Finding the best way to study that works for you in college is hard. I’m a first semester junior at the time of publishing this post and it took me about a year into my college experience to find what truly worked for me. And if I’m being honest, I continue to find study methods that work best for me as I continue on my journey through college. In fact, it’s become a joke between a few friends of mine that we will finally know the perfect way to study for us our last semester senior year right before our graduation. Because that’s how everything seems to work, right? But in all seriousness, studying is hard. I think with two years of college under my belt now I have some tips that hopefully you can find useful and that can be added to your study routine as well.
Read the chapters before class
There is a reason your professor put those readings on the syllabus, typically the lecture will also cover the topics or the professor will add on their own thoughts to the text. Either way, it’s important that you have these readings done before you enter the class room. That way, the topic is already fresh in your mind and you will have an idea as to what the professor is talking about. The class that reading the text was most helpful to me was in my business law class. The professor had written the book and was very adamant that while a case could go either way, in his class there were right answers to how the cases should end. Going in to the lecture prepared and knowing what he expected from reading the text beforehand helped me so much in getting through the class successfully.
Make a list of questions before class
In addition to reading the chapters before class, I also think it’s important to make a list of questions before you go to class. Doing this gets you thinking about the topic before class and makes you more engaged during the class. The best class that I’ve done this for was my accounting class. There were several times while reading the text before class I didn’t understand the differences between several terms or formulas and by writing our questions about the topics before class I caught the information in the lecture and understood it. This is hands down one of the best things I’ve implemented into my study routine in college. I highly recommend if you take anything away from this post, let it be this tip. Now I even go into tutoring and study groups with a list of questions because it has helped me so much.
Go to study groups and study sessions
After my high school experience in a study group where classmates just wanted my notes because they knew they were good and I got nothing out of it, I went into college with a sour taste in my mouth about pursuing study groups. I actually never went to one my freshman year and now I completely regret that. I’ve had a much better experience in study groups in college. In fact, study groups is where I learned to write out questions before class. Now, my planner is filled with dates to go to different study groups. Working with people that are hard-working but have a different mindset than me has benefitted me in more ways than I can list. While those that have to help me learn different math concepts might not like helping me through a math problem (math is the hardest subject for me) I always seem to make it up to them by trading off notes for a different class with them.
Go to office hours
Talking to your professor or TA face to face is extremely beneficial. In fact, I highly recommend taking the time the first week of classes to go to office hours and introduce yourself to your professors. If you continue to go through the semester and regularly go to office hours, your professors will be a huge help for you. When I ended up with mono fall of my sophomore year, I had already developed relationships with my professors. When I went to them to say that I was sick, but was still going to work my hardest to get through my classes, many of them granted me the ability to turn in work late if I let them know. In fact, the professor who is known for being one of the toughest professors in his department noticed that I was still at every class and granted me to opportunity to switch up due dates if I needed to (I literally looked like walking death for 6 weeks. It wasn’t pretty).
Write things out again if you don’t understand them using computer paper or a dry-erase board
If I ever struggle with understanding a concept I always pull out a piece of computer paper or my dry erase board and write it over and over again. Repetition is huge for me and grasping concepts. Whether it is a math problem I can’t master or a definition I can’t seem to get right, writing it over and over again seems to really help it stick in my mind.
Rewrite class notes by hand
I’ve always had a 5 subject notebook to take all of my class notes in and separate one subject note books for each class to rewrite my class notes in. As I said above, repetition is huge for me. I always highly recommend that you rewrite notes by hand rather than on your computer. Studies actually say that hand writing something is just as effective as reading it seven times.
Share notes with friends
If you happen to know someone who is good at taking notes like you are, ask them if they would be willing to swap notebooks with you so that you can gain information from each other. Sometimes other people will catch concepts from a lecture that you might have completely missed or just a simple definition that you missed because you were writing something else down. It’s always good to have someone to rely on that you can match you notes to and even if your notes are basically the same, at least you have a sense of peace that you caught all of the important concepts from the lectures.
Use your professor’s online resources
The number of people that don’t look through Blackboard to find resources from the professors completely amazes me. Many professors will post lecture notes, Power Point slides, study guides, and even practice tests from previous semesters to help you study. I can’t emphasize enough how important it is to use these benefits and use them to your best benefit. Sometimes I’ve found that the professor pulls a question or two from the notes and practice tests posted online and seeing the test format beforehand definitely helps to ease any test anxiety you might have.
Create your own study hours
If you aren’t a morning person, don’t say you will study from 6:30-9:30am and if you aren’t a night person, don’t say you will study from 10pm-midnight, but find study times that will work for you when you are in your best element. For example, I always have class until noon or 1pm and after that I have the majority of my afternoon free until I go to work or organization meetings in the evening. To get my mind off of school I always work out after my last class of the day gets out then I dive into homework and studying for the day. I’ve found that I work the best in late afternoon on school stuff so that way I have my evenings for organizations, friends, and blogging. It’s the perfect balance for me and now it’s all about finding the perfect balance for you!
Now that I’ve shared my best intense study tips, I’d love you know what your best study tips are in the comments below.