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Top 10 Study Tips to Study Like a Harvard Student

Adjusting to a demanding college workload might be a challenge, but these 10 study tips can help you stay prepared and focused.

Lian Parsons

The introduction to a new college curriculum can seem overwhelming, but optimizing your study habits can boost your confidence and success both in and out of the classroom. 

Transitioning from high school to the rigor of college studies can be overwhelming for many students, and finding the best way to study with a new course load can seem like a daunting process. 

Effective study methods work because they engage multiple ways of learning. As Jessie Schwab, psychologist and preceptor at the Harvard College Writing Program, points out, we tend to misjudge our own learning. Being able to recite memorized information is not the same as actually retaining it. 

“One thing we know from decades of cognitive science research is that learners are often bad judges of their own learning,” says Schwab. “Memorization seems like learning, but in reality, we probably haven’t deeply processed that information enough for us to remember it days—or even hours—later.”

Planning ahead and finding support along the way are essential to your success in college. This blog will offer study tips and strategies to help you survive (and thrive!) in your first college class. 

1. Don’t Cram! 

It might be tempting to leave all your studying for that big exam up until the last minute, but research suggests that cramming does not improve longer term learning. 

Students may perform well on a test for which they’ve crammed, but that doesn’t mean they’ve truly learned the material, says an article from the American Psychological Association . Instead of cramming, studies have shown that studying with the goal of long-term retention is best for learning overall.   

2. Plan Ahead—and Stick To It! 

Having a study plan with set goals can help you feel more prepared and can give you a roadmap to follow. Schwab said procrastination is one mistake that students often make when transitioning to a university-level course load. 

“Oftentimes, students are used to less intensive workloads in high school, so one of my biggest pieces of advice is don’t cram,” says Schwab. “Set yourself a study schedule ahead of time and stick to it.”

3. Ask for Help

You don’t have to struggle through difficult material on your own. Many students are not used to seeking help while in high school, but seeking extra support is common in college.

As our guide to pursuing a biology major explains, “Be proactive about identifying areas where you need assistance and seek out that assistance immediately. The longer you wait, the more difficult it becomes to catch up.”

There are multiple resources to help you, including your professors, tutors, and fellow classmates. Harvard’s Academic Resource Center offers academic coaching, workshops, peer tutoring, and accountability hours for students to keep you on track.  

4. Use the Buddy System 

Your fellow students are likely going through the same struggles that you are. Reach out to classmates and form a study group to go over material together, brainstorm, and to support each other through challenges.

Having other people to study with means you can explain the material to one another, quiz each other, and build a network you can rely on throughout the rest of the class—and beyond. 

5. Find Your Learning Style

It might take a bit of time (and trial and error!) to figure out what study methods work best for you. There are a variety of ways to test your knowledge beyond simply reviewing your notes or flashcards. 

Schwab recommends trying different strategies through the process of metacognition. Metacognition involves thinking about your own cognitive processes and can help you figure out what study methods are most effective for you. 

Schwab suggests practicing the following steps:

  • Before you start to read a new chapter or watch a lecture, review what you already know about the topic and what you’re expecting to learn.
  • As you read or listen, take additional notes about new information, such as related topics the material reminds you of or potential connections to other courses. Also note down questions you have.
  • Afterward, try to summarize what you’ve learned and seek out answers to your remaining questions. 

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6. Take Breaks

The brain can only absorb so much information at a time. According to the National Institutes of Health , research has shown that taking breaks in between study sessions boosts retention. 

Studies have shown that wakeful rest plays just as important a role as practice in learning a new skill. Rest allows our brains to compress and consolidate memories of what we just practiced. 

Make sure that you are allowing enough time, relaxation, and sleep between study sessions so your brain will be refreshed and ready to accept new information.

7. Cultivate a Productive Space

Where you study can be just as important as how you study. 

Find a space that is free of distractions and has all the materials and supplies you need on hand. Eat a snack and have a water bottle close by so you’re properly fueled for your study session. 

8. Reward Yourself

Studying can be mentally and emotionally exhausting and keeping your stamina up can be challenging.

Studies have shown that giving yourself a reward during your work can increase the enjoyment and interest in a given task.

According to an article for Science Daily , studies have shown small rewards throughout the process can help keep up motivation, rather than saving it all until the end. 

Next time you finish a particularly challenging study session, treat yourself to an ice cream or  an episode of your favorite show.

9. Review, Review, Review

Practicing the information you’ve learned is the best way to retain information. 

Researchers Elizabeth and Robert Bjork have argued that “desirable difficulties” can enhance learning. For example, testing yourself with flashcards is a more difficult process than simply reading a textbook, but will lead to better long-term learning. 

