How to Earn Awesome Grades with Thomas Frank

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Session 116

How to Earn Awesome Grades with Thomas Frank

My guest for today is fellow podcaster and blogger Thomas Frank of, a site dedicated to helping undergrads be awesome at college.

He covers studying more efficiently and effectively, how to land the most awesome jobs, and paying off your loans as quickly as possible. He paid off his loans while he was still a student.

Thomas also talks about his new ebook, 10 Steps to Earning Awesome Grades (While Studying Less), and how as a premed you can apply this information to improve your chances of getting into medical school.

Listen to this podcast episode with the player above, or keep reading for the highlights and takeaway points.

Thomas’s Inspiration behind College Info Geek

  • Failing to get hired for another site
  • Reading blogs about life hacks for students
  • Working at his school as an orientation assistant
  • Writing a guest post to apply for a job and getting rejected
  • Starting his own blog on WordPress
  • The mindset of always upgrading or doing things better

The Concept of “Solution Finding”

  • Be a solution finder
  • Be willing to put some effort in to figure things yourself

Thomas Frank’s Study Time Equation

  • Inspired by the “procrastination equation” developed by Piers Steel.
  • The time you spend in class is constant.
  • The time you have to study is variable.
  • Both amounts of time put together are what you have to prepare for a test.
  • Desired preparedness for your test = (class time x learning quality) + (study time x study efficiency)
  • If you want to decrease study time: Increase the quality of your learning initially and the efficiency of your studying afterward.

You need to think about your methods for both learning and studying.

[Related episode: Building Better Study Skills for the Sciences and MCAT.]

Thomas Frank’s 10 Steps to Earning Awesome Grades

  1. Pay better attention in class.

  • Take care of your body first: exercise, sleep.
  • Come prepared for class.
  • Be more present and more mindful during class.
  • Stay engaged as long as you can.
  1. Take more effective notes.

  • Paper vs. computer
  • Syntax vs. concept
  • Research shows that students who are able to take notes on paper were able to learn things more effectively.
  • Be mindful of how you’re taking notes in class.
  • When it comes to learning strategies, whatever works for you is the best system.
When it comes to learning strategies, whatever works for you is the best system.Click To Tweet
  1. Get more out of your textbooks.

  • Don’t do all of your assigned reading.
  • Gauge your classes and figure out what you’re going to be assessed on.
  • Apply your reading time based on those assessments.
  • The Student Success Triangle: learning, value creation, and relationship building
  • The importance of taking breaks
  • Reading strategy: Summarize what you read.
  1. Plan like a general.

  • Better planning = better efficiency
  • More choice is not always a good thing
  • “Paralysis by analysis”
  • Take time in your morning to plan your day out.
  1. Build your optimal study environment.

  • Find a location that works for you.
  • Tailor your environment for studying.
  1. Fight entropy and stay organized.

  • Organize to reduce friction (anything in the way of you and your task)
  • “Clear to neutral” strategy: when you finish a task, clear the space.
  • Having a planning day every week. Reset everything to zero.
  1. Defeat procrastination.

  • The “procrastination equation” is Motivation = Expectancy x Value / Impulsiveness x Delay
  • Delay is the hardest to manipulate.
  • Break down your one big goal into smaller goals.
  • Give yourself a reward for achieving each small goal.
  • The Pomodoro Technique: Setting up a task for 25 minutes and devoting yourself to the task during the 25-minute session.
  1. Study smarter.

  • Replicate real test conditions
  • Taking the 8-hour MCAT test
  • Getting the closest representation to the real test is the most efficient way to study
  • Build a study guide and questions that replicate what the test is like with the time constraints expected.
  • Override stress with mastery and reduce stress with practice

[Related episode: How to Easily Improve Your Test Scores and Learning Skills.]

  1. Write better papers.

  • Starting with a brain dump
  • The importance of keeping a journal
  • Just starting
  1. Make group projects suck less.

  • Do your problem sets alone first.
  • Have one person take the lead role.

Thomas Frank’s Best Advice for Premed Students

Just constantly ask yourself, “How can I do this better?”

Links and Other Resources