I never really learned how to study in high school. Most of the time all I needed to do was a cursory review of my textbook and notes and I was ready for every exam.
College, as a result, was a shock for me. Most learning doesn’t actually take place in the college classroom. Instead you’re supposed to complete all of your studying outside of the classroom, and take advantage of class time to clarify or more fully explore what you’ve learned.
It was a difficult transition to adjust to. I spent countless hours rereading and rewriting my notes in hope that I would suddenly understand and memorize everything. But it felt hopeless.
So halfway through my first semester I decided I had to get serious about studying. Here are a few things that helped me keep up my GPA.
1) Demand Study Time
It’s hard to make yourself study, but that’s what you’ve got to do. Just 30 minutes of focused, undistracted study time is usually better than 3 hours of studying when you’re constantly being interrupted by text messages, emails, and visiting friends. So find a spot where you can isolate yourself, maybe a new coffee shop that you’ve never set foot in before or an out of the way lounge on campus, and just focus on studying.
2) Study After Class
The best time to study material is right after the class has finished reviewing it, when the lecture is still fresh in your mind. Reviewing your notes then, even if it’s just a quick 5 minute look, can clarify what was important and help you remember the key lecture points.
3) Do the Reading before Class
Entering the classroom with a fresh, blank mind isn’t a good idea. You won’t understand a single topic that is discussed and you’ll waste time writing down basic material instead of focusing on and learning the more complicated information. So do the reading. If you don’t have time to do it the day of class, do it a week ahead of time and take a few refresher notes to review right before the class. That way you’ll understand the basic premises that your professor is discussing and you can focus on understanding them better or learning materials that were not discussed in the textbook.
4) Don’t Procrastinate
Don’t wait until the day before to start studying for your three tests. Start at least a week ahead of time, so that you’re just reviewing what you’ve already studied on that day. You’ve probably heard this a million times, but putting something off only makes it more work.
5) Find your Trick
If you’re a visual learner, don’t waste hours peering at your written notes. Read them over once or twice and then focus your study time on the visual materials you have available, such as class videos and photographs. It might also help to add visual cues to the textual material. So, when you make flashcards don’t just write out the words, instead draw a symbol or picture to help you remember. As a very textual learner myself, I tend to learn better when I create associations between words. Therefore, I use a lot of acronyms to help me recall the important material. So find your own memory tricks to help you learn.