Carving out study time in college can be tricky because there are often more distractions than in high school. There are always people around, events to attend, social activities to partake in—in addition to a schedule with more freedom to control.
Build upon some of the study methods you used in high school to implement these top college study tips:
1. Make a study plan
As soon as it makes sense to you—a week out, a month out, etc.—make a study schedule for yourself for the days leading up to a test. This can be extremely helpful in spacing out your studying so you won’t have to cram the day before and pull an all-nighter, which often causes more stress. You can decide to study an hour or two each day, or choose which concepts or units to review per study session. Remember to include breaks, as well! While studying straight through for two hours might work for some, a lot of us truly benefit from scheduled breaks. This helps us double down on the actual study time, minimize distractions, and better enjoy the breaks themselves, as they’ll feel more earned.
2. Find settings that suit you
A popular location to study may of course be your campus library. It’s well-liked for good reason: it stays open late (and sometimes 24/7), offers print and electronic resources, and is quiet. Check out the library’s study rooms, which you may need to sign up for ahead of time, as they can provide a bit more silence and privacy. Top floors can be great for this as well. Your school might have other designated quiet spaces; perhaps a campus art museum or a certain area of the student union that you could take advantage of.
However, if you like working with more background noise, such as music or the hustle and bustle of people around you, consider a local coffee shop or your dorm common area. You might even bump into a friend from the same class, which can help refuel you for more studying. Also, if you have access to a car or other transportation, you may wish to explore what other hidden gems are available near your college town; this can provide much needed different scenery.
3. Rewrite notes or make flashcards
Writing down key concepts from a textbook or rewriting your notes—on the page or on flashcards—are excellent ways to better cement information into your mind. The act of writing slows you down, allowing you to be with the concepts longer and spend more time actively focusing on them. The process is effective, as well as the product—you can take your page of notes or flashcards with you as portable study guides whenever you have a free moment. Waiting in line at the bank or at the DMV? Both great times to whip out your study aids and make the most out of a few stray minutes.
4. Prioritize your best time of day
Think about what time of day you have the most energy, and schedule your study time accordingly. Are you one of the few college early birds? Do you like mid-day studying or do you slide into an afternoon slump? What part of nighttime works for you, early evening or closer to midnight? Once you’re aware of this, you’ll want to use your most energetic hours for your most difficult subjects, which can help you make the most of your time. Also, as a college student, your schedule is likely to vary greatly day-to-day, so don’t be afraid to try different things throughout the week and see what suits you best!
5. Visit office hours
A unique aspect of college, and of school in general, are the professors with open doors to help you. Take advantage of this by visiting them during their scheduled office hours or possibly setting up a separate appointment if you have time conflicts. Meeting with a professor a week or two before an exam can be useful in directing your study plan or clarifying a confusing concept. If you wait until the last day before your test to meet, your discussion may not be as helpful, as you’ll have less time to process the take-aways from your conversation. You might consider attending office hours on a regular basis; you’ll get to build a professional relationship with your professors and the one-on-one setting is one of the easiest and best ways to learn.
These college study tips, as well as others you’ve picked up in high school, can help build your confidence as a college student as you become more aware of who you are as a learner. While repetition of study strategies builds stamina and helps you make the most of it, keep in mind that one strategy may work for you better at one point in your life, and not so much in another. To that end, keep trying new things and talk with classmates and professors for new suggestions.
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