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How I Study / How to Improve your GPA

Dear fellow readers,

Before I dive into the topic, I just want to let you know that YOUR GPA DOES NOT DEFINE YOU. I repeat, your GPA is only part of the success equation. While it is true that GPA does matter, especially if you consider applying to grad school, it is not the only thing that will determine if you get in. The rest lies in your experiences, your uniqueness, your extra-curricular, and most importantly, your personality. So just try your best :) It is totally okay to fail a class, to have a C, to take a break and to breathe. One step at a time!


One. Break Down the Materials.

The most important thing in my opinion to do well in school is to figure out how to study effectively. Study smarter, not harder. Now this is the tricky part because everyone learns differently. You may be a visual learner, an auditory learner, a reader or a skimmer (if you are a skimmer, lucky you. I'm lowkey jealous). Some people just stare at the lecture slides and somehow they get a hundred percent on every single test LOL. For me, I learned that I am not good at memorizing texts and feel overwhelmed when reading lectures that are 100+ in slides. Imagine studying for finals where you have 30 lectures for each class, each with 100-150 slides and that's just for one class; try multiply that by 4 to account for all the slides you have to read for all 4 classes.

What I do first is I merge my lecture slides together so that each paper has 4 slides per page. Now the 100 slides become only 25 pages and seem a lot more digest-able (is this even a word?).

How to do this:

Open your pdf/power point file --> Print --> Select 4 pages per page for Layout--> Print as PDF --> DONE.

I personally don't listen in class because I'm always behind in homework so I use my class time to catch up work in another class. That's on a good day. On a bad day, I just skip classes. That's bad advice, do not listen to me. But I just don't have enough time to balance all that haha (and it's okay!). If you can go to class, do try to listen actively and take good notes! Anyhow, for my school, we have recorded lectures online so what I do is I listen to those at home and type my notes onto the merged pdf files that I did earlier. An example of that would be like this:

I type my notes and streams of thoughts under the slides and then try to summarize it in a few sentence in the highlighted part under. I created my own handwriting font so it looks like I hand-write it. DM me in the chat box if you want to download my font. I know I'm really extra. But I found that I remember the texts better when it is written in my hand-writing font. I try to make my notes as pretty as possible because I want to make it fun to study! And by doing this, I enjoy studying so much more and it doesn't feel like a chore that I have to study. Rather, it is a hobby to take notes and to learn :)


Two. Study the Objectives.

I learned the best by taking detailed notes and making study guides for the class. So, what I would do normally is first typing my notes while listening to lectures. I try to be as detailed as possible. Basically, just write everything that the professor is saying. Secondly, I would hand-write my notes and digest the materials. Read the slides and make sure I really understand what they are saying. Then, summarize those into my own notes. When writing my own notes, I make sure to draw figures, make boxes, create tables. Try to categorize everything and group topics together. Basically, try to see the big picture. Then before each quiz/test, I would revisit my notes and create a study guide to study. I make sure to include the objectives of each lecture and ensure that I understand all of these objectives.

I think it is very important that you take a look back at these objectives because these are your study guides, aka what you have to know for the test. So make sure you go over these when reviewing for the test! After making my study guide, I would take practice exams posted by the professor (if available) to get a sense of their test styles. If not, I just review the objectives and try to create mind map to understand the materials. I know that they said studying in a group really helps. But for me, I don't have that many friends in college. So I study with one friend only. She is my studying partner and I'm so glad we went through college together. I highly suggest you find a study partner. It doesn't have to be a group. One person that works well with you is good enough in my opinion. Studying and suffering together is always better than suffering alone :)


Three. Raise Your GPA by Taking More Classes.

Consider post-bac programs.

If you want to raise your GPA, you can either repeat those classes that you have C's in or take more upper division classes to increase your GPA. I personally think that it is better to take more upper classes than repeating those that you have already taken. When you take more classes, do try to make those core science classes. By taking more upper science courses and do well in those, you prove to the admission office that you are capable of doing well in their schools and that you are determined to improve yourself. However, I do find that taking more classes can only improve your GPA so much. If you want to improve your GPA by 0.2, then I do recommend you to do this. However, if you want to improve your GPA more than 0.2 points, then I suggest you should look into post-bac or master programs to boost your GPA.

There are many types of post-bac and master programs, ranging from 1 year to 2 years, online or in-person. If your primary goal is to increase your GPA, I suggest you should only spend 1 year to do so. However, if you do consider a career in research and/or are interested in research or teaching, then I think it's better to do a master program instead. A master will allow you to be a much more competitive applicant because you are taking classes at graduate level. It also opens your door to PhD route. And who knows? You may change your career goals down the line and I think a master can only help. Also, a master usually has fellowship and TA positions, which can help waive your tuition, whereas most post-bac programs are out-of-pocket. When considering a post-bac or master programs, I think you should consider their costs as well. I personally did consider taking a master program first as I was contemplating between PhD in pharmaceutical sciences vs PharmD, but I ended up choosing PharmD instead.

Keep in mind that in PharmCas, they calculate all your cumulative GPA (undergrad + post-bac), undergrad GPA, and post-bac GPA. They also calculate your science GPA, as well as each individual subject GPA. I have attached here an excel sheet to calculate your PharmCas GPA. Feel free to download it and calculate your GPA!

GPA Calculator
Download XLSX • 352KB

After calculate your GPA, take a look and see which subject you did not do very well in. Try to take more classes in those subjects to increase your gpa. Overall, you want at least a 3.0 average in all subjects to be a competitive applicant. I personally did not do very well in chem related subjects, while doing okay in other bio classes. So I took more advanced classes in Biochem to try to increase my Chemistry/ Biochem GPA and I think it helps.

By strategically taking more upper division classes, I was able to increase my cumulative GPA by 0.2 and my science GPA by 0.3 (Thank God)! As a reminder, the admission looks at your application as a whole and not just your GPA. So if your GPA is less than the average admitted students, don't worry too much about it! Just focus in school and try to incorporate other extra-curricular to make up for it. I definitely did not have stellar GPA and somehow I made it with scholarships. My GPA was very average and I honestly did not even think I would make it. So hang in there my friend. Your gpa definitely isn't everything!

As always, one step at a time and never ever compare yourself with anyone. You are the author of your own life and doing things slowly doesn't mean you're behind anyone. The only person you should compete with is the old you. As long as you are slowly improving (in any ways), you are going in the right direction :)

If you have any questions, feel free to chat/connect with me! Hopefully I can help answer some of your questions. I know it's hard but you can totally do it. I believe in you. I'm also swimming everyday trying to make it happen haha.

Don't forget to check out my shop to support me as a broke student :) 

As always,




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