Performing at a High Level in School

From a 2.4 to Straight As...

Hello student.  My name is Colin, I am currently enrolled at IU Bloomington with majors in Physics and Computer Science, and a minor in Math.  I ended my freshmen year with a 2.4 cum GPA.  Now, as I enter my senior year I have not had a grade lower than an A since my freshman year, achieving my fourth semester in a row of straight A’s.  So, what changed?  I would be willing to wager that the largest struggle a student has is motivation, at least this was the case for me…

Removing a Huge Hurdle...

Moving into a new apartment after living with three roommates in my freshman dorm, I found myself with fewer distractions. With the help of my dad, I became convinced that my slacking would lead to an unhappy life (plus, my dad provided some extra motivation by informing me that he’d kick me out if I didn’t make a 3.5 GPA!).  I knew something drastic had to change so change is what I did.   First, I reduced the hours that I was wasting on streaming video entertainment to only one episode of Sherlock per night, which, in turn, lead to some insomnia from the lack of screen time to which I had become accustomed.  For over a month, I stuck through this period of restless, screen-less nights, until I didn’t feel the urge to watch anything at all.  The extra time this opened for me was devoted to my classes, taking detailed notes and spending hours doing homework on the whiteboard. 

From Streaming to Fulfillment (3 Key Ingredients)...

I ended that semester with my first 4.0, and what a fulfilling feeling that was!  In addition to my increased productivity in school, I found that I was happier not wondering who was next to win American Idol, or what other arbitrary media-based interests had popularized.  I even laughed more :).  We all find ourselves in positions where our motivation wanes.  So, what does it take to perform at a high level?  What worked for me can be attributed to three principals that I grew up seeing, often multiple times a day on a sign posted on our garage door:

I found the first of these principals, curiosity, to be the easiest, at least for the classes that captured by interest.  Somewhat surprisingly, I eventually discovered that curiosity can be placed anywhere, including the classes that seem boring at first.  By taking genuine interest in a wide range of subjects (whatever classes I was taking at the time), I found that absorbing the material will naturally follow (only the hungry for knowledge will feast!).

As for the second principle, self-discipline, I have found this to be the crux of maintaining the motivation provided by curiosity.  Routine is the most important part of this concept for me.  Make the bed in the morning, keep the place clean, keep the mind clean.  I added exercise to this after my sophomore year and found the results to be amplified – that summer I swam 1.25 miles daily and ran four miles, three times a week for the entire summer. 

Hard Work
Eventually, I discovered that the final principle, hard work, has much to do with finding a sense of accomplishment.  Working hard for an entire semester and getting the grades is one example.  Swimming as hard as you can and making a good time is another.  Often, I hear fellow students using phrases like “taking the L”, which, as you may know, translates to “giving up”.   After 4 semesters of hard work, giving up doesn’t cross my mind.

In summary, by proactively eliminating non-productive distractions after a very average/below average freshmen year and taking interest in all topics in my classes – even the small, “boring” topics, I left myself with little to no free time for these distractions in the first place.   I decided my priorities and acted on them.  I found my drive…along with accompanying sense of fulfillment!

Thanks for reading,

Colin, tutor at College Tutors of Indiana

By Colin Myers, edited by Dave Snider

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