Six Steps to Making the Dean’s List

November 18th, 2009 by Amelia

When asked as to how you did last semester, nothing can top the sound of that simple four-word explanation:

Made the Dean’s List.

iStock_000010938758XSmallIt certainly has a positive connotation to it. It also carries a special sense of pride, whether you are talking to your parents, grandparents, or one of your former high school teachers. And most importantly, it is a great thing to be able to place on your resume.

When you say “I made the dean’s list” it means one simple thing – you can handle the expectations associated with the rigors of college.

We know you want to be part of the select group that is able to make that claim and here is our six step method to making it happen.

1. Be Organized

Almost all college courses follow a troubling pattern – front loading information and back loading assignments. Too many courses begin with lots of reading and little in the way of written work only to end with major projects and papers due just as semester exams approach.

The most important step for academic success is to create a master schedule/calendar of your courses and the assignments due for the semester. It does not matter which format you use, digital or traditional, you just need to create a master with all pertinent information.

That means taking the entire syllabus for each course and plotting all written assignments, projects, papers and exams on one master calendar. Be sure and highlight any extra credit work options that are noted or add them to the calendar when the professor makes them known.

Once complete, to ensure you have a complete sense of the demands ahead, spend 30 minutes each Sunday evening reviewing the upcoming week and the two weeks that follow. Look carefully at that work and then plan your study time for the week. In the early going, when less written work is required, make a commitment to doing more than the required reading. A good goal is to work towards being at least a week ahead at the end of the first five weeks of the semester.

Second, organize all materials into folders and notebooks. There are way too many expectations to have you wasting time searching for some paper or papers you have misplaced. Such materials include all the original class handouts, the additional materials provided by the professor during the semester and your returned assignments, quizzes and tests. Don’t forget, those returned papers can be extremely helpful when it comes time for final exam preparation.

2. Find a Quiet Place to Study

One of the most critical aspects of college success is to be able to place the social scene on hold so as to be able to focus on the task at hand. While most think of the need to limit such time to the weekend, the reality is that the dormitory is often a social scene, one that can be a constant source of disruption. Limiting the time you spend in your dorm room is the only way to eliminate those distractions.

Girl in a LibraryIt is imperative that whenever you are reading challenging materials or preparing for an exam you have a quiet place where you can truly disappear. It might be the back stacks at the library, the basement lounge at your dorm or a study area in one of your campus classroom buildings. Ultimately, you must utilize this place whenever you need to find some real quiet time.

3. Attend and Participate in All Classes

It goes without saying that it is extremely important that you go to all of your classes every week. Your professor will not only spend class time on the subject matter, he or she will also help you identify how class projects and homework assignments will be graded and what you will need to know for tests.

In addition, some college professors make class participation a component of the overall grade. In such instances, they expect the students to be more than just present, they want to see you ask questions and contribute your thoughts to class discussions.

Obviously you cannot participate if you are not present. And you cannot participate in a meaningful way if you are not prepared.

And even if there is no grade for attending or participating, your presence and your participation can be extremely helpful. Your presence and participation will indicate to your professor that you are interested in the material and that you are committed to your responsibilities.

Such a step cannot hurt when that prof is about to provide that final grade for the semester and you are right on the line between a B+ and an A-.

Lastly, remember – taking notes is also a form of participation. Jot down everything that appears relevant, especially the information presented in overheads, in power points or written on the board. And if you are not good at note taking, get a tape recorder and record the class.

4. Implement the 15-Minute Review

To ensure you make the most of each class, arrive 15 minutes before the scheduled starting time and implement the 15-Minute Review.

At that point, instead of seeking out others to socialize, take the time to review two items briefly but as thoroughly as you can. First, review your notes from the prior class to remind yourself of what was being discussed and where the class ended. Then, quickly glance through the required reading in your text so as to have a sense as to where the professor will go during the class.

Doing these two tasks in a focused manner will not only ensure that you are in a proper mindset for the class when the professor begins, it means you will have a much better sense as to how the material the professor is presenting connects to the prior learning. Those two things will ensure your class is extremely productive.

