5 Study Habits to Adopt Now to Prepare for College

3. Budget your time.

The problem:

It’s easy to figure out how to budget your time as a high school student when work often gets turned in the day after it’s assigned. However, it gets trickier when you go to college. Often there is no clear due date for particular readings, scheduled times to meet with a group for a project or “work days” built into your class schedule to help you get caught up on assignments. Readings and other assignments are usually given for a particular unit or week, but don’t have a specific calendar date you’re expected to complete them by.

“In college, we are not keeping daily records of what assignments are done but expect the student to do the assignments for the learning, not just the doing,” says Ruth Bolstad. In other words, a professor usually makes his or her expectations for a class clear, but won’t always tell you how to get there.

The solution:

First, you should experiment with working at different times of the day to see when you learn best. “People often come with the mindset that evening is the time you do homework,” says Peder Bolstad, but he argues this isn’t always the case. “If you get two to three hours in before the evening, you’re not stuck working from 6 until midnight every day,” he says.

Peder Bolstad also recommends figuring out when you’re most productive. “Look at what are your good or bad times of the day,” he recommends. Play around now when you most likely have a more flexible, forgiving schedule to see when you’re able to get the most work done. Having this knowledge when you walk into the lecture hall on day one of your freshman year will put you way ahead of the game!

Also, figure out how long you can work for before your brain starts wandering or getting tired. “One of the things [freshmen] bring with them from high school is, ‘do it until it’s done,’” says Peder Bolstad. He says this isn’t the best approach to take when it comes to completing work, and stresses the importance of breaking it into more manageable chunks. He suggests breaking work into half-hour increments to increase focus and concentration when it comes to completing assignments. Play around with different times and lengths of studying to figure out how long you can focus for, and plan short breaks accordingly.

4. Start adjusting to a different use of time spent in the classroom.

The problem:

High school teachers usually teach in a much more interactive style than college professors do. Classes in high school aren’t always straight lectures like you find in many first-year courses in college.

Most high school courses usually include time for group discussion, work time in class and ample time to approach the teacher and ask any questions or get clarification for an assignment. In college, however, many professors rely on a lecture or outline the major points they plan to cover in a class session to convey what they think is important, regardless of class size. College professors trust that students will seek out help independently if necessary. Even if your class is small, there most likely won’t be large blocks of time built in for anything but talking about whatever is on the professor’s agenda for the day.

The solution:

First, make sure you’ve got your note-taking skills down pat. Regardless of what kind of format your classes follow, the notes you record will most likely be your go-to source when it comes to prepping for future classes, exams, projects and presentations later in the semester. Play around with different ways of taking notes, especially for different subjects. Figure out what’s most helpful for you when it comes to retaining information: Is it helpful to see the main points in a clear outline? Do tables work better for synthesizing information? What about pictures or diagrams?

Keep in mind what works best for retaining and explaining information on paper in one class might not be the best method in another. For example, you might find Cornell notes easier to use in a large lecture hall where topics are easily outlined and differentiated from one another, but might prefer to use a style that’s more diagram-friendly in a math lab so you can sketch out diagrams and jot down equations easily.  Experiment now when it’s easier to approach your teacher for help with anything you might have missed or misunderstood.

Sydney is a junior double majoring in Media and Cultural Studies and Political Science at Macalester College in St. Paul, Minn., a short trip away from Minneapolis, her hometown. When Sydney is not producing content for a variety of platforms, she enjoys hanging out with friends, watching movies, reading, and indulging in a smoothie or tea from Caribou Coffee, the MN-based version of Starbucks.

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