While it may be true that not everyone learns as effectively as they do the same things, there are some fundamentals you can follow to virtually ensure your academic success during your time in college. It doesn’t matter what degree you get or what college you’re enrolled in, college classes are all structured in a similar way. Lectures, textbook readings, assignments, projects, quizzes, intermediate and final exams. Knowing the class format in advance allows students to create a strategy that, when implemented and adhered to, results in good grades and less stress. Here are our top 10 study habits you should try to implement into your strategy for college academic success!
#10 – Take extended notes
Probably the most boring of our top 10 list, taking good notes is hard to do consistently. In our ADHD world, many students find it difficult to maintain concentration long enough to record the information provided in class. However, when it comes time to write a quiz/test/exam you’ll be glad you have that pile of notes with which to review and refresh your brain. Taking good notes is in itself an act of learning, as you can’t write something that doesn’t make sense on some level. This small act goes a long way toward building a solid foundation for a solid understanding of the material being covered. Taking notes also has the added benefit of keeping your brain busy and awake by warding off restlessness and boredom. An excellent method I learned in my freshman year of Engineering was to scribble anything that seemed useful in some way, almost as if I were writing down the lesson. Later that day, transfer and rewrite the notes in understandable form in another notebook. This will cement the information in your mind, moving material from your short-term to long-term memory. Finally, notes have become a source of income for many students as excellent note-takers are often sought after by lazier students who are willing to pay a premium for a large set of notes to study from. Not only will you get good grades, but you will also get paid for it. If that isn’t a win-win, I don’t know what is!
#9 – Get old exams and assignments
If possible, try to find exams and assignments from previous years to give you a good idea of what topic instructors are most likely to challenge you. They don’t have to have the answers to be useful and in fact for many students they are even more useful without them because in this way the student can attempt the exam/task as a test of his knowledge, identifying any weak points to go back and re-study . Old exams and assignments are often made available through classroom websites, student union websites, or through college clubs or associations. A common tactic many students use for science classes with a lab section is to find a graded lab notebook from a previous year. Labs are notoriously difficult in terms of time constraints and what is expected of a student lab report. Having a format to follow is an incredible help, and knowing where Not making mistakes is also invaluable.
#8 – Start studying for exams early
Between your studies and your social life, time isn’t something you’ll have much of during your college career. But one thing you should always make time for is studying the exam. There’s nothing worse than leaving all your studying overnight before an important test or exam. Stress causes your brain to panic, and when you panic, you won’t learn as well as you normally would. Studying a little each night during the week leading up to the exam will not only make you better prepared, but it will take most of the stress out of you if you’d left studying at the last minute. Initial exam study allows a student to identify weaknesses in their understanding and prioritize study accordingly. Imagine studying into the early morning of exam day only to find you’ve completely skipped a section where you have little or no understanding. Don’t let that happen by studying PRESTO!
#7 – Use a laptop during class if possible
If permitted, use a laptop to take notes during class. Most students can type faster than they can write, so they will be able to record much more information than they normally would. If the classroom has WiFi, you will have the added ability to research topics you are unsure about during class breaks or breaks. If a professor uses a word you’ve never heard before, just alt-tab to dictionary.com and look it up! Or, if the class is flying completely over your head, email the professor from your seat and make an appointment to discuss the day’s class. There are many uses for a laptop in class, I’ll let you imagine the other non-academic uses. Many students have grown up with a computer as a staple in their lives, so it’s natural to use it as a learning tool as well. It’s an easy transition for your brain to go from Facebook to Powerpoint! If buying a laptop is in your future, refer to our article for tips on choosing an affordable laptop for students.
#6 – Use your time wisely
Between classes, as well as before and after school, there are plenty of opportunities to sneak in some study or homework that many students either don’t realize or simply don’t use. I have known people studying on the bus on the way to and from school. I’ve even known people who combined their time at the gym with their study time! Just bring your notes and instead of watching TV and listening to your iPod, wear earplugs and read your notes. Get a workout for your body and brain! Always keep your notes handy and try to use whatever free time you have for even a simple review to make sure you are on top of the material. All those little moments you fill with study will really add up to a solid understanding and you will find that you need less study when it comes exam time. It is huge.