To maximize the benefit of this concept, begin by implementing the review the evening before. If you have three classes the following day, take 45 minutes and break that time into three segments where you review your notes from the prior class and the reading material. Doing so the night before, then repeating just prior to class will again make class attendance far more productive. It will also greatly reduce your need for last minute study time when exams loom.

5. Limit the Social Scene

College offers enormous academic and social opportunities. It goes without saying that the social opps are far more enjoyable.

iStock_000003511925XSmallAt the same time, all experts concur, that taking some time from studies is critical to maintain an emotional balance. But there is a difference between an occasional recharging of batteries on the weekend and shortchanging your responsibilities during the week. If you do not remind yourself of the task at hand, it is all too easy to get pulled away by your classmates at times when you really should be focused on completing some critical assignments.

Ultimately, you must remember why it is that you are attending college – that the academics must come first. The failure to do so is the undoing of far too many students – in some cases it is the difference between that A or B grade and a C. Sadly, in other instances, it is the basis for why so many are forced to drop out, their C’s having fallen to F’s.

There will be people around you who are taking a less rigorous academic program and thus can spend more time socializing/partying. There will be even more people around you who have forgotten why they are attending college.

You cannot forget, not if you want your name on that magic list.

6. Study

Yes, it does come down to the fact that you will need to study. But when it comes to studying, forget those stories about the all-night cram sessions, the weekend in a motel room with nothing but your books, some Ramen noodles and your hot water pot.

Simply stated, cramming sucks, from an emotional standpoint and from an academic preparation standpoint.

In college it is truly the story of the tortoise and the hare. You need to be a turtle, slow and steady with an emphasis on the word steady. The key is to do a small amount of work every day.

Unlike high school, when you are not in class, your time will be yours. There are no study halls and no required places to be. If you have a one hour class at eight, another at eleven and a third at three, it can be very easy to waste away the time from nine to eleven, or from one to three.

iStock_000003967948XSmallThis is where your calendar comes in – you need to schedule that time, assigning a specific chapter to read or constructing an aspect of a paper or writing up those math problems. If you are not careful, you will find ways to fill that time with other things that seem more enjoyable yet do not match up with the reason you are actually attending college, the idea of earning a diploma.

And scheduling that time means time and location – where are you going to go so as to ensure you do the work you set out to do.

Making the Dean’s List

We must add that taking care of your physical health is also critical. You need to eat right, get to bed at a decent hour and find some way to exercise consistently. Such steps are critical to remain physically and mentally healthy.

In addition, select the right courses, those that you have the required prerequisites and background for, and be sure not to overload yourself with too many reading-based courses, too many lab based courses, etc. Five classes can be too many if each course expects hundreds of pages of reading between each class. Think through your schedule carefully to ensure you have a reasonable and balanced workload.

All in all, getting good grades in college is not beyond the realm of the serious student who displays the proper attitude.  If you attend class, work hard, and stay on top of the expectations, at the end of the semester you will be one of the select few, the proud, the student who can offer a humble shrug as you answer that question as to how you did last semester.

Made the Dean’s List.

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3 Comments


    I believe is rewarding to know that after so much dedication and effort it pays off to have good grades. I’m 19 years, I’m a freshman with 26 credit hours, I attend to Houston Community college-Northeast and last semester I made the dean’s list with a 4.0 gpa. I will recomend to anybody that all you need to excell in your academics is all of above plus motivation of your own. It all start with you, and after that, the rewards come around.

    By Luis on January 12th, 2010


    I have made the Dean’s List last semester and it feels great. I don’t communicate with other classmates often, but I really study and focus on what I’m reading and writing. It takes a lot of hard work to make it on the Dean’s List. I’m so thrilled about it and I’m going to work really hard to make it on the President’s list. My advice is don’t slack off, work hard, ask questions for help, and listen to the Professor.

    By Colleen on May 21st, 2010


    It is truly rewarding. I have made the dean’s list 3 times in a row and hope to be there every quarter. I am Dominican and english is not even my first language. If I could do it, so can you!!! :D Time and dedication is all it takes.

    By Katiuska on September 21st, 2010


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