The transition from high school assignments to college-level coursework can feel intimidating. At the beginning of my freshman year, I certainly found myself worrying if I’d be in over my head and stressing over how to structure my studying in a more independent learning environment. The truth is, it’s totally OK if you initially feel overwhelmed! Your freshman year is the perfect time to seek support and cultivate new study habits as you experiment with your GE courses and lower-division classes. If you’re looking for some study inspiration to boost your confidence, here are 5 habits that helped me stay on top of my work as a new student:
- Go to office hours
I cannot overemphasize how important it is to take advantage of office hours opportunities. Even though talking one-on-one with your professors and TAs might seem intimidating, I guarantee that it’ll be worth it. Taking the time to go to office hours means that you’ll get more specialized support if you are having trouble with certain concepts, you can get direct feedback on your work and all the while build relationships with your instructors which can help you later on in your academic career. I know that I went to office hours a ton during my first quarter, and I got comments on assignments that helped me secure As in my classes. The more that you go to office hours as a freshman, the more assured you’ll feel going to office hours in the years to come. Definitely add this habit to your routine early on!
- Schedule your studying time
It goes without saying that utilizing a planner for scheduling your classes and writing down deadlines is helpful, but don’t forget to also plan out when you are going to study. During college, you spend less time in class and more time independently working, and it can be hard to manage this adjustment as a freshman. If you don’t schedule your study periods, you might accidentally eat up your time going to social events or extracurriculars and end up cramming at the last minute. I recommend that you plan out at least a small sliver of time to study every day and stick to that routine. Blocking off designated study time will hold you accountable for getting homework done and make it harder to procrastinate. This habit may seem simple, but it’s important to not overlook it.
- Practice correctly skimming
One of the biggest differences I’ve observed between studying in high school and studying in college is the number of readings assigned by professors. Of course, the volume of readings changes according to your major, but as a freshman, I’ve always had several hundred pages of readings to get through every week. This can easily feel overwhelming if you’re used to reading every word on the page, so learning how to skim is absolutely essential. When you skim, you should focus on reading the intro, topic sentences and conclusion more in-depth than the other sentences and keep in mind the goal of why you’re reading the text. Try to keep an eye out for words or ideas that seem to be repeating in the text and observe how the text is formatted on the page to get an understanding of the writing’s basic structure. You can find more advice on skimming all over the internet, and I recommend spending some time looking into those sources!
- Find study buddies
During your freshman year, you will find yourself in classrooms with lots of new students who you can work with to improve your studying. I’ve found it incredibly helpful to introduce myself to at least one person per class and get their contact information so that I have a friend to navigate the course with. This hack can help with making friends, but on the surface level, it can also just be a safety net if you are confused by the class requirements. For example, if you aren’t sure where to submit an assignment or you want to peer review your writing with a partner, you can reach out to your designated study buddy. In my experience, most people are really willing to help each other out and studying is a lot easier when you can bounce ideas off of someone else. If your class has a general Group Me or a Slack, you should also join those to meet more than one study buddy!
- Utilize physical documents
Taking notes and writing essays on online documents is undeniably faster, but for certain tasks, nothing beats physical ink and paper. Something about reading and writing with actual pages instead of screens makes retaining knowledge so much easier. A few ways to incorporate physical documents into your study routine are: using an actual notebook as your planner, handwriting your notes in colored pens and printing out readings to highlight by hand. I’ve also learned from a TA that printing out your essays to edit them on paper is often more effective than just editing them on a computer document. I now use this technique all the time, and I somehow always catch errors that didn’t occur to me before. I know that school has been primarily online for the past year, but trying to bring back old-fashioned study techniques can be an important way to switch things up inside your brain.
Studying is a personalized skill that we all need to nurture. When you enter college, you shouldn’t be hard on yourself if adapting to your new study environment is difficult or different than you expected. If you put some time and effort into trying out these study habits and are brave enough to ask for questions and support, you will soon find yourself falling into a comfortable routine.