, but a career that gives you the freedom to do what you love and do it well.)
So I've compiled a list of my favorite resources that help take the pressure of achieving and maintaining straight A's, so you can save the difficult work for the really difficult things...like remembering where your backpack is or why you only have one pair of socks.
Get the list that's helping thousands students achieve straight A grades in 12 countries! (Yup, these strategies work for EVERYONE.)
Now onto the fun...
Pssst! Pin that! ^
Streamlining your research process can help you save time and effort when writing college papers or completing projects. I have a few go-to sites that allow me to search for top peer reviewed journals, so I know that the work will be relevant and up to snuff.
Jstor pulls from academic journals, books, and primary sources and allows students to use the database for free -- or if your school isn't participating, you can select up to 3 works for your bookshelf at a time. You can preview the first page of an article before choosing it, which is how I vet whether or not an article is going to work for my topic.
Pro-tip: If you're in a hurry to gather citations, you can peruse the first pages of articles and find a quote that works (the first page is usually loaded with the topic, thesis, and setting, and can house a lot of gems), then cite the article.
iseek is a search engine that allows you to search for keywords, then hone in on a particular "target." It's a great tool to use during the preliminary stages of research when you just know your topic but haven't developed a solid thesis. The targeting suggestions can help you find a topic that has enough resources for a solid paper.
You can't read the whole book on here unless it's public domain, but I use google books like crazy in my research projects. If you find a book that's on topic, you can use the search feature to hone in on keywords within the book. You're able to read a few pages around the particular keyword, so it's useful to get good chunks of research in context, without having to read an entire book.
Pro-tip: If you've reached your page limit on google books, use a VPN to get a different IP address and keep reading!
I'm gearing up to write a post about how to gather 10 great sources in 10 minutes and google scholar is at the heart of that post. It's a quick way to narrow your search with keywords and cruise for a good article. You can see at a glance how many people have cited it, find related articles, and grab a ready-to-go (most of the time) citation.
Writing an essay is definitely something you have to the brunt of the work for, but there are apps and sites that can help make writing an essay a lot easier.
Rant: There are companies who'll write your papers for you. BUT. Why the hell are you in college if you're paying people to write your papers??? The degree isn't worth anything on its own, your education is. Please don't waste your money hiring someone to write your paper for you. Get a tutor who can break it down and make writing easier for you...or sign up for my free email course that offers a section on how to write better essays with ease. Spending the money on a tutor ensures you can write the next paper with less stress, whereas buying your papers just leads to your own papers staying mediocre. Ok, I'm done with the rant. Onto the apps that will help you write better essays.
Writing bibliographies is tedious busy work. Just enter the title and let bibme do it for you.
Cut out useless adverbs, discover your level of sentence complexity and fix it, all with one simple DIY app. Hemminway app is perfect for that first fly-through edit if you just need to tighten your paper up.
This is a goldmine of information about all of the citation forms. If you want to know anything about how to structure a paper in MLA, APA, Chicago, Turabian, etc etc, this is the resource for you. The writing lab at Purdue also gives you tips about correct grammar, style guides, and can help you organize your research. This is the BEST compilation of writing resources out there.
If you want to get straight A's, go to the best sources. Harvard's writing center is geared toward Harvard level students, so you know you're going to be working in the right direction by taking their advice. They offer strategies for essay writing, and writer's guides you can use over & over to take your writing skills up another level.
Motivation is a billion dollar industry for good reason. If we could all have our motivation on high at all times, we'd complete massive projects on time, over-achieve, and just be an incredibly productive, enthusiastic bunch all of the time. But life doesn't work like that. Motivation revs high then plummets, leaving you with half-finished projects and a bunch of far-off dreams. Here are some websites and apps that help you boost your motivation into overdrive.
Pro-Tip: Keep a cheatsheet on hand so you can turn to it whenever you need a little motivation boost. This list makes doing your hard work easier, so download the cheatsheet and keep it on your desktop for a quick reference!
Habitica turns your life and daily tasks into a role playing game where you can level up and unlock achievements, just by getting your sh*t done. People are finding great success building better habits with Habitica, because who doesn't like playing games?
Social media. The ultimate motivation killer. Taking your attention away from a task, even if just for a few seconds, can totally destroy your focus. At the very best, it fractures your attention, leaving what scientists call "attention residue" which basically means that if you check your email while you're writing a paper, your mind still holds onto that previous task of checking your inbox and all it contains, even as you try and switch your focus back to your paper. Keep me out locks you out of sites that kill your attention, offering levels as mild as a "warning" if you've spent too much time on a site, up to a complete lock out of a certain website.
