What does it mean to be a good student? The image of the good student as it exists in the common imagination is punctual, well-organized, attentive, and undoubtedly has an outstanding report card to boot. You may even envision them being a teacher’s pet in some form — respectful and helpful and the only academic crime they could be considered guilty of is raising their hand too many times in an hour. However, this picture is only the standard. Being a good student takes on as many definitions as there are individuals and likewise, the corresponding goals set to becoming that better student vary. The immediate thought that comes to mind is to aim for straight A’s but on the other hand, it is entirely possible to be a good student without earning the best grades. This approach is focused on personalized goals, specific academic skills, and improving in the areas in which you struggle.
For example, in addition to setting your sights on scoring an A+ on the next test, make a goal out of re-examining your test-taking strategies. Very few students are jacks-of-all-tests as most tend to struggle with one type of test question, whether it be multiple choice, long answers, or even proper pacing to avoid scrambling to scribble in their answers in the last five minutes. Working towards this goal may require making use of practice tests, writing while timing yourself, or asking your teachers for test-preparation advice, which they will likely be glad to give.
Another non-grade oriented goal may include improving what may seem as fundamental as reading and writing skills. While we like to assume that every student is capable of reading and writing, the extent to which comprehension skills are underdeveloped is surprising but fortunately, this is a problem that can be remedied by simply reading more. As obvious as the solution sounds, however, it may prove difficult to find the time to crack a book open so narrow your goal in on the utmost core of reading in school: efficiency. Learn to scan passages and pages for the most important information, participate in active reading by highlighting key words and annotating as is appropriate, and make the effort to read questions carefully. In the same vein, most academic writing is concerned with comprehensiveness and argumentative value and thus making verifiable arguments while providing the information to support them is your aim — a skill that like all others, comes with practice.
On an entirely different plane of academic aspirations are the goals that may not be visible on your report card. These encompass participating in class more frequently, learning to ask for help when you need it, and asking more questions among any other struggles that you may identify with. Although these seem trivial in comparison to the more assignment- and grade-oriented goals you might prefer to size up, addressing your personal setbacks also contributes to bettering yourself as a student by increasing your engagement with your own learning. Of course, pushing yourself to pursue a more active role in your education is a far more daunting task than discreetly rehashing practice exams in your own time and the best and only way to start is to jump right in and do what you grapple with one day at a time. If you enjoy the thought of answering questions out loud but are intimidated by the prospect in real life, begin by answering the easiest questions or strive to raise your hand once each class. If you have a question or idea to share, don’t walk out of the room when the bell rings — head straight for your teacher. At the end of the day, you should strive to be a good student for the sake of learning and if not good, then better.