Whether in the dorm, the library or your bedroom at your childhood home, practicing good study habits is an important key to having success in your college career. These tips will get you off on the right foot during this unusual school year.
10 Tips for a Productive Study Session
1. Find a quiet, consistent space
First things first: In order to have a successful study session, you’ll want to first make sure you eliminate distractions. Whether that’s finding a quiet corner of the library, putting on noise-canceling headphones if you’re sharing your dorm room or camping out at your bedroom at home (at a desk, not your bed!), make sure you find a space where you can read, write and concentrate with minimal distractions. Once you’ve found that place, use it every time you study. This will help train your brain to know it’s time to get down to business.
2. Eliminate distractions
Once you’ve found that quiet space, make sure it’s free of distractions. If you’re doing virtual learning this semester, that means making sure family members know it’s study time and don’t come knocking on your door (a friendly sign on the door is fine). If you’re on campus, make sure the space (and time) you’ve selected to study will be distraction free. Those aforementioned noise-canceling headphones are great, but also make sure you pick a time that is generally quiet. (Does your roommate practice her violin in the room at the same time every day, for example? That might be a good time for you to head to the library.) And, of course, limit self-imposed distractions too. That means turning off social media while you hit the books.
3. Set up your space
Remember in elementary school when you’d get brand-new school supplies at the beginning of the year and how exciting that was? That still holds true in college! New notebooks (or, if you can swing it, the latest laptop), pretty folders to organize your papers and pens that have just the right feel for taking notes can all set the scene and motivate you to study just a bit longer. For those hours-long study blocks, make sure you have a comfortable chair and appropriate height desk. And it never hurts to have easy-to-eat snacks within arm’s reach!
4. Take breaks
Yes, studying is important and you should expect to spend hours each week devoted to it. But burnout can also come quickly if you plant yourself at your desk and don’t sleep, eat or stretch. Set a timer for an appropriate length of time (30 minutes to an hour is usually a solid block to get some real studying in). Then, when it goes off, get up, stretch, take a walk outside for some fresh air or even hit the cafeteria for a snack. Getting your eyes away from a screen is important to keep yourself fresh, so don’t just scroll through social media during a break.
5. Avoid all-nighters
The iconic all-nighter study session is something most students have done at one point or another in their college career, but it’s not an ideal way to study. The above-mentioned burnout comes quickly when you cram for a test or write a paper in one night—and you’re likely to end up not performing at your peak when you’re fighting sleep and are hyped up on caffeine. Skip these if at all possible.
6. Think ahead
With trying to avoid all-nighters in mind, thinking ahead is key when planning out your study strategy. At the beginning of the semester, map out key dates for tests, quizzes, papers and other deadline-driven assignments. This way you can make a plan for when you’ll study for each—and not end up trying to prep or finish something the night before it’s due.
7. Make a list
Along the same lines, lists are your friend. These can help you conquer your assignments in manageable chunks. For instance, know you have a paper due at the end of the semester? Don’t just write down, “Write paper.” Instead, make a list of how you’ll get it done little by little (i.e. action items like “pick a topic,” “do initial research,” “write outline,” etc.). A daily list of what you need to get done for all your classes is also helpful to get the most out of every day academically.
8. Review, review, review
It hopefully goes without saying, but go to class, take notes, listen to the professor. Then, after each class, review your notes, figure out if you have any follow-up questions and incorporate all of this into your study sessions. You can’t crack the book the night before the final exam and expect to succeed.
9. Take it little by little
As the saying goes, it’s a marathon, not a sprint. Getting the most out of class—and college altogether—means taking the time to immerse yourself in your subjects. Each semester, you have an opportunity to learn something new and studying—hour by hour, day by day—gets you to your bigger goal.
10. Look at the big picture
In keeping with the marathon analogy, as you’re in the throes of studying, remember the tests, the papers, the assignments are all important, but it’s all in service to a much bigger picture—the life you want to have. Whatever career you’re looking forward to, keep in mind that everything you do in school— including those endless study sessions—are designed to get you there.
The Stats of Studying
According to a poll of 1,000 students by the company eLearning Infographics, study habits vary widely. Below are some of its findings about the study habits of the average student. (Fun fact: About half of poll respondents said they’d prefer to have root canal surgery, spend the night in a haunted house, walk across hot coals or swim with sharks over taking an oral exam.)
60.4% of students start to study the month before an exam, but 6.6% revealed they only review their notes the night before.
