Just Do the Stupid Homework

The real secret to getting A’s in class isn’t actually a secret at all


Remember that scene in The Iron Giant where Hogarth is all hyped up on espresso and explaining how frustrating he finds other students?

“But I don’t think I’m smarter, I just do the stupid homework!” — Hogarth Hughes, The Iron Giant.

I can totally relate. It’s such an accurate description of how I view so many college students. As a result of maintaining my 4.0, I always get comments like “you’re so smart” or “you’re a genius,” but the truth is, I’m really not. Because it’s not actually about being a “smart” person. Sure you can be a good test taker or maybe just have successful time management skills, but when it comes down to it there’s only one simple rule you need to follow:


You want an A in a class? Go to class, take notes, and finish all of your homework between classes. Does that seriously seem so impossible? Is it really so far out of your reach?

Listen, I understand if you are a student with a job or there are other things that make your life really hectic, in that case maybe you are just aiming to pass your classes. That’s a solid and reasonable choice. However, it boggles my mind how full-time students who want good grades, and have the time to pursue their education undeterred, still manage to fail classes when all they have to do is turn in the work.

Distractions tend to be the most commonly given excuses for failing grades. We are living in a world of constant distractions, I get it. I live in it too. But if I have a quiz the next day you won’t find me looking at funny cat videos for several hours. That Snapchat will be waiting. That text can wait. My GPA, on the other hand, and the classes that help maintain it, are a better placement of my immediate attention.

If students are really here for an education, how can they be so lackadaisical about their academic achievement? Is it really that hard to squeeze in an hour just to, at the very least, glance over the readings? Make a dozen flash cards? Spell check that damn paper?

Do you know how frustrating it is to carry a group project? Having one overachiever in your group who cares about their grade is not a valid excuse to sit back and have them complete it Breakfast Club style. It’s called a group project for a reason.

During a previous semester in an English class I encountered multiple students who had the audacity to declare to the professor that they don’t see the point in practicing their writing. I ended up reading a number of these student’s papers, and found them to be nearly unreadable, full of spelling errors, grammar mistakes, and disorganized to the point of gibberish. I’d still like to believe that being able to write proper sentences will always trump the skill set obtained from writing text messages, but I’ve actually had professors tell me that students have included LOL in college exam papers.

What’s next? Full-on Emoji sentences?

Luke Cervantes, 19, a computer science major at Ventura College, commented that this decline in the interest of learning is linked to the level of difficulty required from the course. “It depends on the class. Higher level classes, everyone usually shows up and does the work. Everybody who is there has studied. It’s the general education level that is difficult. You get people in the first rows that are interested, but in the back, everyone is just texting.”

I have to agree. In general education level classes, many of the students taking the course are there because they have to be, not because they want to be, so there is less motivation to strive for anything more than a passing grade. Whereas in classes that are major based or are more intellectually challenging, like in an upper division language course, the students there have chosen to be there and expect to do whatever it takes to excel because that course means more than just the “A.”

My first year I took two Japanese classes and the environment of those courses has given me an unrealistic expectation of my future classmates. I realize now, that you have to be a certain type of student to want to take on a non-Latin based language course with three alphabets and incomprehensible numbers of Kanji symbols. But even the difference in the dedication of students in an Introduction to Psychology course compared with that of a Biological Psychology course is shocking.

What is most frustrating, is that in order to get to those more advanced classes, we must suffer through the general education classes with disengaged students who are just biding their time, and often not even showing up to class at all.

Ashlyn Weatherford, 20, a theatre arts major at Ventura College, sits in the front of the class to help her focus and gets anxiety if she doesn’t attend class. “In high school I had perfect attendance accept for 2 1/2 days where we thought I had mono.” Ashlyn was a natural person to discuss student behavior with as I was right next to her, obsessively sitting in the front row, our standard 15 minutes early to class.

Reaching for that sometimes elusive “A” might seem unattainable, even unhealthy to some. Rahel Sewell, 19, undeclared student at Ventura College, felt that getting an “A” was, as he put it, “So important I had panic attacks every day for a semester.” And I guess that’s what I expect from other students. Not so much that they must get the “A,” but more so the simple desire and pursuit to attain it; obviously without daily panic attacks.

“You could not be the smartest kid in class, but if you put in enough time and effort and dedication to the subject, you’ll get a good grade,” explains Kiara Cryder, 19, an art major at Ventura College.

Cryder hit the nail on the head. It really is all about putting in the time. Some classes are going to come easy. Some professors are going to be so eloquent and articulate that material falls out of their mouth directly into your brain. Even when that doesn’t happen though, those good grades are still possible, they just take a little more effort.

Whether I feel I’ve won some sort of lottery with an inspiring professor or lost a bet, with a professor who seems to have checked out long ago, I still cringe when I even get an “A minus” or a professor cancels a test, wondering how the missing exam is going to affect my grade. I have to admit, I’ve reminded professors about unassigned homework or promised pop-quiz’s.

Yes, I’m that guy.

But if you are not that guy, which I completely understand, what I want you to takeaway from all of this is so incredibly simple, but I’ll repeat it one last time for those of you in the back row. I promise you’ll thank me later. The answer to most of your problems in school can be solved with one simple change.