The Top 10 Most Important Study Habits
Studying is a necessity for college life. You may have gotten away with passive participation in high school, but that won’t work in college. You may already know that if you flunked your first big test, or you may be trying to avoid that scary scenario altogether. Either way, you can benefit from these top 10 study habits for college.
1. Start Studying Well in Advance
You’ll see your test schedule when you get your class syllabus. That gives you plenty of time to start studying before a test or quiz. There is only so much information your brain can store in a short period of time. That’s why cramming is rarely successful. If you start studying early, you are more likely to absorb the information you read.
The Ideal Study Setup
- Separate the information into small chunks
- Study one chunk per day
- On the second day, review the first chunk before moving to the second chunk
- Repeat each day, briefly reviewing the info from the previous study session
This method push info from your short-term memory to your long-term memory. This makes it easy to recall when the test day comes.
2. Study before You Sleep (or Take a Nap after Studying)
While you sleep, your body slows down. Your brain doesn’t have to worry about moving your arms or looking around. Sleeping gives your brain a chance to process feelings, memories and data from the day – including the information you studied. Ideally, you should plan to study before bed. If not, schedule a 90 minute nap after a study session. When you wake up, review the information with a fresh mind. You’ll be amazed by how much you remember!
3. Ask Questions about Topics You Don’t Understand
If you don’t understand something, ask questions! There is nothing wrong with not grasping a subject. It happens to everyone. If you don’t ask, you can’t blame anyone but yourself when test day arrives. Of course, you can do additional studying to understand the information. That still may not help though. If you need help grasping a topic, visit your professor during office hours. You could also ask on a peer discussion board or talk to your teaching assistant, if you have one.
4. Study in a Productive Environment
Where you study matters just as much as how you study. Your perfect study environment may not be the same as someone else’s. You have to find what works for you. If you have loud roommates, you may be more productive in a library or quiet café. You may prefer studying in a park when the weather permits.
Most students benefit from studying in a calm, quiet space with natural sunlight. There should be minimal distractions to prevent procrastination. If you don’t feel like you’re learning much, change the scenery. Go somewhere new and see if you view the information in a new light.
5. Reward Yourself for Studying
People naturally respond to rewards. We’re taught from an early age that hard work is worth the prize. In a job, the prize is a paycheck. In school, the prize is good grades and eventually a degree.
It’s difficult to see the big reward when it’s months or years away though. That’s why you need to set up mini rewards for your studying accomplishments. For instance, after you get through a chapter, reward yourself with an ice cream break. If you have a show you really love, you could reward yourself with an episode at the end of each study “chunk.” Find what motivates you, and use that as a tool to press forward with your study sessions.
6. Work with a Study Group
Some people benefit from study groups. Others do not. This tip may or may not apply to your life. The best study groups consist of students who actively participate in class – those who can give feedback to one another in a productive way. If your classmates are mostly procrastinators, they may not be a positive influence on your study efforts. You need people who will get you excited about the class and help you understand tough topics.
Note that you can have a study group with people in other subjects. You would not discuss your classes at that point, but you would study individually within the same room. The idea here is that you would see how hard other people are working. That would motivate you to work harder on your own. Everyone benefits from the energy in the room, and everyone can enjoy the same end reward (pizza, a movie, dinner, etc.).
7. Test Your Knowledge (Flashcards, Sample Tests, etc.)
Make sure you’re retaining the information you learn. You could do this with flash cards or by taking sample tests online. If you are working in a study group, you could quiz each other on the class info. Helping others learn will reinforce the lessons you’ve learned, which will help on a test day. If there is an area you’re clearly struggling in, focus more time on it so you can be well prepared.
There are many free online collaboration tools you can use to share notes with your peers. You could work with a group of classmates to share lecture notes, graded assignments and more. Simply upload the documents to DropBox, Google Docs, or anywhere else and review the information before you study. You may not write down every detail from a lecture, so you can fill in the missing pieces with other people’s notes. This collaborative effort will help everyone involved.
9. Allot More Study Time for Harder Subjects
If one subject is significantly harder than the others, allow more study time for that subject. This is especially true during finals week or right before a school break. These are the times when multiple professors will schedule tests, so you will have more than one subject to study for. If you struggle to keep up in a subject, start studying now. Don’t wait until the last minute. Follow the method we showed you in Tip 1 to retain as much info as possible.
10. Maintain a Positive Attitude
“I suck at studying.” “I’m a bad test taker.” “I’m never going to get this.” Stop thinking like that! These negative thoughts set you up for failure before you even start. Approach every study session with a positive attitude. “I have a lot to learn, but at least I’m starting early.” “All I can do is tackle one section at a time.”
You can get through this, no matter how challenging your college courses may be. Use the top 10 study habits above to stay on track, and you’ll have your degree in no time.