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Effective Study Habits for College Students

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Most college websites and brochures feature photos of solemn-looking students hunched over their textbooks at desks in the library. Maybe those shots are taken so students’ parents can imagine their son or daughter as a scholar, because in reality most college students stay up until 5 AM with a pot of coffee, cramming for the exam that they have to take at 8:30.

Pulling all-nighters is nothing new—your parents probably did it back when they were in college, even though they won’t admit to it these days— but it’s definitely not the most effective study method out there.

The difference between high school and college courses is a shocker to a lot of college freshmen. Not only are there very few assignments, causing exams to make up most of your overall grade, professors tend to “forget” to remind everyone that there’s a test coming up. Their first exam grade is often a real eye-opener to freshmen who quickly developed a passion for parties as soon as they arrived on campus, but if you learn how to study effectively, you’ll thank yourself later.

Go to Class Regularly

It’s one thing to miss a class because you were sick, but if you constantly skip classes because you were tired or just didn’t feel like going, you’ll miss out on lectures and possibly handouts. Even if someone lets you borrow their notes later, you probably won’t understand things as well as you would have if you’d been sitting in class yourself.

Know Your Study Style

Do you remember things by seeing them in print or on a computer screen? If so, you’re probably a visual learner. Auditory learners, on the other hand, learn best by hearing things.

Visual learners might want to make flashcards or rewrite their own notes when they study; auditory learners might benefit from reciting facts out loud or reading things to a study partner.

Find a Good Place to Study

Studying in your dorm room is definitely convenient, but it’s also full of potential distractions—one of which may be your roommate. If you’re unable to keep your eyes on your notes and books because of your phone, TV, or the noisy neighbors next door, do yourself a favor and go somewhere else to study. There’s always the library, but some students are able to study in coffee shops or large bookstores such as Barnes and Noble. It depends on whether or not you need absolute silence to concentrate, and if you are an auditory learner that has to recite things out loud, you might get some funny looks out in public.

Mange Your Study Time Wisely

Create a study schedule that you can actually stick to, and if possible, study in the same place each time— your dorm might actually be a good spot if your roommate’s out and there’s no one around to distract you.

Studying during daylight hours is usually more beneficial than studying late at night.

Give yourself enough time to properly prepare for exams. That’s easier said than done, but cramming for five hours the night before a test often backfires. If you waited until the last minute to prep for a test and that’s your only option, take a lot of breaks. Get up and stretch every hour or so.

Take Advantage of Review Sessions

Some professors hold optional review sessions before exams. Use these to your advantage. Go, take notes, and ask questions—there’s no such thing as a dumb question, especially when it’s time to study for an exam. Get involved in discussions.

Don’t be Embarrassed to Get a Tutor

Colleges have study centers and peer tutors for a reason—people need them. A lot of freshmen are afraid to ask for help because they don’t want to “look dumb.” Failing a test because you didn’t want to ask for help is what’s dumb.

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Melissa Rhone+

Melissa Rhone earned her Bachelor of Music in Education from the University of Tampa. She resides in the Tampa Bay area and enjoys writing about college, pop culture, and epilepsy awareness.


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