A Valedictorian’s 10 Tips for a 4.0 GPA

Maintaining a 4.0 for four years of college is a very impressive feat. It takes lots of hard work, dedication, and talent. Although it seems near impossible, our co-valedictorian, Rachel Kunker, a double major in ICS and English, was able to do it. Here are some tips from Rachel about how to have success in college.


  1. Be prepared. Rachel says it is important to be prepared by doing your reading, completing assignments, and making study guides for tests. This allows you to really know the material and be able to perform well on tests.

  2. Be proactive. This means thinking ahead of time and taking initiative. Rachel talks about how if you are proactive, you can go to teachers ahead of time and they will be willing to help you succeed. It also means that you are a self-starter.

  3. Show you care. According to Rachel, one of the biggest ways that you can make a good impression in class is to show that you care about what is being taught. Make an effort to be involved in class discussions, participate in activities, and express interest in the class material.

  4. Get to know your professors. This was one of the points Rachel stressed the most. She said she had excellent relationships with all of her professors in both departments- ICS and English. Her professors helped her to succeed and taught her things both in and out of the classroom. The way she established rapport with her professors was by constant communication, by participating in activities outside of class, and by showing she cared about what they were teaching.

  5. Take advantage of the opportunities offered to you. Out of the classroom experiences like broadway shows and retreats with the honors program, volunteering to clean up the community, hiking with ICS, and weekly “hangouts” at professors’ houses were great opportunities for Rachel to get to know professors, expand her knowledge outside of the classroom, and be involved in the community.

  6. Do things outside of your major. Participating in events with other majors and being involved in activities that were not specific to ICS and English helped Rachel to develop into a more well-rounded person and expanded her worldview.

  7. Become friends with many different types of people. Being friends with people who were interested in different things than her, who studied different majors, and who had different backgrounds and worldviews helped Rachel hold things in perspective and learn from people who were different from her. They also helped to hold her accountable and to value herself.

  8. Get an internship. Internships and jobs helped Rachel to connect her studies to the real world. She was able to work at the writing center for three years and says that this job helped to make her writing stronger because as she corrected other people’s papers she was able to see why writing works the way it does and what it means to be a good writer. In the writing center she was also surrounded by a community of people who prioritized academics and worked for excellence. She was able to participate in two internships during her time her as well. During her internships in Ecuador and Taiwan, she was able to have lots of first-hand, real-life experience, and these experiences helped her to put her life in perspective.

  9. Take care of yourself. In order to succeed, Rachel says it is important to take care of yourself first. This includes things like sleeping, exercising, and taking breaks. If the valedictorian can find a way to get 7-8 hours of sleep each night and get all her work done, then you can too! Rachel says it is also important to take time to be alone and reflect on what is important.

  10.  Put God first. Most importantly, Rachel says putting God first is the priority. As hard as it is to take time out of her busy schedule to spend with God, whenever she does, it allows her to feel at peace. One thing she likes to do to spend time with God is read the devotional “Jesus Calling” each day. Each devotional is short but it allows her to focus and realign her day. She also says that taking a Sabbath is really beneficial and somehow, whenever she takes a Sabbath, the work that’s piling up always ends up getting done.


When asked what her biggest piece of advice would be for incoming freshman, she said, “Don’t take advantage of professors but build relationships with them. Relationships with professors become tributaries for everything else. Also, build relationships with peers across all disciplines. It gives you perspective and a support system to help in the areas where you struggle.”

Rachel with Co-Valedictorian, Tehilla Eskelund, and Provost, Dr. Turk
Rachel with Co-Valedictorian, Tehillah Eskelund, and Provost, Dr. Turk

Rachel has done many amazing things during her time here at Nyack and has made an impact on the community. She is respected by professors and students alike. She has worked hard for her accomplishments and her diligence has allowed her to have success. Congratulations Rachel!