Who are these excelling students?
Everyone knows about straight-A students. We see them frequently in TV sitcoms and in movies like Revenge of the Nerds. They get high grades, all right, but only by becoming dull grinds, their noses always stuck in a book. They’re klutzes at sports and dweebs when it comes to the opposite sex.
How, then, do we account for Domenica Roman or Paul Melendres?
Roman is on the tennis team at Fairmont Senior High School in West Virginia. She also sings in the choral ensemble, serves on the student council, and is a member of the mathematics society. For two years, she has maintained a 4.0 grade-point average (GPA), meaning A’s in every subject.
Melendres, now a freshman at the University of New Mexico, was student-body president at Valley High School in Albuquerque. He played varsity soccer and junior-varsity basketball, exhibited at the science fair, was chosen for the National Honor Society and National Association of Student Councils, and did student commentaries on a local television station. Valedictorian of his class, he achieved a GPA of 4.4—straight A’s in his regular classes, plus bonus points for A’s in two college-level honors courses.
How do super-achievers like Roman and Melendres do it?
The strategies of super-achievers
Brains aren’t the only answer. “Top grades don’t always go to the brightest students,” declares Herbert Walberg, professor of education at the University of Illinois at Chicago, who has conducted major studies of super-achieving students. “Knowing how to make the most of your innate abilities counts for more. Infinitely more.”
In fact, Walberg says, students with high IQs sometimes don’t do as well as classmates with lower IQs. For them, learning comes too easily, and they never find out how to buckle down. Hard work isn’t the whole story, either. “It’s not how long you sit there with the books open,” said one of the many A students we interviewed. “It’s what you do while you’re sitting.” Indeed, some of these students actually put in fewer hours of homework time than their lower-scoring classmates.
The kids at the top of the class get there by mastering a few basic techniques that others can readily learn. Here, according to education experts and students themselves, are the secrets of straight-A students.