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College Essentials: 5 Study Tools to Master

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Your degree of consistency, conviction, and orderliness can change the dynamic of your success at college. To progress from high school where lower levels of expectation are met into college, a place of high stakes and accountability, it requires a change in your state of mind and habits. Therefore, it is important to familiarize yourself with ways that enable you to grasp the processes of higher learning.

There are several elements of college-level study to which you should acquaint yourself with or improve upon. Below are five examples, coupled with “how-to” methods, to assist you in understanding how these concepts will help you in your future study life at college.

5 Study Tools

1. Concentration

Concentration is the “action or power of focusing one’s attention or mental effort.” Optimal concentration is the foundation that you must lay for all the other study elements to fall into place. With poor concentration, you will not be able to appreciate principle ideas, apply them, remember them, care about learning them, and when it comes time to test on these ideas or present them in a manner worthy of a grade, you’ll only get poor results and added stress. Concentrate.

When Studying: Eliminate distractions and create a quiet and moderately comfortable study environment.

2. Listening & Note Taking

A large percentage of college-level learning is through professor lectures. The amount of information that can be shared to a student body in a two-hour span of time through a lecture can be so concentrated with facts or enlightenment, it is improbable that anyone would be able to retain it all. However, that doesn’t negate your responsibility as the student to be especially vigilant. In situations such as lectures, note-taking is essential because you are recording the information as it comes to you so when you forget it, as the next wave of information takes its place, you’ll have a reference.

When In Class: Make sure all previous reading and/or homework assignments are completed. Review homework and previous notes before attending class. During the lecture, maintain eye contact with the professor to sustain a healthy level of concentration.

Additionally, take notes. Research has shown that higher achieving students take more notes than their classmates. Hear and record main ideas, definitions and examples. Tune your observations to the speaker’s verbal and non-verbal signals of when they are making a key point. After class, it is best to edit your notes in order to organize them into a legible and efficient reference.

3. Improving Memory

Your ability to memorize is subject to your concentration level, as I mentioned previously. Information to be memorized comes in two forms: general memorization and verbatim memorization. General memorization categorizes information in terms of understanding and retaining broad concepts and principle ideas. Verbatim memorization categorizes information in terms of specific words, definitions, formulas, sequences, etc. The brain prioritizes the information it receives by order of value or relevance. In whole, for both forms of memory, general and verbatim, it is crucial that your knowledge base of the subject’s basic values increases and that you are able to form some sort of connection with the information you are receiving.

When Studying: Short, profuse study sessions are more recommended than long, in-depth sessions. Your brain can only retain a certain amount of information. Create for each piece, mental associations that will help you make connections.

4. Highlighting

So much of the classroom process at college is through reading material in which a highlighter is most necessary. It is recommended that you highlight as opposed to underlining. Visually, highlighting is easier to read through and spot.

When Studying: Read through the material and highlight by structuring the main points followed by pertinent details for each point. Look for definitions, examples, bullet items, and important phrases. Also, introductory and concluding paragraphs often summarize central ideas that would be worth marking.

5. Time Management

Your time and how you manage it is like how an investor on Wall Street manages his investments. If he invests poorly or irresponsibly, he’ll risk a loss. When you procrastinate or abuse your time at college, you run the risk of a failure or crash.

When Studying: It is best to create a study schedule for each week, broken down into 24 hour days and then by hour. Pencil in each class, lecture, social event, work, sleep, etc., and allot a period of study in between those blocks of time. Having a tangible schedule can help visualize your week, day and hour to allow for an appropriate amount of study time.


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Tara Brooks almost 9 years ago Tara Brooks


Carlene, Thank you for your excellent, added insight!

Carleen McGillick almost 9 years ago Carleen McGillick


Different students inevitably handle the transition to college as well as the demands of college in different, varied ways. But it looks like, in this blog post, you’ve pinpointed approaches to academics that would benefit many different types of students if implemented. As you noted, consistency, conviction and orderliness are certainly essential attributes of a successful college student. From my own experiences and observations, I would add to this list a strong work ethic, a sense of responsibility, goal-mindedness and dedication. The five “study tools” that you described should definitely be a part of every student’s “toolbox.” With many distractions and diversions such as TV, video games, fun Web sites and other activities so readily available to college students, concentration, focus and attentiveness are crucial. Actively listening in class, taking notes, highlighting key points, and improving memory are all highly beneficial study skills for college students to master. College coursework is very challenging and the students must delve much deeper into the content than they did in high school, so students need to adapt to a new type of learning. Finally, as you said, time management is closely linked to success. Students must prioritize and spend appropriate amounts of time on each of their many tasks and obligations. Success in college requires a student to combine and utilize all of these strategies simultaneously.