I remember one of the (many) things that hit me hardest my freshman year of college was not practicing “good study habits.” After my very first college exam was handed back to me, I stared at the score in disbelief. It didn’t make any sense—I had gone to every class, taken notes, and completed all of my homework. By high school standards, that would get me an “A” without a doubt. In college, however, it’s not enough.
So, while "How am I supposed to study in college?" might sound like a pointless question, it really isn't. Many high school students should be asking themselves, and we're here to answer it.
Use every resource available
That means professors, TA’s, tutors, tools online (videos, tutorials, even TED talks), friends, study groups, or any free resources your school may provide for you. What makes studying in college so different from studying in high school is that no one is going to hold your hand through the process, or feel bad for you if you forget to do something. It’s up to you to be resourceful and motivated. And just like anything else, this takes practice if you don’t already practice good study habits. On that note, don’t get discouraged if you put in the effort and still don’t get the grade you want. Once you get the hang of what’s available to you on campus and what each of your professors expect, knowing how to properly study will come more easily.
Figure out where you get the most work done
First semester freshman year, I was convinced that my bed was the place where I was most productive. After falling asleep on numerous occasions while trying to read my textbooks, I finally realized I needed to switch study locations. So I roamed the campus, trying to do work in various places until I found that I worked best in environments with constant background noise and enough space to spread out all of my study materials. On my campus, that was the main floor of the library. But of course, it will be different for you. My advice is to try out several locations on campus (or off campus) to figure out the best type of environment to study in. Above all, make sure that you feel comfortable. This is a key element to focusing (hence the classic college student in sweatpants and hoodies).
Whatever you do, don’t pull an all-nighter
I don’t think I’ve heard a single success story from students who have pulled an all-nighter. Studying for an exam, in particular, is more effective when done in smaller chunks of time leading up to the exam, rather than attempting to cram everything in 10 hours the night before the big test.
Sleep is actually the best thing you can do for yourself before an exam. Not only will you actually be able to stay awake throughout the entire exam (which is normally a good thing), you’re also giving your brain a chance to store all of the information you just studied so that you can recall it on test day. Your brain literally needs a break before an exam, so make sure you give it some time!
Download one (or all!) of these apps
You are a 21st century student, after all.
Wish you could stop yourself from habitually checking the tab in your browser where Facebook is open? Let SelfControl do it for you. By downloading this app in your browser, you can set up a timer to block yourself from visiting sites that might distract you while you’re trying to focus. Until the timer expires, you won’t be able to access the specified sites, no matter how hard you try. It might sound harsh, but it’s definitely worth trying. You might be surprised at how much you can get done.
If you like to make to-do lists, use your computer to take notes during class, or need to set a hundred reminders for yourself, use Evernote. This app lets you do all of the above, and more. Plus, it stores everything in one place, so you can access it on your phone, tablet, and laptop. Evernote is a great way to stay organized, which is essential in college.
Simply put, StudyBlue is awesome.
Gone are the days when students have to buy and write their own flashcards. Now, students can create and share flashcards, quizzes, review sheets, and study guides with other students online (for free!). All you have to do is search for your class or subject, and start studying. Download it on your computer and phone so you can access your study tools anywhere. With StudyBlue, you really have no excuse not to nail those Spanish vocabulary words or math formulas.