When cramming for exams or quickly writing papers, it is natural to try to implement the same study techniques you have been using all of your life. However, sometimes it is best to change your study habits and find what works best for you. Also, different classes can require different study techniques. For example, you can’t just study for a math test by making flashcards of each formula and not practice how to use them in actual problem sets. Additionally, you can’t study for a Spanish oral exam without practicing pronunciation and how to come up with ideas on the spot. Here are some study tips and techniques that I have learned throughout my time in college that have proven invaluable.
Step one: Start Early!! There is a caveat to this as I recently learned in my psychology class; you tend to retain information closer to the actual date of the exam. Although, there are still ways to start early to make your life easier when it comes down to the nights right before a huge final or right before a paper deadline.
Step two: Start doing something!! You will never be truly “ready” to do any task, so it is best just to start doing something. Open up your paper document and write your header and topic as soon as you pick them. This small step can make you feel much less overwhelmed when you go to actually complete the paper and haven’t even opened up a document. When writing a paper, just start writing your notes and any research or thoughts and put them on the page. It might be five pages of nonsense, but it is still five pages (also, most of the time, the nonsense turns out to be useful). When studying for tests, start making your flashcards or study guides early. You don’t have to study them then, but just having the materials ready for you will take some of the pressure off.
Step three: Find a study environment that works for you!! Finding a study environment that worked for me was one of the hardest things when transitioning to college. In high school, I always studied in my room which worked perfectly well for me. However, in college, I have found that living and working in my room creates no separation between work and play. This makes me feel restless and uneasy. Therefore, I have found that I need to go to any environment outside of my room to feel like I am separating myself from any comforting, fun distractions that exist in my room. Also, study rooms can be reserved all around campus that and are awesome to use if you want to have peace and quiet in order to grind. Another great space that many people don’t utilize is the gym. There are many spots to do work, and you can time it around when you are planning to work out to kill two birds with one stone.
Step four: Make connections with your professors. Going to office hours is extremely useful. Professors want you to succeed and will do everything in their power to help you do well. If you are confused about a concept or don’t know how to start working on your paper, go to your professor’s office hours and talk with them. They will definitely help you and you will always leave their office feeling more confident and prepared to tackle studying for an exam or writing a paper than you did before. Also, creating a good relationship with your professors can be helpful if you have unexpected problems that come up in your life or illnesses that make it difficult for you to complete the work for the class. Professors are much more understanding when you show them that you care about the class than when you have not shown you care.
Step five: Utilize your peers!! There are a lot of very smart and studious students all around you! Find people in the same classes as you, have group study sessions, and find times to work together in the library. Having people around you who are also focused and driven makes doing work easier and more fun.
Step six: Set aside time for fun every day! It is important to do stuff that you enjoy and that makes you happy every day. This can help you not feel burnt out. Also, if you are happy and in a good mood, you will be able to focus better on your work and will have a more determined attitude when trying to tackle your assignments.