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How they raised Their GPAs

Panelists at the inaugural "How I Raised My GPA" event. From left, Rayhaan Khan, Anastasia Kosteckyj, Shay Hayashi, Olan Sun, Jennifer Chou, and Ehsan Tehran.
Published February 7, 2020 by Julia Lane

How it began: An English major tells her story in a Facebook group

I have an "SFU Confession" to make.  I'm a staff member who lurks on SFU student Facebook groups. Why? So that my middle-aged self won't be so out of touch.  So I'll find out what's on students' minds and get ideas for SLC programming. I've been in these groups for years, but until recently those goals just worked in theory. 
 
Then, last summer, I stumbled upon a revelation:  A post by English major Olan Sun inviting students to ask her about how she raised her GPA from 1.53 to 3.73.  What struck me the most was not just this amazing achievement or the generosity of this post, but the response it received. For months, students were asking Olan questions in the comments. Even after Olan posted an explanation of how she raised her GPA, students were commenting that they wanted to hear more of her story. 
 
Hmmm, I thought. So students -- most of whom won't attend a workshop by SLC learning specialists -- are hungry to hear other students talk about their academic strategies?  Hmmm....

6 students tell their stories at the SLC's first "How I Raised my GPA" event

Fast forward to January 29. Olan and 5 other students and graduates from the Faculties of Arts, Science, and Applied Science and the Beedie School of Business told their stories of how they raised their GPAs at the SLC's first "How I Raised my GPA" event.  In case you're wondering about how to raise your GPA, I noticed that most of them had the following things in common:
  • They all liked what they were studying. Some were studying what they had originally intended, but many others had made changes to their programs along the way.
  • They all actively sought support from sources such as family, friends, professors, TAs, group chats etc.
  • They all reflected on their own learning strategies and made adjustments along the way, doing more of what worked for them and less of what didn't, and being open to learning and adopting new strategies by talking to instructors and classmates or, in a few cases, taking the Back on Track program.
  • Many of them talked about the benefits of volunteering, both in terms of trying out activities that might lead to a career, and in terms of becoming busier which forced them to manage their time better.

Highlights from the event

After the panelists told their stories, audience members enthusiastically asked questions about strategies for quantitative coursesnote-taking in lecturereading, and exam preparation. Some of the recommended strategies were:

  • Make concept summaries for quantitative courses.
  • Try the Cornell Note-taking system as it lends itself well to self-testing, one of the most effective strategies for exam preparation.
  • Make information more memorable by tying it in to something you relate to personally and by making connections between concepts. (A few panelists also recommended flashcards, a form of self-testing.)
  • One panelist recommended Spreeder for faster reading and review. (I'm not sure about this one myself, but many participants seemed interested in trying it.)
The real measure of success of the event was that people wanted to stay, share, and ask questions after the formal panel discussion concluded.
 
Student feedback after the event included:
  • I gained confidence and learned to assess my study skills/ effectiveness.
  • I liked the multiple perspectives and panel format. I learned general study tips and received encouragement. I really appreciate this type of event!!
  • I like the diverse panel of subjects covered. I learned several potential techniques.
  • I liked that panelists discussed and shared relatable experiences in topics like mental health, doing poorly on exams, not knowing what to do with school/ career decisions. I learned about time management (volunteer, work, school), self-care (build a support system), note-taking, readings and study techniques (Cornell method, Spreeder) .... Excellent advice from the panelists!
  • I liked the diversity of stories and advice. I learned how to improve my GPA.
  • I really enjoyed hearing people's stories and how they are able to adapt. I have learned different ways to study and adapt to the environment .... I would really like more programs similar to this (how to balance school).
  • I learned the names of some helpful apps and methods.

Stay tuned!

Given the success of the event, the SLC is planning to repeat it every term for the time being. 

Please check this page at the beginning of the term when you wish to attend to see the date, time, and location. If you have raised your GPA and would like to speak at an upcoming event, please email Ruth Silverman at rsilverm@sfu.ca 

Thank yous

Many thanks to the approachable, inspiring students and graduates who made this event possible: Rayhaan Khan, Jennifer Chou, Ehsan Tehran, Shay Hayashi, Anastasia Kosteckyj, Minahill Nasir, Ayesha Warren, and especially Olan Sun!

Audience at the How I Raised My GPA event

 
-- Ruth Silverman, SLC Learning Services Coordinator