An Achiever’s Guide on How to Become Class Valedictorian

Jodie Foster, Cindy Crawford, Weird Al Yankovic. What do all of these people have in common? They were each class valedictorian at their respective high schools!

The valedictorian is generally recognized as the person with the highest grade point average (GPA) in a graduating class. If you have your sights set on achieving this prestigious rank, then there are a few steps you’ll need to follow first. While we can’t guarantee that you’ll be reciting that inspiring speech on graduation day, these tips will help you get as close as possible.

Today, we’re sharing a few ways you can get a little closer to that podium as you out-pace your classmates, impress your teachers, and pique the interest of college admissions officers around the country.

1. Don’t Wait Until the Last Semester

You may be naturally smart. Tests come easy to you, and subject matter that would stump someone else isn’t too difficult for you to understand. 

However, don’t get overly confident on your path to becoming a valedictorian. Waiting until the last semester to prioritize your schoolwork and boost your GPA could leave you disappointed down the road.

Instead, it’s best to start as early as possible, even as soon as your freshman year. Develop a go-to method for test prep and studying, so you can get your grades up and keep them there. Find a solid group of peers who can encourage and motivate you, as well as work alongside you.

The earlier you put your plan into motion, the easier it will be to get there. Write down your goals and keep them in a place where you will see them often. Then, ask your parents and family members to hold you accountable, especially when social activities threaten to take up most of your time!

2. Develop an Effective Study Technique

While the GPA of a class valedictorian will vary from school to school, you will need yours to be as high as it can be, and the only way to get there is to prioritize studying. This means setting time aside each day to focus on your schoolwork. 

Did you know that studying is more than just staring blankly at a review sheet for an hour? There are proven methods that can increase your knowledge retention and improve your scores. This list outlines a few, such as color-coded note-taking and mind mapping. 

Once you find a strategy that works for you, make sure you’re setting the stage correctly. From the background music you play to the foods you snack on, your environment matters, too. 

3. Limit Extracurricular Activities

Sure, there have been plenty of valedictorians who were also football stars or standouts on the debate team. However, it’s important to understand the time commitment that goes along with extracurricular activities.

If you have to devote hours of your day to practicing, then that cuts into your study time. Again, it comes down to choosing your priorities. Talk to your parents, your guidance counselor, or another trusted mentor to see how you can achieve a comfortable balance.

For instance, if you have practice after school on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, then devote Tuesday and Thursday evenings to studying. With a little flexibility, you may be able to manage activities both inside and outside of school.

4. Take AP or IB Courses

Most high schools will consider your weighted GPA when choosing a class valedictorian. This means that certain courses will be weighted higher than others, and could influence your overall score.

In most cases, Advanced Placement (AP) and International Baccalaureate (IB) courses will carry the heaviest weight. These are designed to include coursework that is more demanding and rigorous than standard, core classes. 

While the might require a little more work, AP and IB classes can work in your favor when it’s time to compare GPAs. Doing well in these courses will help you rank higher than if you’d done well in a non-advanced class. If you’re unsure whether or not you can handle the material, talk to the teacher beforehand to understand what’s expected.

If you think you can make at least a B in the course, go ahead and sign up! Colleges will look at the courses you took in high school, and admissions officers will want to see that you challenged yourself. 

5. Create a Support Network

You can become a class valedictorian all on your own, but the work may feel challenging and overwhelming at times. It’s always best to have a supportive, encouraging network around you.

This might include your parents, your teachers, your friend group, or a respected older student who you want to emulate. Talk to them, share your goals, and pick their brains about ways you can reach success. These should be people who have your back no matter what, but want to do everything in their power to help you reach your goals.

At the same time, they should also be there to listen when you’ve had a hard day or you need to vent. Reaching for valedictorian can leave you feeling burnt out and discouraged at times, and it’s never OK to let your mental health slip. With the right circle around you, it will be easier to make it to the top without sacrificing your mental or emotional wellbeing. 

6. Find a Study Partner

It might inject a little friendly competition into the mix, but we recommend finding a study partner or two! These are people who you know that you can count on when it’s time to hit the books. 

Ideally, look for someone who’s just as invested in their academic career as you are. Teaming up with someone who just wants to goof off will only distract you, and could keep you from achieving your dream. 

Accountability is key and the right partner can keep you on the right path. Try creating a study group, where everyone is devoted to excelling in the classroom. By your senior year, they may even help you craft the perfect valedictorian speech!

7. Organize Your Work Space

You could have sworn you made flash cards last week, but now you can’t find them. Where are those notes you took in science class last week?

It can be incredibly difficult to study in a work space that’s cluttered and crowded. If you can’t spread your materials out at home, then consider taking them to the library a few days a week. Otherwise, find a spot where you can organize your documents, books, and school supplies with ease.

Create a system that you can understand, and make sure everything is in its right spot. Not only will this ensure easier access to the items you need, but a clean work space can actually help you focus and make you more productive!

8. Focus in Class

The time you spend in class is just as important as your after-school study time. Arrive to class on time, set up your materials neatly, and keep your focus on the instructor. This means keeping your side conversations to an absolute minimum, and answering questions as directed. 

While the teacher is speaking, take detailed notes that you can comprehend. If you’re unsure about anything, don’t be afraid to stay after class for clarification. Studying the wrong material can be just as detrimental as not studying at all!

Not only will listening in class help you absorb the material better, but it may also boost your grade. Many teachers will award participation points to students who are active learners. This is one easy way to inch your scores upward, especially if the material is difficult.

9. Invest in a Tutor

Tutors are professionals who can help you understand your class material. They can also share study strategies to help you score high on your exams.

While they can be helpful, they aren’t for everyone. 

Tutors can be costly, and their schedule might not work with yours. If you can find one who is a great fit and available at a comfortable price point, then go for it! Otherwise, there are plenty of free online study tools that can work just as well.

10. Prioritize Your Health

It might sound crazy to talk about health when discussing academic success, but hear us out. You could stay up all night and study until your eyes cross, but you’ll feel awful the next day and might not be in your best test-taking mood.

Get plenty of rest, feed your body, and take breaks when you need to. If you pace yourself and start studying as soon as you receive your material, then you shouldn’t have to pull an all-night cram session before test day. You’ll bring your A-game when you’re feeling healthy, full, and awake.

Start Your Journey to Class Valedictorian Today

Many students dream of walking onto the stage and inspiring their classmates with words of wisdom before they depart for college. If you want the glory and honor being named the class valedictorian, then it’s time to start preparing.

These 10 steps can help you achieve your goal while still maintaining a healthy, well-balanced life. With the right resources, you can make the most of your time in high school and set yourself up for long-term academic and professional success.

Along the way, we’re here to help you learn as much as possible about everything from business to technology. Check back often for more of our informative guides!

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