Getting back into the swing of things this semester has been anything but easy. To combat the ever-growing pile of assignments we’re all starting to face, here are some of the best study tips I’ve accumulated through my years as a student.
1. Get out of your room
This has been the most helpful—and most crucial—piece of advice I’ve been given as a college student and it has never steered me wrong. Be it a study room, park bench, library or even in your car, getting out of your room is going to help you focus much more fully on the task at hand. The change of environment has always made it so much easier for me to switch my brain from lounge time to work time. Not to mention, it also keeps my room as a place where I can unwind without the lingering stress of constant schoolwork.
2. Study with friends
Study with some friends. I would recommend working with a few friends who have around the same amount of stuff to get done, or stuff with the same level of severity as you. This way, if the to-do lists are lighter or less serious, some casual conversation won’t bother anyone in the group. On the flip side, if you all have really important assignments due soon (or simply a ton of work to get done), the lack of conversation will benefit everyone nicely. Studying with friends can help force you to stay accountable and make schoolwork feel less lonely and isolating.
3. Caffeine is your friend (and so is water)
In moderation, caffeine can be a really, and I mean really, helpful tool when it comes to getting shit done. It can also be used as a motivator or reward. For example: Once I finish this essay and hand it in, I’m going to treat myself to Starbucks. Hell yeah, you are! Also, don’t forget about lovely H2O. Your brain can’t work if it’s dehydrated, so make sure you’re drinking plenty of water.
4. Sugar is your friend
Once again, in moderation, this can be super handy while doing schoolwork. Naturally sugary snacks have always been my go-to, and my personal favorites are dried mango, apple juice or Rice Crispy treats. The sugar helps me stay awake and keeps my body nourished during long study sessions. Popcorn is also a really great snack to accompany boring textbooks (even though it’s more on the salty side). Really, any small snack that won’t make you feel lethargic is a good idea.
5. Pace/walk while reading
I know this is a little unconventional, but stay with me, because this really works. Say you have a huge reading assignment from a really dense and boring textbook, and you’re struggling to get through it without nodding off. Walking, pacing back and forth or even standing while doing the reading can help force your body to stay awake and active as you get through it. It sounds crazy, but I do this all the time to get through readings that would otherwise put me to sleep.
6. Read out loud
If the image of pacing back and forth in your little dorm room mumbling quickly under your breath sounds weird to you, you’re not alone. But believe me when I say this will help you actually understand what you are reading. By making your mouth form the sentences out loud, you are putting in extra effort (though unconsciously) to make sense of the words on the page. This is once again extremely helpful when it comes to texts that might make you drowsy, and can also help tremendously with memory retention and speech!
7. Limit distractions
You’ve probably heard this a million times, but I’m going to make it a million and one: Turn. Your. Phone. Off. In fact, leave it in a separate room if you can. I know I really struggle with this, so I understand. The worst thing you can do for yourself when you have a looming deadline is check TikTok—you’ll get sucked into the exponential vortex, never to be seen or heard from again! Don’t do it!
8. Take breaks
If you take nothing else from this article at all, listen to me when I tell you: you need to take breaks. Everyone does. We are all human, residing within human bodies with human needs. Take periodic, short breaks or time yourself if that’s something that helps you. I personally like a break cycle my roommate just introduced to me, called the Pomodoro technique. You choose a task, work on it for twenty-five minutes, and then take a five-minute break. Use this short break to do anything except go on your phone—stretch a bit, walk to the vending machine, chat with a study buddy, or even just sit in silence. Every four rounds of this, you take a longer break of 15 to 30 minutes. I find that this works really well for motivating me to work and allowing me to get a large volume of work done.
School is hard, but we’re all in this together. Hopefully this helps you to get some work done, but more importantly, it reminds you that learning doesn’t always have to be painful. There are many ways to make schoolwork easier and more enjoyable once we find out what works best for our own brains. Be gentle with yourself, and keep up the good work!