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Smart girls, bad grades: your teachers and parents want your grades to be higher. And you want your grades to be higher. So why aren't they? Find out here.

Let's say this right out the gate: We don't think grades ever tell the whole story about a girl. We think every girl is more than her grades. You have a social life. You have time-demanding after-school activities and maybe even a home life that stresses you out from time to time. But, unfortunately, it's your report card that everyone from guidance counselors to college recruiters will often regard as a crystal ball into your future.

We can't grade you on how you help your mom out around the house or how you're the coolest friend a BFF could ask for. And it's harsh and inflexible that your academic performance labels you as great, good, average or less than average.

What we can give you is more control over how you learn so you can get better grades. Personal learning styles; disabilities with reading, math or attention; and even personality clashes with teachers need to be taken into consideration.

We've investigated ways to make you a first-string player at the school game. Because--listen to this and believe it--you're a smart cookie. Everybody is smart in different ways, and everybody learns in different ways. Customizing school to work for you is what it's about.

You can get good grades even without more work and less play. See which type of student you identify with, then find out how you can make this school year your most outstanding ever.



* Two or more after-school activities

* Hours of nightly homework

* Up at dawn, but never in bed before midnight

* Study time is in spurts

Bad Habits=Bad Grades Your schedule is packed. You either don't have enough time to study or you get so distracted (and stressed) that you often space on a project or need an extension (and teachers hate to grant those more than once!). But the fact is that no matter how well you know the material, if it's not in on time, you're toast--and so is your grade.

"Sophomore year I'd study wherever and whenever, mostly just fitting it in with all the other stuff I had to do," says Lynn, who is now a senior. "When I'd have a test or a paper due, it was like I couldn't breathe. But there was no way I was quitting volleyball, and I had to stay in my club because it was for my college apps. I was just exhausted all the time." Does Lynn's life sound familiar?

Overbooked and Overstressed Being overwhelmed is fixable. Try replacing the word "overwhelmed" with "unorganized." The unorganized student needs a set time to study, as well as a plan of communication with teachers when assignments pile up and there just isn't enough time in the day to deal with it all. Consistent talks, study time and organizational skill have been directly linked to consistently good grades.

Invest in a planner so you can jot down all new assignments. And simply fast-glance at the thing daily to remind your brain of pending due dates so nothing sneaks up on you.

Next, examine your schedule to see what you can eliminate from your too-busy days. If you can't downsize your agenda, ask your counselor for a study-hall class. You can make up class requirements in summer, and it's not as wretched as it sounds. Ask for what you want, maturely. It's not impossible.

The In-Control Student By junior year, Lynn figured out her solution: "I was really proud of the stuff I was doing--teams and the junior parliament club--but I didn't want my grades to prevent me from getting into a good college." What did she do? "I stopped looking at my weekends as mini-vacations and became a weekend warrior. I'd sleep in, then have a focused study session. On Sundays, I studied after lunch until I was satisfied. By second semester, my grades went from mostly C's to mostly B's, even a few A's." How smart is this formally C student? Exactly!



* Considers school more social than a place to learn

* Spends time after school hanging out with friends

* Blows off assignments or barely studies for a test the night before

* Believes teachers are losers or just dull and mean

Bad Habits=Bad Grades The question is this: What is causing you not to put yourself and your academic life first? Maybe your lackluster grades are the result of something serious, like a situation at home that can make studying--or even caring--about school beyond hard. Lack of attention can also be the result of not taking good care of yourself (not eating right or getting enough sleep and exercise), bigger issues like attention deficit disorder (see the next example) or--yikes!--simply not believing you need to work hard to get the grades your future deserves.

"None of my friends like school," says Heather, a junior. "A couple of them get good grades anyway--you know those people? But it takes me hours to memorize boring dates and theories. Sometimes I cared but, mostly, I didn't worry about it and hung at Coffee Bean with everybody. I'd rather take the C or D than knock myself out memorizing stuff that I wouldn't remember next week."

