Top 10 Study Tips From A Upperclassman to a Freshman

We're well into the fall semester and many of us already have set study skills that work for us. But, what if you're an incoming freshman or even a sophomore, and all you can think of is "what did I just sign up for?!" "How am I ever going to memorize the parts of the cell or the theories for social psych?" I'm not going to sugarcoat it and say that I didn't struggle my freshman year. College classes were so different than the classes I took in high school. Sure I took upper level and AP classes, but they weren't the same as the large intro classes I was going to have to mentally prepare for. Even the structure of syllabi were different: in high school, I might have three tests, two quizzes, one project, and one presentation as part of my grade. However in some classes in college, my only grades were three tests. 

I knew that for those type of classes, if I did poorly on one test, there was no wiggle room to make it up. If I really wanted to do well in that class and understand the material, I was going to have to up my game. My study skills were good but not great. I knew that I could improve them and with a lot of trial and error, I found what worked for me. Even though I'm a junior, I'm still developing study skills to be successful in my classes. If you were in the same boat as me freshman year or whatever year you may be, try following these 10 study tips that really helped me with my classes: 

1. Review your class notes at the end of the day.

I put this tip first becuase I really think it's the most important. You can take notes in class all you want but unless you look at them again, you probably won't remember what you learned. This is a great skill to have because doing so well help you cram less before any major tests. I also think that hand writing notes is more beneficial than typing them up: studies conducted at Princeton and UCLA found that students who hand write their notes learn more than students who type them on their laptops. 

2. When reading for a class, read out loud and make notes in the margins

When I read for a class, I used to read silently only to forget everything I read. When I reached the end of the chapter and thought to myself "Okay, what are three things that I learned," I couldn't tell you. Recently, I switched to reading out loud and found that it helped me. Not only am I reading at a slower pace, I can actually recall the information I read. I know that it may a little awkward to read out loud especially if you're at the library, so sometimes it's better to be alone and do it. I also used to highlight important topics in the chapter, but when it came to write a reading response, I couldn't remember why I highlighted what I did or find the passage I wanted. I decided to switch to note taking and this handy sticky note and highlighter flags that I picked up from my school's resource center will help me with that.

3. Keep a planner that includes daily to do lists, monthly due dates, and weekly homework assignments.













Photo courtesy of Allie Stern. 

Anyone who knows me knows that I am a planner, an organizer, and that I love to check of lists. I mean nothing feels quite as good as checking off something on your to do list! I highly suggest to keep a planner if you aren't doing so already. It helps you keep track of when assignments are due, what your homework is for the day, and any clubs or activities that you have to go to. Everyone has a different planning style and the one that works best for me is to have a monthly plan, a weekly plan, and a daily to do list if necessary. However, keep in mind that at some point, you have to put your plan into action! Doing is as important as planning.

4. After reading for class, complete the end of chapter review.

I'm a little embarrassed to say that it took me until my junior year to implement this skill. This goes hand in hand with reviewing your notes at the end of the day. If your going to spend a lot of money on textbooks, why not take advantage of all its resources and look at the end of chapter review? Not only will it help you go over what you just learned and prepare for tests, the review can help you identify what you did well on and what you need to take a second look at. 

5. Break up reading and studying into smaller sub sections.

I cannot stress enough how important and time and energy saving this tip is. It's no lie that college is overwhelming. Think about how much reading you have to do and on top of that you have other activities too. Instead of saying "read chapter 4," say "for Monday read chapter 4.1, Tuesday read chapter 4.2, etc". If reading overwhelms you like it does for me, breaking up reading into smaller sections will help you focus on one unit at a time and what you learned. The same goes for studying. Instead of studying all of chapter 4 in one day (which really isn't realistic), study chapter 4.1 on Monday and so on. I promise you that it will be less stressful and you most likely will have more time during the day for free time. 

6. For memorization, utilize tools such as flashcards or Quizlet. 

No one likes memorizing information but for some classes such as biology or anatomy and physiology, there is no other way. Memorizing information is hard and it's boring. I love flashcards because you can go over them again and again until you recite the information off the top of your head. However, using flashcards usually requires two people and sometimes you don't have a friend around to help you study. Quizlet is the same as flashcards except the flashcards are online. You can do review games and take a practice test on the website as well. This is a great way to memorize information if you're by yourself and don't have someone to test you. 

7. Take advantage of your schools resources for tutoring and study skills. 








Photo courtesy of CofC CSL. 

When it comes to studying, you're not alone. Most schools have wonderful resource centers that offer free tutoring and study skills workshops. At the College of Charleston, we are lucky to have the Center for Student Learning (CSL). The CSL is located in the back of Addlestone Library on the first floor and offers free services such as tutoring, supplemental instruction for some science classes, study skill workshops, Peer Academic Coaches (PACs) to assisnt with time and self management, and so much more. The CSL is an amazing resource and I can confidently say that using their services has significantly helped me in my classes, whether that be by hearing how photosynthesis works from a SI leader or going every week do to my Business Calc homework in the math lab. 

8. Organize study groups with friends or classmates. 

You know what they say: the more the merrier! Well that is also true for studying. Why study alone when you can get a group of people in your class to study? Everyone has a different learning strategy and so hearing one of your peers explain a concept may help you understand it better. Try killing two birds with one stone by hanging out with your friends and doing homework. Just make sure you actually get your work done. For College of Charleston students, you can reserve a study room on the second and third floors of the Addlestone Library. Make sure you do it early though because the spots are booked fast. 

9. Know what your study place is and where not to study. 

If you wouldn't eat in your bed, why would you study in your bed? I know this is really hard to change (and believe me I still do homework in my bed), but your bed should be for sleeping and not doing work. Knowing what places will make you the most successful is a great skill to have. It's also different for everyone: I know that I can't go to the library to do homework because I get distracted if I see friends or hear people talking. If I want to go to the library, I have to go to the second or third floors and all the way in the back so it's quiet. Try out different spots on and off campus that work for you. 

10. Get some sleep and make sure you eat!

This should be pretty self explanatory but unfortunately in our busy lifestyle, we may find ourselves going hours without eating or getting a few hours of sleep at night. You need to eat food, it's that simple. Food fuels your body and your brain! It will help you get through a busy day of classes and any other activities. Especially if you plan to workout or know you will be taking a test, please eat! Think back to the last time you were in class and hungry. Could you focus on the lecture or were you only thinking about when you'll be able to leave and eat something? The same can be said with sleeping. The National Sleep Foundation recommends that young adults ages 18-25 should get 7-9 hours of sleep each night. Most college students don't get the recommended time because they're up late studying or going out. Despite the myth, pulling an all nighter is extremely ineffective. It won't help you retain more information but quite the opposite. Yes, academics are important but your health should be put above anything else. 

It's no secret that studying and getting used to college classes is overwhelming and will the drain the life out of you. But you don't have to let it control you. Incorporate these 10 study tips into your study regimen and see how much more successful you can be and how much better you will feel.