Originally Posted: May 16, 2016
Last Updated: May 17, 2016
When you first enter college, academic life may seem easier: you don’t have to wake up early for six hours of class every day, and there’s no one nagging you about doing your school work. One of the best parts of college is being able to freely create your own schedule and pursue your own interests without the rigid rules and structure of high school.
However, with great freedom comes great responsibility, and every student will have to learn the art of studying and time management at some point in their college career. Use these tips to get ahead of the curve.
Look at the syllabus ahead of time and plan accordingly
Unlike high school, college professors will usually have their class already planned for the semester with all the assigned readings or problems listed ahead of time so there are no surprises. Often, you’ll be expected to do these readings and problems before class so you will better understand the lecture and participate in the discussion. Looking ahead at each class’s syllabus also allows you to plan your social events, work, etc. around the amount of work you have.
While reading, make annotations and notes on a separate piece of paper
Whether they are a STEM major or in the humanities, every college student will be expected to read a lot of information and understand it in a short period of time. While reading, it is best to make annotations directly on the reading itself. These annotations may include notable underlined quotes, a quick summary of what you just read, or definitions of words you don’t understand. In addition, it also helpful to write longer notes of what you just read on a separate piece of paper. Although this is tedious, taking the time to summarize what you just read will cement the knowledge in your brain—much better than just reading the material quickly once.
Review your class notes at the end of each week
Reviewing notes at the end of the week will make sure you truly understand what you just learned and allow you to synthesize and connect all the concepts. It also gives you the chance to see if everything you wrote makes sense; we’ve all gone through our notes that we wrote many class sessions ago only to find that we have no idea what we were talking about earlier. Reviewing notes early prevents you from cramming an entire quarter or semester’s worth of notes at the last minute.
Practice working through problems without your notes first, then look to them for reference
When you first learn a concept, it might make sense and the problem may seem relatively easy because everything is fresh in your mind. And it can be tempting to whiz through, say, a problem set using the in-class notes you just took and then be finished, but many students often find that they quickly forget a just-learned concept once new material rolls in.
It is helpful to study your notes first, close them, and come back to the problem a bit later and do as much as you can without referencing them. After that, then you should review your notes to see if you’ve made any mistakes. Following this habit can also help you prepare for future tests
Sleep and eat well—consistently
No matter how many times students are reminded to sleep and eat right, this advice often gets pushed aside in college. After all, what’s more fun: ordering an extra cheese pizza with your friends at 2:30 in the morning or going to sleep at 10 after a sensible dinner? But taking care of your health in college is essential to doing your best in the classroom (not to mention feeling good outside of it). Eating well will give your body the energy to focus and perform well in studies. Sleeping proper hours, especially before a test, will allow your brain to process and synthesize all the concepts coherently. Studies show that people who get quality sleep right after studying will recall things better than people who don’t. After all the hard work, treat your body and brain to some well-deserved rest!