How to Get Good Grades in School: 8 Expert Tips from Ivy League Graduates

05/11/202110 minute read
How to Get Good Grades in School: 8 Expert Tips from Ivy League Graduates

It’s no secret that good grades help you get into college. You’ve probably heard it from an early age, “Get good grades so you can get into a good school.” But, why do grades matter so much? And what strategies help you improve your grades so you will stand out from those with equally impressive grades?

When colleges review your application, they evaluate many factors, including grades. They look at your actual grades, the classes you took, and your overall academic performance history. They want to see growth, ambition and drive. They also want to see how you’ve challenged yourself throughout high school. Good grades are imperative if you plan on attending an Ivy League university or prestigious universities like Stanford or MIT.

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What is a Grade Point Average (GPA)?

Your Grade Point Average (GPA) is a score on a scale between 0.0 and 4.0 that reflects your academic performance in high school. It converts the letters or percentages that typically represent your grades into numbers, then finds the average of those numbers to calculate a GPA.

Your GPA sums up your academic achievement into one cumulative number that serves as the first point of comparison between you and other applicants.

For a more in-depth understanding of what your GPA means and how your grades stack up for top US universities, you can speak with one of Crimson’s Academic Advisors, who can answer all your questions. They can even help you:

  • Identify the best schools to apply to based on your academic candidacy
  • Recommend a tutoring path that increases your GPA
  • Craft a roadmap for improving your academics in general

Use our High School GPA Calculator to find out your current GPA for college admissions!

What is a High School Transcript?

Your high school transcript is a record of all the classes you’ve taken in high school (from 9th grade onwards), the final grades (weighted or unweighted) that you received, and the credits you earned for each one. Most transcripts also include standardized test scores from AP Exams, the SAT/ACT or others, your cumulative GPA, and any academic honors you’ve received.

Essentially, your official transcript provides an overview of your academic performance throughout high school at-a-glance so that admissions officers can evaluate your academic standing.

While your high school transcript illustrates how well you performed academically throughout high school, it can also showcase several other important qualities:

  • Ambition: Opting to take more challenging classes exhibits a sense of academic tenacity and shows that you’re ready to take on the demands of college-level courses.
  • Exploration: When choosing elective courses, the ones you select can help demonstrate your interest and commitment to a particular area of study, like STEM or social sciences.
  • Advancement: Your transcript shows all your grades from the last four years, so marked improvement over time indicates that you’ve grown and become a stronger student.

Your transcript should demonstrate that in your time as a high school student, you’ve been eager to learn and have taken advantage of all that your school has to offer.

How do you get good grades?

The obvious answer to this question is to ace your exams and papers and turn in consistent high-level work. But since you’re not a robot, you’re probably not going to ace every test, every time.

We’ve compiled a list of the top strategies that Crimson students use to get good grades in school. These simple yet effective tips improve their grades and help them get into schools like Harvard, Stanford, and Yale.

1. Motivate Yourself

You’re not always going to get a perfect score. But that doesn’t mean you just give up on your university dreams. A minor setback is not a failure. Stay positive and learn from your mistakes. Here are some simple tips to help you stay motivated.

  • Instead of beating yourself up for a bad grade or two, determine what went wrong, so it doesn’t happen again.
  • Encourage yourself to keep going even when you want to quit.
  • Remind yourself of your ultimate goal and create tangible milestones that will help you reach that goal.

2. Pay Attention and Participate in Class

Even if school tends to come easy for you, paying attention and participating in class shows your teacher you’re interested in the subject. Most teachers base final grades on tests, papers, projects, and participation. That means even if you ace all the work, you may get a lower grade if you don’t participate in class.

Tips on how you can participate: e.g. ask for clarifications, raise your hand up even if the answer is obvious, etc.

3. Stay on Top of your Classwork

Complete your homework and classwork, even if it doesn’t count towards your grade. While it might seem like busywork, it’s the foundation of your knowledge and helps you better understand a particular subject. Completing your homework also helps you fully comprehend a subject and builds confidence in that specific subject.

