The BEST Study Tips for College

In high school, studying the night before the test or even the morning of the test was plenty of prep time to still do well. When I got to college, I quickly learned that wasn’t the case anymore. While the tests weren’t much harder, it was the amount of information that the tests covered presenting the issue. I quickly realized that my old system wasn’t going to work anymore and that I needed to find a new one fast. It took a little while, but I finally have a system that works for me and allows me to be successful in my classes.

I wanted to share my tips on the best ways to study in college and be successful. While it does seem like a lot, as long as you stay on top of things and don’t wait until the last minute, you are good to go. Although it is definitely overwhelming at first, once you get into a routine it gets much easier.


Be Organized

  • Have study time scheduled into your days. I know it sounds like a bit much, but having study time scheduled into your day is the best way to make sure that you are able to manage your demanding schedule along with your course load. Treat your homework and study time that you have scheduled in as if it is a class. Don’t schedule appointments during it, don’t sit on your phone, don’t just sit and talk with friends. Know what homework and studying needs to be done for the day and get it done.
  • Refer to your syllabus. Your syllabus is a wonderful tool that sadly many people don’t utilize to its full potential. I’ll let you in on a little secret now, it is actually your guide to being successful in your classes. It will include everything from your professor’s email and office hours, to test dates and due dates for assignments. I’ve had one professor that actually wrote his pop quiz dates and chapters covered in the pop quiz on the syllabus just to give those who utilized their syllabus a bit of an advantage.
  • Have everything written down. Whether you have your homework, quizzes, and tests in a written planner or digital planner, have everything written down And while yes it does take a while to complete at the beginning of the semester, it is so worth in in the long run, especially when you don’t have the time come mid-semester. It’s your choice whether you want homework, tests, and projects written into your weekly or monthly view, but having that to refer to makes it super easy to plan your weeks and know if you have time to go on that weekend long service trip or to make a quick trip home to see family and friends.
  • Plan your school work and studying for each day. Know what you want to get done each day. Maybe you need to finish your stats homework, make flash cards for accounting, and study for your microeconomics test that is next week. Having a plan of what you want to accomplish and get done will give you a feeling of accomplishment and success when you make it through your school to-dos for the day.

Have Goals

I have a list of goals written down in the front of my planner and also write my weekly goals in my planner for that week. This way, I know that I am taking baby steps towards my ultimate goals and if I’m ever feeling discouraged I can look back through my planner and see my progress. I highly recommend making goals for things outside of school as well such as goals for fitness, health, blogging, relationships, work, organizations you are involved in and more.

Go to Tutoring/Office Hours

If you are struggling in a class or simply struggling with grasping a concept in one of your classes, go to tutoring or office hours. Many more difficult classes have free tutoring hours through the university that you can attend with student teachers that are super knowledgeable in the subject. If tutoring isn’t offered, always check out your professor’s office hours. Just be sure to remember, the tutors and professors are there to help you! There is absolutely no reason to feel that you shouldn’t attend tutoring or office hours. And if you have a conflict with your professor’s office hours, such as work or another class, send them an e-mail and let them know. Typically, when you show that you care about your education and your classes, they will be more than happy to set up a time to meet that works for both of you.

Study Every Day

For me, studying everyday was the biggest adjustment when I got to college. In high school I could simply study the night before or the morning of the test and be good to go, but that definitely wasn’t the case in college. Even just skimming your notes from the last lecture the ten minutes prior to class can help you retain class information and not have to spend your time cramming the last few days before the test.

Rewrite your Notes

While I know that some people highly discourage using laptops in class, we have all had those professors that simply talk way to fast and also happen to be the one professor that doesn’t post class notes online. So whether your notes from class are hand-written or typed, take the time to sit down and re-write them by hand. It’s a great way to review the material and helps a lot if you had difficulties understanding a particular lecture.

Make Flashcards

Flashcards have been my go-to study tool since I was in junior high. They are my favorite way to memorize vocabulary and they give you another way to write out class material. Plus, they are perfect to keep in your backpack to review during the ten minute wait before your next class starts. Remember, every little bit counts.

Know What to do Before and After Class

Whether its readings, notes from the book, making flashcards, or even listening to the lecture again, know what you need to do before and after each of your classes. For example, in my business law class last semester, I would get lost and confused during the lecture if I hadn’t read the chapter and made and reviewed flashcards beforehand. Going into class with that extra bit of knowledge helped me retain and learn more just from the lectures before I even started studying the material we learned.

Turn off the Distractions

Use an internet software to disable social media and turn your phone to airplane mode and get to work. It’s so much easier to get stuff done and retain information when you don’t have Facebook and incoming text messages to distract you.

Take Breaks

I honestly used to be the person, even in high school, that would sit for hours without a break to get all of my homework and studying done for the day. At the time I thought that I was doing good for myself and being productive, when really I was just wearing myself out and not retaining information like I should. Figure out a good amount of time for you to sit and study before you need to take a break and do something else for a bit. For me, I do homework and study for about an 1-2 hours and then take a break for an hour and will sit down to do more homework for another 1-2 hours after my break. I love using my hour break to do something productive like take a class at the gym or work on my blog.