I get so jazzed up when I'm learning, and Ed Ted gives you highly motivational, superior lessons in 5 minutes to an hour. If you're motivation's flagging, give Ed Ted a try to reinvigorate your thirst for knowledge.
Make your presentations more visually compelling and make writing them easier using these apps!
Animoto lets you create incredible videos easily. Next time you have to make a presentation, knock everyone's socks off using Animoto. Bonus is, once you've learned how to use Animoto, you've just earned yourself a very valuable skill in the workforce.
Slideshare lets you create beautiful presentations in minutes using templates and their super easy drag and drop platform. Check out the slideshare presentation I made about the 4 Myths About Straight A Students That Are Probably Holding You Back.
MindMeister is the free tool that lets you create a visual outline for your presentation. You can easily collaborate with other students if you're working on a group project. Mind maps are perfect for brainstorming, note taking, project planning, and visualizing a potential project.
Google Calendars saved my life. I tried putting my schedule down in a paper planner…but that was only as good as long as I had my planner with me. Now that you can easily enable notifications to go to your phone — you can keep track all of your due dates and events pretty much on autopilot!
Plus, there’s this cool feature that lets you hook into other people’s calendars, making coordinating group study sessions or group events a cinch!
Get my go-to guide for setting up Google Calendar to do all the work for you.
It's in this post.
Perhaps the largest resource for supplemental education, Khan Academy offers tutoring videos, lessons, and courses for free. Use this to work through difficult topics, or to enhance your understanding about a certain subject. If you want straight A's you might have to go outside the classroom to keep on top of all the knowledge that's required of you.
Like Khan academy, many of coursera's offerings are free. But they also have paid courses which usually end in a certification of sorts.
These guy's is my faves. (Yes I wrote that sentence like I wanted to!) They give you quick bursts of an incredible amount of information, usually packing an entire semester's course load into an 11 minute video. They offer an informative, insightful, and fun look into almost any subject, from introductory biology to the Civil War to War and Peace.
If you've got a long bus ride or drive long distances, or if you've ever got a longish break between classes and can just chill with some headphones and your phone, tune into iTunesU to get supplemental learning in on your down time. They have classes from many universities on a diverse array of topics. Keep your brain eating information by listening to lectures when you're not in class. This is a proven way to raise your grades and makes it easier to keep up on those A's in tough classes.
I wish I knew about this site when I was a student. Stack Exchange allows you to post questions and have them answered by smart people. You know the answers are good because they have a reputation system that lets answerers earn reputation points, so you know what level answer your question's getting. People ask some really interesting questions on there, so you might not even need to wait to get yours answered, just browse and see if your question's already been asked!
If you're in the sciences, there are some research search engines that are tailored specially for you. Instead of sifting through Jstor for hard science articles, use these sites instead.
A search engine specially designed for engineering related topics. Technical references and premium content.
Copy and Paste from their site: Eformulae.com is a online resource ofengineering formulas, science formulas, math formulas, physics formulas, chemistry formulas, tables, glossary of terms related to computer engineering, manufacturing technology, mechanical engineering, agricultural engineering, electronics engineering, metallurgy and machining processes.
An encyclopedia for science and engineering. If you need to know what some obscure jargon means, this is the site to go to. Compiles definitions for all manner of science-y, engineering-y, and math-y kind of things.
Their mascot is a hippo, how cute. Hippocampus offers free resources for math, natural science, social science, and some Humanities. Presented in a dynamic learning format, this is a great go to if there's a particular topic or theory that's puzzling you.
We all need help with math sometimes. Since there's a hard science to math (haha) there are some great resources out there that can help cut the struggle. Here are some favorites:
Miniature disclaimer here. I've never used Desmos because I'm allergic to math. That being said, Desmos most certainly would have helped me soothe my allergy like Zyrtec at 4am.
Desmos lets you "graph functions, plot tables of data, evaluate equations, explore transformations, and much more – for free!" (Yes, I copied and pasted from their site.)
I also copied and pasted this:
If you ever need an equation or formula, search for it here. Uniquation was designed to scour the internet for equations of all types and other mathematical information.
Similar to Uniquation, search on math allows students to find web pages that contain a mathematical formula that you've searched for, to a certain degree of similarity. To be used in papers, or for homework help, search on math does a pretty good job of giving you accurate search results.
