You’ve seen the lists – 100 study habits that will make you successful. Everything from your posture while you read to keeping your feet warm. Really? In an ideal world you would remember all 100 things and have the perfect environment for your individual needs.
But college is not an ideal world – it is messy, sometimes chaotic, and certainly unpredictable. Especially coming off your final year in high school, where the most challenging task you faced in your last month was crafting the best senior quote, college can be a rude awakening.
So, it’s time to get down to the basics for study habits – the three things you must do if you want to make good grades are what follows. The rest is all detail that you work out based upon your small preferences.
Study Habits for College Students
This is by far the biggest issue that new college students face. In high school, their lives were more controlled by set schedules. They attended school for a set number of hours every day; they participated in some after-school activities. For the most part, they were home in the evenings and studied.
Their teachers were a permanent presence every day reminding them of assignments due. All of a sudden they are dumped into a completely new environment – classes spread out all over the days and times; responsibility for all of their personal needs (e.g. laundry, shopping for personal supplies); and the temptations to hang out with friends, skip classes, and party too much. It is a culture shock.
So, here are the basic things that students must do to manage their time and build in the time they need for study and assignment completion.
Get a calendar. This may seem old-school, but a paper calendar that can go on the wall is the best friend. Make it big, so that you can see the entire month at a glance, so that you will not forget what is due in two days and next week.
– Write everything down on that calendar – EVERYTHING. Then, you have it all in one place – assignments and tests, papers, appointments with your advisor, work hours if you have a job. Some students even plug in their personal chores like laundry and shopping.
– Schedule your fun and relaxation time too, but allow yourself some flexibility. It is really important to have some alone down time too.
– Think about color-coding what you put on that calendar – that way you can know the difference between assignments, tests, appointments, activities, parties and such.
– Plan ahead for long-term tasks, such as research papers. A month before a paper is due, for example, schedule you time for research, for developing your outline and for writing that rough draft.
– Make sure you schedule time for real fun and celebration after a particularly hard period, such as mid-terms. You do deserve major rewards when you have had a rough time and gotten through it.
Study According to your Learning Style
There’s a lot of research out there about learning styles, and it is important that you know exactly how you learn best. Do you remember stuff better by hearing it or reading it? Do you need to re-write your notes to better learn the content? Are flash cards good for you? You may have to experiment a bit if you do not already know, but here are some suggestions to do that:
– If you need quiet, you are better off at the library than in the dorm. An alternative is to wear noise blocking headphones plugged into nothing. Do you focus better when sitting up at a desk or sitting up in bed? Do you need to snack while you study? How about temperature – better when nice and warm or a bit cooler? Environment is pretty critical because it goes to comfort.
– Everyone needs to go over their class notes. Try experimenting with different ways to do this. Some students find that re-writing them and consolidating them into something more organized is the best way. In fact, re-writing them often helps students commit them to memory.
– Students must determine how best they remember what they read in their texts. Some highlight as they read; some take notes as they read; some need to read out loud. Find the way you best remember what you read.
– How do you best study for tests? Most agree that organizing notes and information from reading is necessary, but how do you then review all of that content for a test? Some students re-write it again, because every re-write cements the content; other students need to pace and read out loud; others just need quiet time to read. Learning how you best study for exams is key to good grades on them.
– Social learners. Many students prefer to learn in groups. These needs are best met by forming study groups. If you are a social learner, the get those study groups going.
Don’t Skip Class
While many will not see this as a study skill, it is indeed one of the most important. And here’s why:
– You cannot repeat what happens in a class. You cannot skip class and then depend upon someone else’s notes to have captured all that was said, shown, and inferred.The way in which instructors and professors present content will tell you important things – some things will be emphasized by intonation; an instructor may actually state that something is critical. If the note-taker you are depending upon does not get all of those nuances, then you will not have the critical information you need when you are ready to study for exams.
– This is a part of your responsibility for learning – you need to be present and attentive in every class. And you need to take your own notes in your own way. That is how your notes are understandable to you.
– Someone else will take notes differently and you will never have the full picture of what went on and what was said.
– Beyond this, attending class sends a message to your instructor – you are a serious student. When there may be some flexibility in grading, you will get the benefit of the doubt.
These three things – time management, honoring your learning style, and class attendance – are all you need for success in school. If you want more specific information, there are some great video resources from university professors that should give you more insight.