Whether you’re starting your first semester of college or returning for another year, you’ve probably spent some time thinking about how to succeed in your classes.
There are many different approaches to studying — our minds learn so differently that there couldn’t possibly be a one-way-fits-all method.
Therefore, it can take some trial and error to figure out what study practices work best for you. Here are a few study skills to get you headed in the right direction.
Set Attainable Goals
When planning the time you’ll spend studying, take into account that you might have internal and external distractions, like getting hungry or receiving a phone call. The chances of one of these distractions happening will increase the longer you spend studying, so don’t try to do all your studying for all your classes in one 8-hour period on Sunday night. Disperse your study time throughout the week and give yourself a set number of pages to read, a specific number of problems to solve, or a portion of an essay to write. Setting small goals is a good way to make progress on big assignments and makes tackling important reading and writing projects less intimidating.
Give Yourself Time
The rule of thumb for time you should spend studying is between 2 to 3 hours outside of class for each hour spent in class. That may seem like a lot, but allotting this much time, or as close to this much time as possible, can give you time to go over your class syllabus and check off each subject you need to review. When you try to rush through studying and homework and don’t give yourself any wiggle room, chances are you will miss something. Give yourself time to hit small roadblocks and work through them until you get a better understanding of the topic. Write down any questions you have to make sure they get answered while you study and, if they don’t, ask them later in class or shoot your teacher an email.
There’s something a little jarring about walking into an exam and having a series of questions laid out in front of you. The room is quiet and your class grade is at stake, which can cause a lot of nervousness and anxiety. This has the potential to psych students out and ultimately distract you from what the test is all about — which is whether or not you know the material. Some teachers recognize this and the difficulty of decision making when it comes to tests and will provide practice exams for students to get comfortable with the material in an exam setting. If they don’t, write down a few problems or questions from an assignment and see how well you can answer them without looking at your notes. This gives you an idea of the areas where you can study more and improve.
Study With Peers
Other students can offer a lot of perspective on the subjects you’re studying in class. Hearing your classmates talk about the areas they’re struggling with and their process for working through them can get your gears turning and help you understand the subject in a different way than your teacher explained it. However, it can be easy to get distracted when studying with peers and for study sessions to turn into hang-out sessions with your books open in front of you. If this happens (it probably will), don’t get discouraged. Try to reel the conversation back to the topic you’re studying because you all know that’s what you’re there to do.
Communicate With Your Teachers
Professors can be a little intimidating, but it’s their job to help you succeed. If there’s an area or concept you’re struggling with, reach out to them and see what resources they can provide to you. If you give yourself time to study and hit these roadblocks, it shows them that you’re trying to understand the material and that you’re concentrated on learning, which is all they really ask. Send them an email or visit them during office hours. If anyone can help you understand a difficult subject, it’s your teacher, and they want to help students who want to help themselves. They can set you up with a tutor, or if they have time, can even walk you through it one-on-one.
There are many different ways to learn material and it takes time to find the ways that work best for each individual. Setting goals and giving yourself time to achieve them is a great start to a good semester. Quiz yourself to keep track of your progress and the areas you still need to focus on, and study with peers to help you consider new perspectives. Make sure to ask for extra help from your teachers if you need it and take solace in knowing they appreciate your effort. Asking questions helps you learn, and that’s what college is for.