Boosting your GPA is actually relatively easy. All you have to do is stop screwing up.
Step 1: Be good at the subject matter.
This is incredibly obvious, but a lot of people don’t seem to understand it. I have a couple of acquaintances with whom I have had this conversation multiple times:
Person:“I hate literature!”
Me: “Then why are you taking this literature class?”
Person: “Because I need a stupid languages and humanities requirement!”
Me: “…You know, if you took French or Spanish, you would have to fill out a bunch of verb conjugations and learn a potentially useful skill if you ever interact with people who speak those languages, and you wouldn’t have to read and analyze literature.”
Me: “Then… why are you not taking either of those?”
Or this conversation:
Person: “I hate postmodernism so much!”
Me: “And you are taking Sociology because…”
Person: “I needed a social sciences requirement!”
Me: “…If you take Economics instead, you get to do math and not essays.”
Me: “…and you are not taking it because…”
When you’re signing up for courses for a semester, look into the course material first! If you like numbers and need a social science, go with economics! If you like history and people and essays and you need a science, don’t go with physics when you can go with psychology. If you like essays and literature and analysis, don’t pick a general course that you will hate the shit out of because it’s “too technical” or involves “too much math”.
I recommend picking those things in general because then you get to grow as a person. You know, that thing you’re going to school for? But growing as a person won’t get you into that internship if they discard all applicants with a GPA below 3.5 and yours is 2.8. If you want to boost your GPA, think strategically. Pick things to do that you know you can, and evaluate yourself not based on some general idea of what you can totally do, but on what you have actually succeeded at doing in the past, how well you think the course will play to your strengths, and so on.
Step 2: Organize your courses in clumps.
I got two important pieces of advice a few months ago. One was from my friend, who said that it was important to have all of your classes lumped together so that when you’re done the day you’re done and you can chill and go home. The other was from an advisor who said that it was important to avoid having more than 2 courses back to back, because by the third course your brain would be melting and you would want to go to sleep.
They were both kind of right. The secret to a good schedule is both the existence of breaks and very clear boundaries on what is and is not class time, and when you are and are not on campus. I recommend the following algorithm for adding classes to your schedule:
IF the class you want to take is immediately after one class, AND that class is not immediately after another class, THEN add that class to your schedule. ELSE, discard. IF the class you want to take is mentally taxing, THEN make sure it is not the second class in a batch ELSE its placement doesn't matter.
It should help you decide between two courses you don’t want to take.
Step 3: Binge Read and take notes.
If your classes have readings due before class (as classes in Philosophy, Political Science, Literature, New Media, Film, Neuroscience, Psychology, and History tend to), don’t wait until the day before, or the hour before, to do them. Ideally you would have some specific time of the week and place of the world you use to the readings one week early, but if that’s the case already then odds are the best advice anyone can give you to boost your GPA is “Use the Pomodoro Technique and watch fewer Youtube videos”.
What you do instead, because you’re a lazy bum like me, is that you do ALL OF THE READINGS YOU CAN at the beginning of the semester, and you take quick notes about what their core ideas are. Take one weekend early in the semester and just POWER THROUGH THAT SHIT so that all you need to do is glance at your notes before class to refresh your memory about what that thing was. Textbooks are great for this, because you already have all the required material in one pile. Read it out loud in a funny/possibly-racist accent. It actually makes things better(provided you’re not in public).
Step 4: Procrastinate by being Productive.
Get a film class and procrastinate by watching the movie of the week. Get a lit class and procrastinate by reading the assigned novel. Get a media and politics class and procrastinate by reading the news. If you can make it so that your “I’m bored and I want to do something” time and your “I’m doing homework and/or useful stuff” time overlap somehow, you will be a lot more productive.
Step 5: Eat some fucking vegetables
A lot of the problems of being a student get worse with awful diets. Eat some spinach once in a while. The times I’ve done best have usually been those when I’m exercising and eating real food. Get some carrots and just gnaw on them while studying for a test anxiously.
STEP 6: Go for a run once in a while
Along with eating better, exercising is really helpful, not just because it will actually make you better at stuff, but because going for a run is sometimes a good way to clear your head.
Step 7: Ask all of the questions.
Whether in class or out, whether over email or skype or during office hours, actually ask the professors questions. Not only will they be happy that at least one person seems interested in the freaking material (have you SEEN how much your classmates don’t care?) but they will actually explain whatever you’re having a hard time with. The grand majority of professors are there to help out and actually enjoy seeing a young mind interested in their subject matter. Unless they’re assholes. In that case, vow to take revenge by proving them wrong and seek help elsewhere ACING THEIR COURSE LIKE A BOSS.
Step 7: Know when to quit.
Sometimes you just gotta drop it like it’s hot.
Step 8: Don’t go crazy and/or kill yourself.
This might sound obvious, but it can be kind of hard. A lot of people, whether because of scholarships or grad school, place too much pressure on themselves to get some specific grade. Know that, worst-case scenario… life still goes on. Shit will happen, and life will go on. Unless you stop it from going on, or happen to be super unlucky. So… don’t do that.