4. Organize your Workspace and your Time

A study by Harvard Business Review highlights the importance of a clear workspace.

Find a quiet space where you can study and complete your work. Keep that workspace clear of clutter and anything (including your phone) that might distract you from staying on task.

Find a planner that will help you track your schedule and time. It doesn’t matter if you choose a mobile app planner or a traditional paper planner. Pick one that works best for you. (If your phone tends to be a distraction, you should consider a paper planner.) Keep track of due dates, tests, projects, and all your extracurricular activities in this planner. Staying organized will not only help you stay on task, it will keep you from missing important dates and deadlines.

5. Take Your Health Seriously

Your health and wellness affect every aspect of your time - including your schoolwork. If you’re not eating nutritious foods and getting at least eight hours of sleep at night, your brain will not get the fuel it needs to function correctly and be productive. A healthy lifestyle also includes plenty of fresh air and exercise.

6. Ask for Help

Many teachers don’t mind setting aside time to help you during a study session or after school. Making the extra effort also shows your teacher that you care about the subject matter and want to give 100% to your work. Some schools offer tutors that will help you ace the challenging subjects. If feasible, ask your parents if they can set you up with a private tutor (like Crimson Education) who can help you outside of school hours.

7. Consider Online Tutoring

Crimson offers online tutoring to our students. We engage the world’s best teachers and tutors to help students get good grades and reach their university admission goals. We offer three tutoring programs in an easy-to-order offering. They include tutoring in:

  • AP (Advanced Placement) & IB (International Baccalaureate)
  • SAT, ACT, and SAT II
  • Bespoke Curriculum/Subject Tutoring

How Māori student Sam scored a perfect 1600 with Crimson Tutoring

8. Consider an Online High School

Crimson Global Academy (CGA) is a fully-registered online high school that connects you with world-class teachers and university-recognized qualifications. This program delivers live, world-class teaching to you, right in your own home. You’ll graduate from the year-long accelerated courses with Advanced Placement (AP) and A-Level qualifications. When you get good grades in these courses, top universities will recognize your commitment and effort to your education.

*At this time, CGA is offered in the following countries: New Zealand, Australia, Japan, Russian Federation, United Arab Emirates, South Africa, China, Vietnam, Singapore, United Kingdom, Thailand, Taiwan, United States, Brazil, Saudi Arabia, Kazakhstan, Brazil, Hong Kong, South Korea, Malaysia, Qatar, Indonesia, Belgium, Ukraine, Costa Rica, Philippines, Switzerland, Kuwait, Spain, Kenya, Oman, Egypt, Myanmar {Burma}, and Cyprus.

CGA Classroom Adventures: Ep 1 Mathematics with Dr Andrew Daniel

For more information on GPA and grades, download our FREE ebook, Acing Your Academics for US University Applications.

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What about international curriculums? Do I still need good grades?

High schools around the world teach different curriculums. A-Levels, IB, and APs, are considered the most academically rigorous options available for high school students.

Whether you take the A-Levels, IBs, or any respected international curricula, your transcript will reflect your high school academic performance. You can calculate your GPA using converted grades from these curricula.

Final Thoughts

While good grades aren’t the only thing colleges look for, they’re often one of the first things they evaluate. Good grades will help you get your foot in the door at many top universities. If you can pass through that door, you’re already closer to acceptance than many applicants with lower grades.

Do you need help deciding which curriculum is best for you or understanding how international grades and test scores translate to your US university applications?

Crimson helps students from around the world gain admission to world-leading institutions with personalized guidance on everything from grades and test scores to extracurriculars and interviews. Schedule a free consultation with one of our expert Academic Advisors, who can answer all your questions and help get you started on the path to success.


Crimson students are up to 4x more likely to gain admission to top universities than those who apply on their own.