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

Arguably, the most important part of doing well in college is studying well. While attending classes is important, studying the material and balancing your time between classes, social outings, alone time, and self-care makes it the hardest area to do well in and keep prioritized. But don’t worry! There’s been a lot of students before you and a lot of research done to show how to effectively study so that it isn’t an area in your life that you make your mind go blank.

1. Prioritize Your Time

As I’ve already mentioned, prioritizing your time is the most important aspect of college (at least in my opinion). College is, for many people, the first time that they don’t have restrictions on their time and can choose to do whatever they want with it. I definitely felt this firsthand – during my first year, I was so excited to experience so much ‘freedom’ that I paid almost no attention to my homework outside of the classroom and instead devoted more of my energy to trying new things, going out, and having more alone time for myself. While having time for those things is definitely important, not spending time on coursework definitely caught up to me, and it was a hard lesson to learn.

The easiest way to prioritize and balance your time is to imagine your time spent on different things as if they were a jar filled with… anything (sand, money, whatever works for you). While it’s hard to maintain a balance in your life regardless of if you are in college or not, try to make your jars as level as possible. Now, obviously, there will be times when you have to devote more time to yourself if you’re feeling down, your friends if you have an ample amount of free time, and classwork if a quiz or exam is coming up, but don’t lose sight of keeping them as balanced as you realistically can. Having them in balance will make you feel less stressed because you are filling up the different domains of your life and not swamping yourself with too much in one area. While studying is important, it should not be the only jar that is filled because that will leave you stressed, anxious, and unfulfilled.

2. Schedule and Plan

There seems to be a divide among students – some love to plan out every aspect of their day in a journal, while others find it a waste of time and appreciate spontaneity. You don’t have to be either one, because neither is better than the other! However, understanding what is coming up in both your class workload and your personal life can help alleviate a lot of stress when it comes to finding what and when to study. What I like to personally do is every weekend or Monday, I write down all the homework assignments that I have in the upcoming week and see when is the best time for me to finish them – this goes hand in hand with prioritizing your time. After that, I try to write a list of what to do for the day, keeping in mind which days I have more work and which days I have less. That way, you have a general idea of what you’re going to be studying and when, which is half the battle.

3. Actual Studying – Finding What Works for You

Once you’ve figured out the when for studying, the how is the next part. If you already know what you’re learning or studying style is, then this will be easy! Some people are visual learners, others are auditory, and there’s a complete list of methods that work for any style that you see yourself as. My biggest tip is to try different methods to see which one works best for you. This may take a while, but I think it’s important to see what methods actually work for you as a student rather than following what others are doing because it seems productive. For myself, I’ve found that taking handwritten notes makes me retain information better than typing them out and that for different subjects, I study better around my friends compared to studying and working alone. This is all important because it’s not the studying that makes the class worthwhile, but the information and understanding that you receive from it!

Multiple aspects of studying should be looked at: what time are you the most productive when studying? Does either the morning or the evening make it harder to focus? Do you focus better in your room or in a place somewhere else? Do you study best with music or without? Or how about studying with friends versus studying alone? All these things can go into making studying more effective and enjoyable for you.

4. Actual Studying – the Pomodoro Method

The Pomodoro Technique is one of my favorite study tips that I use all the time. It’s a time management system where people will work with the time they have, then have a short break before going back to work. The Pomodoro Technique usually breaks up time into 25-minute intervals of work and 5-minute intervals of break time, but you can change it to however is more comfortable for you. 

This method of studying is very effective because it essentially is made so that you don’t overwork yourself and to keep yourself focused when you are working. By having a break, you know that you can work hard for the time being before being able to do something that will keep your mind at ease, compared to working for hours straight and having breaks when you feel that it is needed. It also makes you more focused when you are working because you’re not ruining the flow of studying by, say, being on your phone, going to take a random snack break, etc.

5. try to Make Studying More Enjoyable

Everyone knows that studying is not necessarily a fun activity – rather, it’s needed to facilitate your learning. However, that doesn’t mean that it should be a drag and something that you have to do in order to do well in a class. When you’re taking notes, try to use different colors to separate ideas and make the notes more pleasing to the eye! Instead of typing all of your notes in a scholarly manner, you can use language that you use in your everyday life – that way, it can be easier to understand. If listening to music is your thing, listen to upbeat and fun music while studying to give yourself a better mindset. You can try a new environment either outside or in an aesthetically pleasing area to make yourself feel more productive, which will eventually lead you to be more productive. So many things can be done in order to make studying worthwhile instead of a drag.

6. Teach Your Material to Other People

While studying can be seen as a mostly independent activity, you can utilize your friends and other people to help you study. I’ve learned that explaining the material you’re learning can actually make you learn them better – you have to explain concepts, see what you’ve remembered (and what you haven’t), and find areas that you don’t understand that much yourself. It also helps to explain the material to someone who has no background knowledge in it, so that it forces you to make connections and have the material be digestible to someone who isn’t studying the same material that you are. When you can teach your material to other people, it’s practically a surefire way to see that you understand it yourself.

7. Don’t Lose Sight of the Necessities

While studying is very important in college–and a skill that requires development–don’t let it cloud your days and become a burden. Make sure that you’re taking care of yourself first before anything else comes into play. Prioritize your health and sleep – don’t stay up late studying at the expense of losing more sleep and feeling awful the next day. Prioritize eating as it is the fuel your body needs and also an easy way to enjoy yourself. Having both alone time and social time is important so that you feel more fulfilled and less stressed and anxious.

Taking care of yourself is more important than your grades. If you are struggling with mental or physical health issues, it’s necessary to take care of yourself first. This is the most important study tip that I can give anyone.

All in all, studying is hard, but you can do things that make it easier. As I’ve mentioned before, studying is a skill. I know that myself; I had no idea how to study in high school and saw rereading and homework as the same thing as studying. At college, it’s a completely different story. However, finding what works for you specifically and prioritizing your time can help immensely, and you can make studying a time to challenge yourself in a non-stressful way. Happy studying!

Belma Hodzic has been a staff writer for the Michigan State University Chapter of Her Campus since spring of 2022. Belma Hodzic is a junior at Michigan State University. A student of MSU's James Madison College, she is seeking a dual-degree in Comparative Cultures and Politics and World Politics, while double-minoring in Film Studies and Women and Gender Studies. She aspires to go into filmmaking or documentary production in the aim of representing marginalized communities and bringing culture into conversation. When she isn't studying, she enjoys exploring the horror genre and all things creepy. In her free time, she enjoys reading, drawing, watching and analyzing movies, as well as spending time with her friends.