Better grades in undergraduate business programs can lead to scholarships, acceptance into better Master of Business Administration (MBA) programs or other graduate school programs and, eventually, better job offers. Many classes in U.S. business schools consist of two or three tests and usually a presentation. Find out what you can do to succeed at your business school.
The following is what all college students, not only business students, should know:
Go to every class and pay attention. There are too many things to learn in a class to rely solely on your textbook. Many professors add tidbits to their in-class lectures that they'll later put on exams. To get an A in the class, you'll need to attend and pick up on the small details. Get a good night's rest so you can stay alert and focused.
Most students cram for tests, hoping to learn three months' worth of material in three days - or, worse, in one night. Your brain just doesn't retain information that way. As an example, it is next to impossible to learn and remember the U.S. state capitals in only an hour's time, but if you spent 10 minutes a day for two weeks memorizing them, it would be simple. Instead of falling into this bad study habit, try to cram in reverse. Study hardest the first three weeks of the semester, and then go about your normal routine the rest of the semester. It's much simpler to get your best grades early when the easier material is being tested, but it gets harder to raise your grade later in the class when the material is more difficult and you have the stress of other exams.
Participate in class discussions and ask questions during the lectures, even if you're shy. To your professor, shyness and apathy look the same. Joining in on class discussion shows the professor you care and can pay dividends if you need help later, such as getting out-of-class questions answered promptly or rescheduling an exam if you're sick. One of the biggest mistakes many students make is that they don't understand the material well and try to hide it until their test is graded. Instead, make a point to ask questions if you don't fully understand the material. Whether professors consciously realize it or not, they are more willing to help students who show interest in the class. If you wait until the week of the final exam to open up, they might be highly suspicious of your sudden friendliness and requests for help. Professors generally appreciate you showing an interest in what they teach. Often, a simple visit after class will result in extra hints on a project or exam.
Be Prepared for Your First Day
Most students miss the opportunities available the first day. Have your strategy mapped out before you leave this crucial class. Use this day to set up your study group, establish an initial relationship with your professor and other students and start to organize your teammates for group presentations.
If you can select your own group, start finding your teammates on the first day of class. You might already know some of the people in your class, which can be both good and bad. Peers from other classes might want to join your group, but might not be the best for your project grade. If you want to get an A, don't team up with students who are hoping for a B or C - go for the A students. If in doubt, it's usually a safe bet to find older students for your group. Typically, these people are students who are more serious and can add valuable experience to your group.
If groups are assigned, you should have a meeting with your group as soon as you can, preferably the same day groups are assigned. Make it clear that you want to give a great presentation in order to get an A, but that the work should be shared among all group members. The work doesn't have to be equally shared, however, as you can play to your individual strengths.
If you end up with a problem teammate, talk to the person first to try to resolve the issues. If that doesn't work, discuss possible solutions with the other people in the group. If that still doesn't do the trick, talk to your professor. Some professors may force a student out of a group to work individually when he or she is unwilling or unable to share the workload. Finally, most students tend to wait until the project is almost due to start working on it, and only then do they find out they have bad teammates. That's why early meetings are so important to success.
As a rule, never submit a written assignment that is not in a presentation folder. Even if the material is not A+ quality, a presentation folder with a cover sheet catches the reader's eye, especially when color is added for effect.
Always try to get the professor to look over your paper for advice and criticism before you officially submit it. Give the professor a full week if possible. After the professor provides suggestions, and you make the changes, it's hard for the professor to give you a bad grade because in effect, the paper has already been approved. If the professor won't review your paper, ask him or her to recommend a colleague for the task.
When giving a presentation, dress should normally be business casual, unless otherwise stated. Just like a nice cover on a written paper, proper attire adds greatly to the presentation and lets the audience know you are serious. If you don't agree with this idea, compare this professional appearance to the person who shows up in a t-shirt and shorts, for example, trying to persuade the audience that he or she is knowledgeable about the finer points of international corporate finance. It's hard to be a convincing speaker in that situation.
Overcome stage fright and miscues by practicing your presentation at least three times in front of a mirror or in front of a friend before presenting to your class. Know how long your presentation should take, and then have someone time it. Have this person make notes about the level of your composure, any places where you stumbled over the material and if you smiled. Keep your "ums" and "uhs" to a minimum because they make you look unsure about the material.
As a general rule, never read to the audience. Use brief hand-held notes to help you stay on track. Respect the audience's time by sticking to the time limit, and when speaking, use appropriate hand gestures and don't hide behind the podium, where you risk looking like a talking head. Be sure to try to always smile and make occasional eye contact with the audience, to reassure them that you are interested in them.
The Bottom Line
While these tips won't guarantee you an A in every class, they can make your life as a student much easier. Remember, it's not enough to work hard; you must work smart as well.