How to be the top 10% of the cohort

how to be top 10% of the cohort

This article is written by Michelle, one of our writers here at inkmypapers. She has graduated from her University as the top 10% of the cohort. She shares her experience here..


Topping in class is every student’s dream. Some students make it a reality while others just resign to the background thinking that they just don’t have the genes or the resources to come out on top. While both of these factors play significant roles in helping a student excel, genes and resources are not the be-all and end-all of brilliance and intellectual superiority.

A famous saying by Will Durant (which was wrongly attributed to Aristotle but that is beside the point) goes, “Excellence…is not an act, but a habit.” Habits are repeated practices that become part of our system. Therefore, most of students’ academic performance is a result of their accumulated habits. Here in this post, I will share 6 tips that will help unleash the winning student in you.


  1. Pick the right course.

First of all, make sure that you are on the right path. Pick a course (or subject) that you enjoy learning about because learning should be fun! However, this is not the case for many students who try to survive college life studying something that they don’t even care about. And that could be pretty torturous.

A research by Jones & Jones (2014) revealed that only 1 in 3 students take up courses that match their interests. Those who take up courses that are congruent to their likes usually graduate on time, while those who did not had lower grades and graduated much later.

 There are many reasons why students choose career paths that are contrary to their interests. It may be due to their parents’ decisions, peer pressure, or career marketability. But the effect is always the same. Studying becomes a nightmare. Every class turn out to be boring and going to school becomes dreadful instead of exciting.

I love reading, writing, and watching movies. So to suit my interests (and strengths), I took up media and communication studies which turned out to be a great decision! Sure it wasn’t always easy and there were sleepless nights too but I always had fun! And that alone makes everything worth it.


  1. Create a study habit that works for you.

Customise learning according to your style. Since each one of us has different personalities, our methods of learning also differ. If you are a morning person, schedule your study time early in the morning. If you like studying while listening to music, do so by all means. If reading aloud works for you, then do that. If you learn more by watching videos, then make use of YouTube’s educational channels. There are many “study tips” available in the internet but in reality, those tips will only help if they actually fit your personal learning style.

This might come as a shock, but my “secret” to studying is getting a lot of sleep. I slept a lot during college. I realised that sleeping before studying helped me learn faster than staying up all night. So before my designated study time, I take a quick nap then I dive into my lessons.

This is especially helpful during exams. I observed that my pick up rate is at its highest when I just woke up. While my technique might not be ideal for others, it worked for me and helped me graduate with Latin honours.


  1. Aim for understanding, not memorisation.

Remember that the purpose of going to school is education, not grades. So focus on understanding the lesson rather than memorising concepts and theories word for word. Memorisation might help you score high in exams but it won’t make you any wiser.

One way to boost understanding is by identifying how you can apply concepts and ideas to real life situations. This way, learning stays with you even after a long time. And when retention is increased, studying for exams becomes easier and faster.


  1. Be brave to ask questions in class

bravery top


Teachers always appreciate effort and one way of showing effort is by asking questions especially when you don’t understand something. College life is about learning so don’t be afraid to ask!

In addition, asking questions actually produce various benefits. According to Lee Watanabe-Crockett (2017), asking questions enhance critical thinking, memory, creativity and confidence. These are qualities that most top students possess and which you too can possess simply by asking.

Remember that the more you engage in class, the easier it is to study for exams.


  1. Choose your friends wisely

Make sure you are with the right company. The people you usually spend time with will have a huge impact on your success or failure. So if you really want to emerge in the upper 10% of your class, then it would be best if you associate with people who have the same goals.

Back in college, I was fortunate to have friends who are big dreamers and hard workers. These friends encouraged and motivated me to become better and pursue excellence in class.  They were also my study buddies so if even if a subject becomes too hard for me, I always had a support group to turn to. In the end, we all graduated with honours which was a real “friendship goal” achieved.


  1. Balance study and play

Lastly, make sure you also have a life outside of school. Learning is never confined to the classroom so you must embrace learning in every aspect – even in unwinding and letting your hair down. In essence, learn to reward yourself for your hard work.

Find a hobby or an interest that can also serve as your outlet when the going gets tough.

You can choose to exercise or to join a sport, or whatever it is to help you relax, recharge, and ready to go back to the grind.

Mine was dancing. Every evening after class, I go to the studio and forget all my school responsibilities for a while. This helped to ease my mind from stress and keep things in proper perspective.  For example, dancing kept me grounded to that fact that school isn’t everything and that there are more important things other than perfecting my exam scores. The result is I get a healthy attitude about school and learning which ultimately translated to high grades.



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