Distractions and Discoveries School isn't on your fun radar--we get it. But school is not all work and rules and snores and remembering how many years Lincoln meant when he said, "Four score and seven ..." We know there's something out there that rings your bell. Discovering you have a natural talent or aptitude for something feels good. What do you like? We guarantee it's a course of study at some university somewhere. We also guarantee you can get involved in it now through an elective or extra-curricular at your school.

Another tip: Clear a space in your room that's just for studying. A desk, a table by a window. Give it some good lighting and a flower from the yard to make it inviting. As for during school, make appointments with teachers. Teachers' big turn-on is students who want to learn. If your geology teacher is as exciting as granite, ask for tips--because teachers have their own styles--for how you can do better in that class.

If you're distracted because of something at home, you need to talk to a school counselor. Counselors live to help students who are having a tough time. Remember that it might feel cold or weird talking to an adult stranger, but only at first. Not only is a counselor trained to keep things secret, but this person can possibly get you some breaks by speaking directly with your teachers.

The Renewed Student Heather hates to write and was dreading getting placed in a publications class for what her school calls a "learning elective." She realized she likes photography better and ended up being the best contributor to the yearbook. Now, she wants to go to art school for photography and design.

"It suddenly hit me that school isn't all parallelograms and memorizing dates," she says. "I stopped hanging with my friends every day, and just went out on the weekends. My GPA was like a 1.8--I used to get a C and would think, 'Yes! I passed!' But now I even get A's sometimes, and it feels really good. And the weirdest thing is that once you realize you can work and get success, school is not that hard or boring."



* Tendency to rearrange letters in words when writing or reading

* Difficulty retaining information

* Illegible handwriting

* Difficulty concentrating

Bad Habits=Bad Grades Have you ever wondered why some of your friends will sail through an assignment while you struggle every step of the way? The worst thing about learning disabilities is that many girls don't even know when they have one. You go through the motions of school, doing fine in one class but completely floundering in another, believing the whole time that you just don't get it. Or, worse, that you're not good enough at math or don't read well enough for literature.

A learning disability is a neurological disorder that affects the brain's ability to store, process or communicate information. It could be a math block (dyscalculia), which makes, among other symptoms, simple counting hard. Dyslexia makes reading and writing tough because the brain rearranges letters and words. Attention deficit disorder, dyspraxia, dysgraphia ... Lots of girls have these, but too many girls don't know it.

"I always thought I wasn't smart," remembers Ann, a freshman. "I couldn't really write. It was chicken scratch, and teachers always made me fill page after page of binder paper repeating the same sentence. It didn't help. I thought the computer and tutors would help, but my papers always got low scores. I thought I was the dumbest girl in school."

Understanding and Overcoming Learning disorders (LDs) can affect different aspects of learning and functioning--the brain processes information differently than how it's presented. The good news is that LDs can be compensated for, even overcome, through alternate ways of learning. What this means is that you need a fresh take on math or reading or whatever it is you're not grasping. Imagine learning about Shakespeare in a groovier, more you way.

How do you find out if you have an LD? You gotta be tested, and diagnosed. But for starters, log on to, and read up. If reading is the issue, the site has a button to click that provides audio assistance. See? The site understands. And so will your teachers if an LD is what's keeping your grades lower.

The Breakthrough Student Ann spent pretty much all of her elementary years getting low grades and feeling ashamed. "In seventh grade, I got a teacher who has an LD called dysgraphia, which screws with handwriting and also how you organize your thoughts," says Ann. "I had all the same symptoms, but had only heard of dyslexia so I never thought I might have a disorder. Now when I start a new class, I tell the teacher what's up. I also go to Sylvan Learning Center, and that's actually really fun. Now my GPA is a 3.2, and it's me who is the tutor to other girls."
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Author:Bryson, Jodi
Publication:Girls' Life
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Aug 1, 2004
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