#5 – Solve your questions ASAP!
College classes tend to operate with the “snowball effect” as the primary method for subject progression. That is, the information is cumulative and the last things you learned will be key to understanding the next things! So whenever you don’t understand something or have a question on the subject, get your question answered as soon as possible. Whether asking during or after class, via an email or phone call to the professor, or even asking a fellow student, you need to stay current on the topic to be ready for the next things to come. Don’t let the holes in your understanding be wells of knowledge for the future!
#4 – Get to know some of your classmates
This can be extremely difficult and stressful for many people these days. Meeting people is becoming increasingly difficult in a world of social stigmas and fears of disapproval. I won’t tell you how to meet people, just that when you do, the benefits will be immediately apparent. Have a friend to sit with during class, have someone to lean on for notes from a lecture you missed, be able to bounce questions and ideas off someone, and most importantly, have someone to check answers with of your tasks Before you hand it in, are all spectacular reasons to get your nerves down and start saying “Hello! My name is….” to the people in your class.
#3 – Explore other classroom resources
Many class outlines will have “optional” reading listed along with the required textbook. This is often a HUGE opportunity for easy grades and guaranteed success in the specific class. Professors are human just like you and me. Their job is to convey the required material and then test you on it. If they’re using the required textbook as a reference for the learning portion, where do you think they’ll get the material for the testing portion? If you said “the required textbook”, you are wrong and need to stop thinking like a high school student! Professors often take test questions from their favorite textbooks, getting quality assessments from a trusted source. Those preferred textbooks are often listed as optional reading material on the class website or course outline. Also, don’t forget about the mighty Internet. YouTube is an insane resource for How-tos, recorded lectures from other schools, and general knowledge videos on every imaginable topic. Also use Wikipedia and Google to find extra (often better!) resources on whatever you’re struggling with.
#2 – Pre-Read the lesson material
I discovered this by accident, even though it is, or should be, common sense. One night I got bored. Really bored. I picked up a textbook for a class I had the lesson of the next morning and started reading from where we had stopped in the previous lesson. It was hard to understand and it took a lot of concentration to get through it, but the next day in class while listening to the professor, it crystallized in my mind and it was easy from then on. It had the added benefit of engaging my long-term memory, giving me a greater and deeper understanding of the material. It makes sense when you think about it, I was essentially learning the material twice. Once independently and once with the help of an expert. These combined into a solid understanding that I still possess today. Now I’d like to suggest that you do this for every class, every night. But we all know that’s not reasonable, so what I suggest is to use this technique for anything you find very difficult or abstract. That way you’ll have a big head start understanding and mastering the hard stuff, leaving plenty of time to fill in the gaps with the easy stuff!
#1 – Go to class!
While going to class seems too simple to be our most effective study habit, it really is, and I’ll tell you why. Going to class not only keeps you disciplined and focused on what you need to do in college, but it also allows you to absorb the subject just by attending class. If you are an auditory learner this is huge because just listening to the lectures will create an understanding which should be enough to get through the lecture itself! If you are a visual learner, looking at notes written on the chalkboard or reading slides during the presentation will give you the understanding you need to pass the lesson. Going to class also ensures that you get the latest news on assignments, tests, quizzes and exams directly from the mouth of your professor. You don’t want to be that student who shows up to class once a week only to find out that there is a test scheduled for that day! Simply going to your classes the way you should is far more powerful than most students realize. If you look at the above nine tips, you’ll see that most of them actually require this step as a prerequisite, so it should also be an indicator of how important it is to attend class without fail.
As a student who has both failed classes and received honors in classes, I can definitely say that the above tips and techniques will work for you. Whether you want to use some or all of them is up to you, but remember that college is an individual sport and you’ll only get back what you’re willing to put into it! I hope you found these tips helpful and informative, good luck and stay classy!