78% of female students get “quite or very stressed” before an exam, while only 58% of their male counterparts said the same.
One in 4 female respondents said their note-taking skills were “perfect” while only one in 10 male students were that confident in their skills.
25% of the students said they’d never been taught any study skills.
34.2% of recent graduates say that not studying properly is their biggest regret from college.
2.1% of students said they can’t read their own notes when they revisit them, while 5% of students say they don’t take notes at all.
63.8% of students say their favorite place to study is at home alone.
The Study Cycle
Did you know there is a proven method to effective studying? The Study Cycle was developed by Frank Christ at the Louisiana State University Center for Academic Success and includes a five-step process:
Step 1 Preview: Look at the syllabus and know what the day’s lecture will cover before you go to class. This will help you already be familiar with the material (do any pre-reading assigned) and be better prepared to take notes and ask questions.
Step 2 Attend class: This may seem obvious, but it’s about more than just showing up. Be attentive and engaged, ask questions, interact with other students. And, most importantly, take notes!
Step 3 Review: Soon after class, take some time to go over your notes. This will help you retain the information better. Fill in any blanks, figure out any questions and what else you may need to read or review to get the most out of that day’s class.
Step 4 Study: Whether or not you have a test that week, schedule study sessions for each class to review and retain the material. These can be short sessions (20 to 30 minutes is fine) to slowly wrap your arms around material that you’ll need to master for a final exam or project.
Step 5 Check: Don’t forget to check in with yourself to make sure your study habits are working. Successful studying means constantly evaluating and adapting to ensure you are getting the most out of what you’re learning.
How to Communicate with Your Professor
Don’t be intimidated
One of the best resources at school are your professors. These tips will help you get off on the right foot.
Think of your professor as a guide for whatever subject the class is about. He or she is a subject-matter expert and holds the key to helping you discover more about something you’re excited about learning. So, don’t wait until you’re having an issue or fighting a bad grade. At the beginning of the semester, introduce yourself to the professor (in a quick moment after class is usually a good time to do this), tell them about yourself (i.e. what’s your major, why you’re looking forward to the class, etc.) and let them know you’re excited to take the class.
Make use of office hours
Most professors will offer office hours throughout the semester. This is another opportunity to introduce yourself, but it’s also an ideal time to get any in-depth questions answered, clear up any confusion from a lecture topic or ensure you’re on the right track in what you’re focusing on in your study sessions.
Whether you’re heading to class or office hours, it’s important to be prepared to interact with your professor. That means making sure you’ve reviewed your notes from the previous class, know what questions you need answered and, if you’re going for office hours, have a clear idea of your goals of the meeting, so as not to waste your professor’s time.
Be professional in correspondence
Especially now, not every action you have with a professor will be face to face. When corresponding with a teacher via email, make sure you are always professional and prompt. You should think of any communication you have with a professor as similar to how you would communicate with a boss, not a friend. That means using appropriate greetings and signoffs, not writing in slang and communicating with plenty of time for a response (i.e. don’t email your professor at 3 a.m. asking for an extension on a paper that’s due at 8 a.m.!).
This one bears repeating. It’s so easy to get caught up on only preparing for the next test, or racing toward the finish line of the final exam, but, again, remember the professor is a subject matter expert on something you’re presumably interested in. Taking a class gives you an entire semester to dive deep into a subject, and your professor is there to help you fully embrace the material. So, don’t be nervous in class, in office hours or over email. If you have a question, speak up!
10 Books for Successful Studying
From goodreads.com, Here are 10 recommended books For those looking to boost their studying skills:
How to Become a Straight-A Student by Cal Newport
Make it Stick: The Science of Successful Learning by Peter C. Brown
How to Read a Book: The Classic Guide to Intelligent Reading by Mortimer J. Adler
10 Steps to Earning Awesome Grades (While Studying Less) by Thomas Frank
Understanding How We Learn (A Visual Guide) by Yana Weinstein
How We Learn: The Surprising Truth About When, Where and How it Happens by Benedict Carey
Study is Hard Work by William H. Armstrong
How to Win at College: Surprising Secrets for Success from the Country’s Top Students by Cal Newport
The Complete Study Skills Guide: A Practical Guide for All Students Who Want to Know How to Learn by Catherine Dawson
The Secrets of Top Students: Tips, Tools, and Techniques for Acing High School and College by Stefanie Weisman
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