How to Make Better Grades
and Have More Fun
Joseph M. Mellichamp
Professor of Management Science
The University of Alabama
If you are at all like many Christian professors, you have a
desire to reach out to students and to minister to them. Perhaps you
haven't done so because you haven't been able to think of an appropriate
way. Helping students in the context of improving their grades is a
natural ministry opportunity for faculty. Practically every college
student is interested in improving his or her grades and the prospect of
being able to make better grades and have fun at the same time is
universally appealing. Here is a way you can reach college students in
a way that addresses felt needs and requires a minimal time investment
on your part.
Consider developing and presenting a How to Make Better Grades
and Have More Fun talk in conjunction with the local Campus
Crusade for Christ or other Christian student group on your campus.
Christian student groups usually sponsor a number of evangelistic
programs on campus for the purpose of developing contacts to share the
gospel one-on-one at a subsequent meeting. Your Campus Crusade group
will probably be delighted to set you up with speaking engagements in
dorms, sororities, fraternities, student associations, and other similar
student groups. They will arrange all publicity for the meeting, make
the physical arrangements, and do all the follow-up. All you have to do
is show up at the appointed time and deliver a dynamite talk on how to
make good grades.
The following steps are suggested for getting a Grades talk going.
Several suggestions will be useful as you actually make the
- Contact your Campus Crusade for Christ student ministry director
to see if the Crusade staff would be interested. Many staff members
will want to have one or more such talks a year, so you may have to
involve some of your colleagues to meet the demand.
- Obtain a copy of the book How to Get Better Grades and
Have More Fun by Steve Douglas from Christian Leadership
Ministries, 14679 Midway Road, Suite 100, Dallas, TX 75244-3124. Read
the book. It is a fun book to read, once you start, you won't want to
put it down.
- Using material from the book plus drawing from your own experience
and sources, develop a thirty to forty minute talk. When I did my talk,
I used things that had helped me as a student; my suggestions are
primarily time management principles, while Steve's are more directed to
how to study. Use ideas which you can confidently recommend to
students. An outline of my talk is included at the end of this paper.
- You will only need five or six recommendations. You don't need to
cover everything that could possibly improve grades -- just a few heavy
hitters. Each student will be getting a free copy of the Grades book by
requesting it at the end of your presentation.
- Your last point should be a short personal testimony. I use the
well-rounded square concept -- that we should seek to develop socially,
physically, intellectually, and spiritually. I then share that for many
years, I ignored the spiritual dimension of life and thus was never
totally satisfied with my life. Remember, you are not trying to present
the gospel in great detail with the students, that will come later in
one-on-one sessions with Crusade staff. You are simply using your
influence as a professor to cause them to become open to a consideration
of spiritual issues.
- Develop a handout for your talk. I use a one page front and back
handout which covers the essential points. You may also develop a
comment card with which to get the names, addresses, and comments from
students who attend your sessions. Alternatively, the Crusade staff may
already have cards which are suitable for this purpose. A copy of the
card we use is included at the end of this paper.
- Let the staff know that you are ready for business and prepare to
have a blast.
By way of encouragement, let me share with you my experience with the
Grades talks at the University of Alabama. Over the last five years, I
have given the talk approximately sixty times to about 3500 students. I
have done the talk in just about every imaginable situation -- to six
men in a dormitory, to 150 women in a sorority house, to professional
engineering societies, to pledge classes, to the regular Crusade weekly
meeting. When I first started doing the talk, the dorms were
essentially closed to Crusade; the Grades talk has opened the dorms up
and now Crusade is able to do a variety of other programs as well.
- Have a short biographical sketch ready for the staff member or
student who will be introducing you.
- I always like to begin by finding out how many freshmen,
sophomores, juniors, and seniors are in the group. You can use this as
an ice-breaker, teasing the juniors and seniors by saying that it may be
too late for them. NOT!
- You may suggest to the group that in today's economy, grades are
increasingly important in getting a good job after graduation.
- Try to interact as much as possible. For example, when I cover my
point on not cutting classes, I ask how many of them have cut a class
today or this week. Most will respond affirmatively. Then I suggest
the two main reasons for unexcused cuts: sleeping in or last minute
studying for an exam or preparing an assignment, neither of which would
be necessary if the student was properly managing his or her time.
- Make your testimony point brief, but effective.
- At the conclusion of the talk, have two people ready to pass out
comment cards and pencils. Ask the students to fill out the cards
giving their name and address. Then let them know that you would like
to give them a free copy of the book How to Get Better Grades
and Have More Fun; let them know that the Crusade staff person
will get in touch with them to give them the book if they indicate they
want a copy. Ask for their comments on the lecture. I have found it
effective to get them to indicate which of my recommendations they will
try to implement. Also ask if what you said about spiritual things made
sense and if they would like to get together with someone to talk over
- Once you have collected the comment cards, thank the students for
allowing you to come and turn the program over to the host.
The response has been overwhelmingly enthusiastic. The comment cards
are uniformly positive; most students indicate they will implement one
or more of my suggestions, about 90 percent ask for a copy of the book,
and about five percent indicate an interest in spiritual things. Of
course, each student who fills out a comment card is personally
contacted by the Crusade staff person and those who are interested are
presented with the gospel which is printed in the back of the Grades
book. I have students come up to me on the campus frequently thanking
me for doing the talk, often sharing how much their grades have improved
as a result of the talk.
I have been invited back every year to some dorms and sororities and
fraternities. Sometimes I get a call from someone who has heard about
the Grades talk from a friend. I always refer these unsolicited calls to
the Crusade staff who the work with the caller to set up a talk. I am
sure that I will never really know the total impact of this effort. I'm
convinced that I have impacted the overall student grade point average
at the university by a minuscule amount. But the real motivation for
the talks is that students are coming to Christ through the follow up of
the Crusade staff. I can honestly say that in twenty-five years as a
professor, the Grades talk is perhaps my favorite professorial
HOW TO MAKE BETTER GRADES
AND HAVE MORE FUN
Joseph M. Mellichamp
Emeritus Professor of Management Science
The University of Alabama
- Why better grades?
- Why Mellichamp?
- Experience as a professor
- Experience as a student
Six Easy Principles
- Set a specific GPA goal for college
- Aim at nothing and you'll hit it every time
- Monitor progress
- Take appropriate corrective action
- Revise your goal downward only as a last resort
- Treat college like an 8 to 5 job
- Two philosophies
- Never study before the sun goes down
- Never study after the sun goes down
- Two suggestions
- Get up and get going
- Make every minute count
- Attend class
- How many of you cut class today? This week?
- Correlation between grades and attendance
- Why students cut class
- Keep up
- Complete assignments as they are given
- As soon as they are given
- Schedule project milestones
- Leave some slack at the end
- Relate to your professors
- Treat them like humans
- One office visit per course per semester
- Participate in class, be enthusiastic
- Figure them out
- What are the course objectives?
- What will it take to make an A?
- Become a Well Rounded Square
- Do the principles work?
- What about the fun?
[ Appendix B | Table of Contents | Appendix D ]