Since I began college, I have noticed countless articles and videos about “X Amount of Things I Wish I Knew Before College.” These get thousands of views and shares, but they usually focus on basic skills that every person should learn, like laundry and looking people in the eye during a conversation. These skills are no doubt important, but they aren’t skills that will benefit college students in particular; they clearly weren’t written with college-bound students in mind. So I’ve made a small list of what every student, no matter how young or old, should learn in order to do their best in school.
1. Your learning style
Your learning style is so important, and I believe it’s the foundation of doing well academically. A learning style is basically what way(s) you individually like to learn. There are visual learners (like myself), auditory learners, and kinesthetic learners (sometimes called tactile learners). It is also possible to have a dominant learning style, with another style as a sort of backup. Knowing your learning style can help you figure out the most effective ways to study, take notes, and more. Ultimately, it will help you throughout your academic years, and depending on your career choice, beyond that. You can find plenty of information on learning styles online, such as quizzes like the one offered by educationplanner.org.
2. How to take notes
Knowing your learning style can help you master the art of notetaking, but the two are not necessarily linked together. There are tons of ways to take notes, whether it’s on a computer or tablet, in a notebook or on loose-leaf paper. You can use the Cornell Notes method, write in outline form, use bullets, or whatever form you like. The key to this is figuring in out what method works best for you as a student, but make sure it falls within the policy of your professor or school! Another key factor of learning to take better notes is consistency. Whether it's taking notes the same way across classes or having a specific style for each class, be consistent for the sake of your study sessions later.
3. How to stay organized
Organization is key in school. If you’re not organized already, you need to get organized right now! Purge or give away the stuff you don’t need or use; otherwise it literally just takes up space. Give the remaining stuff in your room or dorm a designated place; otherwise it still just takes up space. And use a planner or notebook to keep yourself organized. I don’t know how I ever managed to juggle a part-time job and full-time class load without a planner; now I can’t live without it, and I feel so much better about my busy life. If you personally don’t like the whole pen and paper thing, feel free to use a planner app on your phone, but be sure to check reviews on how other people like them.
While these three elements of your academic life won’t solve all your problems, they will absolutely make it a lot easier. Understanding how you learn best, being meticulous with your notetaking, and keeping yourself organized will ease the stress of your course load and let you enjoy college for all it has to offer both inside and outside the classroom.
For more tips and advice that’ll help you take charge of your learning read more blogs and articles in our Majors and Academics section.