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This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at Illinois State chapter.

Now that I’m a senior I want to share my favorite study tips that I’ve learned over my college years. I hope to share these with my future students as well because finding a good study routine is so helpful in staying productive and academically motivated! Keep on reading for a few helpful study tips to help you stay on task.

1. Plan and stay organized

I don’t know how people go through college without a planner. Whether it’s a digital or a notebook copy, you NEED one. Between balancing classes, work, social life and any campus organizations it will be extremely helpful to have all your to-dos in one location.

I recommend writing down the big deadlines (at least) and then making weekly or daily to-do lists depending on what your preference is. I sometimes find it can be overwhelming if everything is jumping at me at once. So, I may write “exam in two weeks” just to have the reminder for myself in advance without it being so overwhelming or ending up flipping to the next week forgetting entirely about an exam or paper you have coming up. As always, find a good routine or method that works for you, whether it’s writing on your hand or creating a color-coded excel spreadsheet, do what will help you stay organized and on track for success.  

2. Find a quiet (or busy) space

I prefer a quiet environment to do my writing, but I can read books in busier places like at a Starbucks or the library community floors – where there’s a bit of chatter. It varies depending on what type of work you might be doing and how focused you need to be but switching up your setting can be extremely helpful for studying.

3. Switch up your setting

Again, find somewhere new to study or return to your favorite spots. I love going to the sixth floor of Milner Library when I need to be super productive. Other times I like sitting in my bedroom or living room at my apartment. Don’t be afraid to try out a new spot, especially if you are working on a low-stakes assignment. I’ve seen people sitting on the quad studying, people watching videos on the treadmill and even in the dining hall. Explore campus and local shops for the perfect study spot.

4. Listen to an instrumental or low-fi soundtrack

Continuing with the setting, I find that listening to a playlist can be super beneficial. Especially if you are looking to drown out a bit of noise, I love listening to this playlist called “Instrumental Study” on Spotify, and there are PLENTY of playlists with low-fi beats or background music to study on YouTube or Apple Music.

5. Dedicate your time based on priority

This might be the most important tip I have which is to do your work based on priority. I don’t always do this, especially when I have a lengthy essay or big project due, but it is so important to prioritize your work. Even if that means skipping one reading for another class or doing a quick read-over rather than taking annotations, sometimes you have to make the sacrifice and do the more challenging work first. I don’t always do this, but every time I do I am never upset at myself for dedicating more time to a big deadline.

6. Try time blocking

A method you can try if you’re looking to expand your studying skills is time blocking. This is perfect if you do a daily to-do list. Essentially you carve out chunks of time, such as 8 a.m. to 10 a.m., where you plan on doing one task. That might mean you study for one of your core classes and complete any homework during that time frame. Then, you might time block a thirty-minute break and lunch from 10:30 a.m. to 11 a.m., for example. This is just an example, but this is especially useful for those busy days when you need to be productive but don’t want to be overwhelmed with finding time to complete all your tasks.

7. Reading is NOt studying

I have heard that reading is not studying. While it may not be true, reading does help. Taking notes, annotating passages and doing any form of comprehension recall are extremely important when trying to retain information. Re-reading I would consider being a form of studying. Again, find what works for you. That might be flashcards, having a friend quiz you or trying to write everything down from memory to see what you’re learning. It’s amazing how many people go through college without truly reading what they’re being assigned. Read what you are assigned. And read for fun. It’s a great study skill and one that can only be improved on with practice.

8. Bring snacks and a drink

Last but not least, bring your favorite snack or drink when you plan on having a study session. While spending money on your favorite coffee or tea every day isn’t reasonable, if you plan on having a big homework day, treat yourself and stay motivated to get your work done. It will save you time and additional stress if you are trying to stay focused when you need some energy or your stomach starts growling. Planning will save you money and time; plus it makes that reward of finishing your work that much sweeter.

As you know, academics involve studying. Like anything else in life, you have to find a routine and methods that work best for you as a learner. While I think everyone can benefit from these tips, there are more ideas and strategies out there, but at the end of the day do whatever works for you to keep you motivated and on task.

Happy studying!

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Lynn Merigold

Illinois State '23

Lynn graduated from Illinois State University, where she was a contributing writer, chapter editor/president, and member of the Campus Trendsetters community. When she’s not teaching, you can find her spending time with family/friends, attending a fitness class, or listening to an audiobook!