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What to Avoid If You Want to Ace Your Courses

Studying—the Attila of students around the world.

Whether it is prepping for a test or finishing a last-minute assignment, studying for many—if not most—is a chore. The material can seem as tedious as raking leaves from every corner of Central Park to as nerve-wracking as squaring the circle. But still, no one has to bleed to get an A or to pass a class. All it takes is adjusting your bad habits. Thus, I’ll be presenting five studying habits that are detrimental to your success.

1. Pulling All-Nighters

Imagine this scenario: Bob has a test coming up tomorrow. It’s six in the afternoon; Bob glances at his textbook and curses at how much ground he needs to cover. He’s only studied a few times before, but he’s confident he can do an all-nighter and ace the test.

The thing is… all-nighters aren’t exactly effective.

Clogging up the brain with so much information in such a short time frame isn’t the best way to retain that information. Additionally, skipping sleep will only make it worse. 

What can you do? Try studying as soon as possible: the very day the professor dumped a handful of topics into Moodle. If that’s not possible, at least study the material every day for 30 minutes or less, or watch a Youtube video that covers what you are studying. The internet is your ally, my friend. 

2. Browsing Social Media

The 21st century has gifted us with social media, a chance to connect and share experiences with strangers around the world. Admittedly, however, our fixation on social media can leave us dopamine-addicted to the point where we can’t leave our phones for five minutes without feeling its gravitational pull. Because of this, social media can be a distraction whenever we study.

The solution? Set a time aside for social media browsing, ideally before you begin studying. And when you do get to study, close all tabs, and shut the virtual world.

3. Multitasking

Have you watched Youtube during an activity? Have you opened more than one tab at a time to find out you’re on completely different websites? Have you stopped reading because the [insert social media website/app] notification bell ran?

If you’re that type of person, then congrats… or should I say, beware. A Sandford study has shown that multitaskers lack focus and can’t recall facts. What multitaskers are good at is being distracted.

So, focus on one thing at a time! Resist the urge.Or, if you can’t, put the phone in some other room, out of your sight.  Read this wikihow article for more ideas.

4. Skipping Sleep

As mentioned earlier on this list, skipping sleep during an all-nighter bears little success. All that information that you learned for biology class? Down the brain toilet. Flushed. Heck, even binge watching Netflix videos or hanging out with friends at 2 in the morning after a long day of study sessions is a negative to your productivity.  Overall, being sleep deprived (by all-nighters or otherwise) hampers your ability to focus and learn properly. That’s the reason why during a test you might imagine that the hippocampus is a species of hippopotamus. 

Turn that around by sleeping. Simple as that. Don’t drink caffeine or consume alcohol, avoid nicotine, and don’t exercise two or three hours from your bedtime.

5. Being Disorganized

I’m guilty of this myself. There comes a time when apparently all professors meet together in some shady room and decide to dump their assignments within the span of a single week.

Chilling, I know.

But you can foil their schemes by organizing and scheduling your assignments and tackling them one by one, the easiest ones first and the hardest last. You don’t have to buy a whiteboard and graph out the schedule like some Tom Cruise-level spy. Instead, organizing the dates for every upcoming assignment can be as easy as listing them on a sticky note.

These are a few simple (bad) habits that I gathered from the internet that I believe are the most relevant for students, especially college students. I don’t claim that my recommendations should be gospel (you can tweak them to your liking), since everyone has a strategy that tailors to their needs, not to mention that every major is different; a mathematical theorem doesn’t compare to learning the names of the kings of France.  

All in all, I hope this helped identify some blind spots. Remember that you need to start with a single step and build from there. Keep at it until you see the benefits.Take care y’all!

Emilio H. Mejill Ortiz is a fifth-year UPRM student pursuing a mayor in pure mathematics. His two dreams after graduating is to one day publish a novel and to drive from Miami to Seattle. He loves reading, learning about history, and strives to master koine greek.
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