“Yes, you read that right. My GPA was 0.5. See how I raised my GPA to a 3.96.”
I remember vividly in the Spring of 2004, when I was taking four college courses. I had started college the semester before, taking mostly developmental courses because my SAT score was very low. My English 1101 professor was a tall, quiet white male in his early 40’s. Two weeks into class and we turned in our first written assignment. Soon after, the professor asked me to talk to him after class.
When I met him after class, without asking about my background, he asked that would go to the writing lab for my next assignment. He also stated that I have problem with “syntax,” a form of English grammar that is primarily concerned with word order in a sentence. (Honestly, I probably still have it.)
I never did go to the writing lab and ended up with a D in his class. I also made another D in College Algebra and received a 1.33 GPA for that semester.
The situation was dire.
However, I determined to set things straight and retook two courses in the following summer. That didn’t work either. Continuing with what I have been doing, I received an F for the retaken English class and a D for the Art class, which I had withdrawn the previous semester. My grade point average for that summer was a 0.5 Here is a picture of it:
Even though I did not disclose my grades to anyone (including my parents), anyone who knew about my poor achievement would have advised that college might not be the best choice for me. I thought the same thing too, so I dropped out.
For the next two years, I did various jobs, including waiter and nail technician. However, I was not satisfied and felt like I should not give up on college. Two years later, I was back at college again. This time, I was at a different school.
By now I was a little more determined, so my grades improved slightly. I passed English 1101 with a C and all Math classes with B. My GPA increased to 2.75 and 2.25 for the next two semesters. It was also during this time that I met my beautiful and super smart wife who was a senior at University of Georgia studying pre-med.
As soon as she graduated, we got married and soon after that, our son was born. With all these life events happened so quickly, I felt a pressure to become a better person. I didn’t know where to start, but I kept going to school while my wife was applying to medical school. It was during this time that I noticed something about my wife study habit. My wife, who was a valedictorian in her high school and earned a 3.92 GPA in college, did not seem to have super high IQ or inherited some rare intelligent gene. She did not spend all day and all night studying either. She just prioritized… better than me.
Soon, I started emulating her effort, studying a little bit more and taking school A LOT more seriously. Unfortunately, my grades did not improve, though I started to feel a sense of control. I felt like I could do it.
In 2008, my wife enrolled in medical school, we had to move, and I had to transfer to another school. This time, I decided my major in something that I like – Finance. And this was when everything just “clicked.”
With a baby to watch and a wife in professional school – all while living in my in-law’s extra bedroom – I gave it my best. By this time, I also knew that I could make better grades in school. Thus, I managed my time, did more studying, and kept up with the syllabus. Soon after, I made an A on the first test, the second test, and all my tests. It was like a snowball effect. I kept making good grades on assignments and tests.
It was the end of the Fall semester in 2008. I knew I had made a 4.0, but man, when them final grades were posted, I screamed. I danced. I was so happy that my wife thought I had gone nut.
I kept up with the momentum and continued to make 4.0 after 4.0, semester after semester. Though, I slipped off and made a B in a Marketing class.
My final GPA was a 3.96 at that school:
Despite the TOTAL or final GPA is 3.17 (when factoring all college courses I haven taken in my life), I was able to demonstrate that the 3.96 GPA is the actual representation of my academic performance. Also, employers and graduate schools look at trend, and I definitely pulled that off.
Thanks to this achievement, I landed a lucrative job in government contracting in 2010 when the economy tanked and when finding a job was really tough. Five years after that, I enrolled in a prestigious MBA program and became a Sr. Associate Marketing Manager, making close you a six-figure income.
So if you too are a struggling with making good grades in high school, college, or graduate school, here is my recommendation:
Step 1: KNOW THAT YOU CAN RAISE YOUR GPA
Know that good grade is a function of self-discipline, not intelligence. You make good grade because you simply “TRY”, by putting a lot of effort into studying, managing your time, and disciplining your actions. Even though this is Step 1, I understand that sometimes it is hard for you (myself included) to truly feel and know that you can achieve something until you’re well on your way. So the point here is that know that if you put your mind into it, you can achieve it. Make school your number 1 priority. You will feel the “Yes, I can” after you achieve a few small wins.
Step 2: SET STRETCH GOAL AND SMART GOAL
I got this from the book by Charles Duhigg, Smarter, Faster, Better: The Secrets of Being Productive in Life and Business. Stretch goal is a goal that is set above what you think you could achieve. For example, if you’ve been making C’s on your tests, a stretch goal is to make an A on your next test, instead of a B. Smart goal, on the other hand, outlines how are you going to achieve that goal. Even though stretch goal is a great tool, try not to go overboard and set an impossible goal. For example, I will make a 4.0 gpa on my next semester when my current GPA is 2.0. Though it may seems like what I did; however, the reality was that there were a lot of effort and small wins going into it before everything just clicked.
In the Fall 2008 semester, my stretch goal was to make an A in one class since I have never made an A before. My smart goal is to make an A on the next exam. Consequently, I laid out the steps I need to do to make that happen.
Read all six chapters in the book.
Understand the main points of each chapter.
Create an outline for each chapter.
(Depending on professor) Memorize the definitions of all the important, bolded words.
Step 3: KEEP THE SMALL WINS COMING
Once you score one A, two A’s, and three A’s on your tests, you’ll become addicted to making good grades. This will greatly amplify your internal locus of control. These small wins (make A’s on tests) prove that you are in control of the test, you are in control of your grade, and you are in control of your future. I had classmates who saw my improvement and followed suit, but I think they were just trying to prove that they could do it – once. So they score an A on one test only to let the momentum die by reverting to previous habits. You’ve gotta keep it up!
In conclusion, I was once a struggling student and found a way to turn it around. I know that every one is different, and each has his or her way of studying or achieving goals. That was how I did it. It seems really hard at first. But trust me, you too can do anything if you set your mind to it.
Please share your story if you too overcame a struggle. I would love to hear how you did it.
Faster, Smart, Better: The Transformative Power of Real Productivity