Often when asked about what differentiates the B pluses from the A minuses and the As from the A pluses, there’s something sort of mystical and vague about the response. Professors and teachers go on their gut. Some people even say it’s simply an indicator of whether or not they like you, though a professor will rarely be heard admitting that. So, if the difference isn’t in the work, where is it? Here are a few things you can do to make yourself one of those step-above students.
Show Up With Your Personality – Class participation is one of those wishy-washy marks where the professor is given some freedom about how to grade you; it’s therefore an opportunity for you to shine or flounder. Of course, you don’t want to be the quiet mouse – be bold enough and informed enough to participate consistently in discussion. However, you never want to be the one that raises her hand and everyone groans. Being active in class is a good idea; being active in a way that engages other people is better. Be a leader.
Leverage Charisma – This may sound a little manipulative, but it is what it is. Smile. Dress appropriately for the situation. Talk to people on their level. Don’t talk to down to people, use inside jokes and trade-specific information that’ll make them feel excluded, nor should you play dumb or admit defeat when facing someone intellectually challenging. Rise to meet everyone, regardless of his or her position. Life hack: at the start of each class, show up consistently on time, be friendly, work hard and be at the top of your game. It’ll make the professor and the other students like and trust you. Then you can lean on your good will and reputation later if you have to fall behind.
Be A Little Different – What is unique about you? Whether it’s your background, your goals, a specific skill or a strange quirk, find that thing and emphasize it without harping on it. It’ll make you stick out. You can be intelligent, attractive, diligent, but if you want to be memorable, you have to have something more.
Be Honest – One of the best things a student can do is be straightforward about what’s going on with them. If you didn’t do the homework, you didn’t do the homework. If you’re late, you’re late. Honesty will reflect better on you than any excuse. It shows that you respect the person you’re talking to and will in turn garner you respect.
All of this is to say, humanize yourself. Don’t be another face in the crowd; be the whole, well-rounded person that you are and always put that into your work and your interactions.