One of the most important factors in getting straight A's in college is finding the right college, setting up the right classes, and finding the right professors. The best combination of these factors will allow you to learn rare and valuable skills at a level that allows you to get A's but still pushes you to work hard for them.
Finding top professors is no easy feat. Just because reviews seem mediocre doesn't mean you won't find a kick-ass professor. Like any review, you have to take into account the reviewer and the substance of the review. If someone was frustrated because the professor went off on tangents, but you find that to be an engaging and enriching way to learn, you might want to take that professor.
One of my favorite professors of all time receives a score of 3.9 on Rate my Professor...but when I read through the reviews I can see why -- people just don't like his teaching style, whereas I found it great for me.
Learning to read reviews is like learning to read a good recipe -- you should know when something is going to turn out right based on what you read before you make the thing.
A search matrix that allows you to search college rankings and reviews. With a crystal clear format, you can gather information about a college at a glance.
Finding the college that has the right mix of things is essential --- I would say more so than their ranking (of course that's important if you're going for the gold) because a lot of your performance is going to do with your state of mind, and you are living there for four years. So choose the best school you can find based on location, ranking, and attributes. And remember to think about the city. This is your new home away from home for a long, difficult time!
Like Rate My Professor, College Board is hugely useful if you know how to use it. This is a dense resources for college planning, though there are some drawbacks. This site errs on the conservative side, so take their articles and opinions with a grain of salt.
The forum offers students and parents a place to have questions answered by peers, which, again, has its ups and downs. Really read into the answers you find to determine what kind of person is answering you and if you want to take their advice or ignore it.
Not everyone goes to college straight out of high school. I was a transfer student, and I actually attended three different community colleges before heading off to UC Berkeley (where I still managed to scrape out 5 years on my undergrad).
Assist, or sites like it, are there to show you what classes transfer from one college to another. You can find the classes that you're required to take to fulfill a particular major, or to fulfill the basic transfer requirements to a college.
This was an essential site for me as a transfer student -- I'd been led astray by college counselors too many times telling me I had to take a class for my transfer that didn't end up being transferable. I wasted a year on useless classes until I learned that assist could help me find that information myself.
Save yourself time with the resource list cheatsheet:
Your college website is a great place to find information that will help you get and keep straight A's.
I used the Berkeley site to find classes in different disciplines that would enrich my education, public lecture announcements where I could network and learn about diverse topics, prizes and scholarships I could apply for, films and music events I could attend for free as a student, and hot topics in contemporary research.
Your Professor's Email
One of the most useful tools for getting and keeping straight A's is your professor's email address. I show you how to use your professor's email to your advantage in this blog post here.
Math & Writing Labs
For homework help or free tutoring, go to your school's math and/or writing lab. Accomplished peers will help you make your essay better, or untangle a hard problem with you.
Above & Beyond
Straight A's aren't a product of just doing well in class. Surrounding yourself with extra knowledge-boosting practices is going to ensure you get top grades, and keep them.
I'm all for pretty applications that promise to help you learn better, like Memrise. And the best part is, it's free! Memrise makes picking up a new language easy, or learning new vocab words. I didn't use this as a student but I can see how it's a more helpful way to spend your time than checking facebook or staring at a wall cause you've lost your motivation.
A veritable goldmine of old texts that are public domain. I once challenged myself to not buy any books for a semester of taking Literature classes at Berkeley, and Project Gutenberg really got me through. (If you want to ask about that semester, shoot me an email. I like setting weird challenges for myself.)
If you need to read a classic, but don't want to buy the book, go here.
Supplement your learning with classes from top International Universities. From Open University. If you want to advance your knowledge so you can take a higher course without doing lower coursework, this is a great way to move through a course and get the knowledge without paying college prices.
This is the best resource (other than introtohonors.com, of course) for college students who want to know what it takes to get and keep A's. Cal Newport, now a tenured professor at Georgetown, tracked his study habits as a student, and those of many others, and wrote books about what he found, such as Straight A Student, So Good They Can't Ignore You, and Deep Work. His blog is FULL of tips and tricks to get you those A's with less stress and struggle.
Language courses in college can be tough, especially if they're fast-paced. The BBC is known for their easy to learn language programs that you can access for free.
Free short to long lectures from top University professors. FREE! A great way to maximize your learning. I like to watch these kinds of videos to give me an edge on a particular topic, or to give me something extra interesting to chat about in office hour.
Keep this list on hand with the free resource list download!