Join a Study Group

Personally, it’s one of my biggest pet peeves to study with people that just want to copy my notes and flashcards and be on their way. Joining study groups is the perfect way to meet like-minded people that also have put time in to the class and can help you if anything is unclear or if you happened to miss some information in your notes. They are also a great way to push you out of your comfort zone and get you to try new methods of studying that could ultimately help you out a lot in the long run.

Make a List of Questions

I know it sounds silly, but this learning this tip from one of my tutors last semester has helped me gain so much from lectures that would have ultimately confused me. If you are reviewing information for an upcoming class lecture and are confused on some of the topics, make a list of questions on what confused you. When you go to your lecture, you will pay more attention during those particularly tricky topics and will grasp them better. Another great way to utilize this if you didn’t review the material for an upcoming lecture, is that if you are reviewing the material after a lecture and are confused, make a list of questions to ask your tutor or professor so that they can help you to better comprehend the topics that confuse you. When I go to math tutoring, I always take a piece of paper where I’ve written out problems from the lecture or homework that confused me and that I could use a little extra help on.

Where you overwhelmed by the amount of studying for tests in college? What tips do you personally utilize from this list? Is there anything that you would add to this list?

  • fatima

    amazing..These tips are so helpful, Thank you so much June for this post 🙂

  • Irene Fenswick

    Helpful tips! Thanks, Megan! Especially I liked the last two tips. I suppose they are not popular and well-discussed among students as other tips, but study groups and compiling questionaries are quite effective. By making a list of questions, we draw attention to some particular and yet indistinct things, so the next time when we have found the right answer or statement, we memorize it pretty good.

  • Megan June

    I completely agree with getting up to move! I have to get my blood flowing to regain concentration. Haha!

  • Great tips! I definitely do all of these and have been making straight A’s and B’s all year! It also helps to get up and move (not just walk about, but do jumping jacks or go running, something to elevate your heart rate) every hour or so. It helps to keep you focused and your brain won’t feel as exhausted by the end of your homework.

  • Megan June

    Hi Corryn! Thank you so much for your sweet comment! I’ve actually been working on putting together a study tips post for high school students since for me, the difference between how to study in high school and how to study in college was huge. I’m thrilled that you’ve found a way to incorporate tips from this post into your study routine. Good luck on your test, you’ve got this!

  • Corryn

    Thank you for sharing these awesome tips. I’ll be putting these to use as I’m struggling to stay on task in junior year of high school. I like the idea of reading the chapter/section before the teacher goes over it to get a better understanding of what’s going on. I’d love to get on top of my work so I could do that. I realized I had to make a change when I forgot that my American History test is tomorrow and I still haven’t read the last few sections that it covers. Ahh, good job, Corryn. But yeah, thank you. I’m going to get started on studying!

  • You’re most welcome, and thanks!

  • Thank you so much for your comment! I’m so glad that you see a way to incorporate these into your high school career, as they are definitely important! I’m working on some posts geared towards high schoolers now that will go up in the next few weeks! I’ve been gone for the past month and a half getting over mono, but I’ll have new posts starting next week! Thanks again for stopping by!

  • Wow! These tips are so useful, and YES! They do make a difference! I’m not yet in college, but these tips are sure useful in high school as well! Thank you so much! 🙂

  • Thank you, Colleen! I went to tutoring my first semester of freshman year, but didn’t utilize office hours until second semester. It honestly kind of freaked me out a little to be one on one with my professor until I realized that when I walked in having already reviewed the material with a list of questions in hand, they were more than happy to spend time helping me so that I could be successful in their class.

  • Thank you so much, Liv. I will also forget things if I don’t write them down, I actually have friends and family that wait for me to enter things in my planner before they continue with a conversation with me. First semester I totally didn’t get how important the syllabi was, then once second semester rolled around they were my best friends. It is your guide to doing well and being successful in the course! Such a useful tool! I actually have even had several professors give “Syllabus Quizzes” to make sure that we had read them.

  • I definitely needed a change in study habits from high school when I started college! These are all great tips. My high school actually required us to set yearly and quarterly goals, and I totally didn’t understand the importance of goals then, but now I utilize them to improve each semester! Also, I was never one to go to office hours freshman year, but during my sophomore year I definitely started using those out of class learning opportunities, and it made a huge difference. Most of my professors were super helpful when I met them outside of class, and it also gives you more of a personal professional connection, which is always a good thing. Great post!

  • Great post, Megan! I utilize all of these tips and they make SUCH a difference. I definitely have to schedule out my study time and make to-do lists, because if I don’t write something down, I’ll usually forget it. And I agree about syllabi being SO helpful- it was never that important in high school, but in college, it’s like the guidebook to the semester!