By Katie Llewellyn
By the time you get to college you may think you have the whole studying thing down to a science.
College is a time of transition, shifting responsibilities, and a lot less structure, so the study habits you may have utilized earlier in your education may not give you the same results now.
Don’t worry. Preparing for your exams and learning course material doesn’t need to send you spiraling into an over-caffeinated panic. With a little bit of planning and effort, you can reach your educational goals.
Find your sweet spot
It’s important to recognize where you do your best work. Are you someone who needs complete silence to focus? Cut out distractions and head to the library or a quiet room. If you prefer a bit more bustle and feel most focused around others, get to a coffee shop or a common area to complete your assignments and study.
Write it all down
Have a planner and write down the due date of each assignment you have so that nothing sneaks up on you. Take notes in class, making sure to jot down the key points of each lecture. If you’re lucky, some teachers will even allow you to record classes, if you are an on-campus student, so you can go back and listen to portions you may not have caught the first time around – just make sure to ask. Studying online? You likely have textbooks and extra digital tools at your fingertips already. Note-taking forces you to be present in lectures and will help you retain information.
Review regularly throughout the semester
The last thing most of us want to do after a day in classes is to re-read our notes, but doing so allows us the opportunity to reflect on what we learned and determine which parts of the lesson may need clarification.
Don’t wait until the week before your exams to start reviewing. The better your grasp on course material early on, the less stress you will experience as you prepare for testing.
Form or join a study group
Working together with your peers to study is helpful in more than one way. Your classmates may have a better grasp of certain concepts and will be able to help you deepen your understanding by presenting the information in a new way. Studying as a group also can help diffuse some tension leading up to a big exam because you won’t feel alone in your efforts. Free conference lines are accessible by phone for group calls, in addition to Skype, Facetime, Facebook, and programs specific to your online program.
Avoid cramming and all-nighters
I can almost guarantee that every college student will try this “study method” at some point, but cramming is ineffective at providing you with long-term learning.
Researchers at UCLA have found that sacrificing sleep for extra study time, whether it’s cramming for a test or plowing through a pile of homework, is counterproductive. Regardless of how much a student generally studies each day, if that student sacrifices sleep time to study more than usual, he or she is likely to have more academic problems, not less, on the following day.
Space out your studying and plan to avoid stress and lost sleep.
Don’t let one bad grade get you down
One poor grade doesn’t have to ruin your semester if you use the experience as a learning tool. Ask your fellow students about their study methods to see what works for them or talk with your professor about how you can best succeed in their class and then implement their suggestions. Be proactive, check your grade regularly, and find a tutor if needed! Visit the Writing Lab or Math Lab for more help.