“One common analogy is weightlifting—you have to actually “exercise those muscles” in order to ultimately strengthen your memories,” adds Schwab.

10. Set Specific Goals

Setting specific goals along the way of your studying journey can show how much progress you’ve made. Psychology Today recommends using the SMART method:

  • Specific: Set specific goals with an actionable plan, such as “I will study every day between 2 and 4 p.m. at the library.”  
  • Measurable: Plan to study a certain number of hours or raise your exam score by a certain percent to give you a measurable benchmark.
  • Realistic: It’s important that your goals be realistic so you don’t get discouraged. For example, if you currently study two hours per week, increase the time you spend to three or four hours rather than 10.
  • Time-specific: Keep your goals consistent with your academic calendar and your other responsibilities.

Using a handful of these study tips can ensure that you’re getting the most out of the material in your classes and help set you up for success for the rest of your academic career and beyond. 

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About the Author

Lian Parsons is a Boston-based writer and journalist. She is currently a digital content producer at Harvard’s Division of Continuing Education. Her bylines can be found at the Harvard Gazette, Boston Art Review, Radcliffe Magazine, Experience Magazine, and iPondr.

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How to Develop Good Study Habits for College

Last Updated: June 21, 2023 Fact Checked

This article was co-authored by Ted Dorsey, MA . Ted Dorsey is a Test Prep Tutor, author, and founder of Tutor Ted, an SAT and ACT tutoring service based in Southern California. Ted earned a perfect score on the SAT (1600) and PSAT (240) in high school. Since then, he has earned perfect scores on the ACT (36), SAT Subject Test in Literature (800), and SAT Subject Test in Math Level 2 (800). He has a BA in English from Princeton University and a MA in Education from the University of California, Los Angeles. There are 8 references cited in this article, which can be found at the bottom of the page. This article has been fact-checked, ensuring the accuracy of any cited facts and confirming the authority of its sources. This article has been viewed 816,473 times.

Effective studying is critical to success in college, and many new college students quickly find that their prior study habits need major adjustments. To begin making the change, find a quiet, organized space to study. Study with a positive attitude and specific goals in mind. If you need help, there's no shame in asking. Your professors and peers are there to help you learn. You can develop excellent habits that help you navigate the difficulties of college.

Getting Organized to Study

Step 1 Create a dedicated study space.

  • Pick a place that's quiet and distraction free. The basement of your dorm may not be a good choice if it's a common place for socializing, but you could instead study at your desk in your dorm room.

Step 2 Find a regular time for studying.

  • You can study during gaps between classes or in the evening after your classes are done for the day.
  • In addition to finding times that work, find times when you're naturally more energetic. If you tend to get sleepy in the afternoon, do something relaxing for yourself around two o'clock and schedule study time sometime after dinner.

Step 3 Organize your materials.

  • It can help to stop by a local office supplies store to get things like notebooks, pencil boxes, and other storage contraptions to keep yourself organized.

Step 4 Eliminate distractions.

  • Keep other distracting material, such as outside reading, away from your study area.
  • If you go out of your dorm or apartment to study, do not take anything potentially distracting. Stick to your school supplies only and leave things like your iPod at home. However, if you are studying in a noisy place, you may want to bring your headphones if music helps you focus.

Step 5 Figure out your needs via trial and error.

  • For example, study in your dorm one day and a coffee shop the next day. Take note of which place you feel the most relaxed and engaged and make a habit of studying there regularly.

Using Good Study Techniques

Step 1 Create one goal for each session.

  • For example, if you're studying for a math final, focus on one concept each day. You can study multiplication one day and things like division the next.
  • You can also set goals based on days of the week. Focus on your math and science courses on Mondays and Wednesdays and your humanities courses on Thursdays and Fridays, for example.

Step 2 Start with difficult material first.

  • For example, if you're really struggling understanding a concept for a philosophy class, study your notes and reading on that concept first. Then, you can move on to easier topics.

Step 3 Rewrite your notes....

  • For example, a well known memory device is Kings Play Cards On Flat Green Stools, used to help you remember the taxonomy order used to classify species (Kingdom, Phylum, Class, Order, Family, Genus, Species).
  • You can also use visualization. For example, you're trying to remember Jeanette Rankin was the first woman to serve in Congress and you have an Aunt Jeanette. Picture your Aunt Jeanette talking on the floor of Congress to help you remember.

Step 5 Take breaks.

  • Set a timer to make sure you're on task. You don't want to study for too long, leading to frustration, or take a long break, which can ruin your concentration.

Step 6 Study with a positive attitude.

  • Studying can be stressful, and it's important to address and challenge stressful thoughts. For example, don't think, "I'm a mess. I'm never going to understand this." Instead think, "I'm sure if I work a little each day, I can figure out this material."

Step 7 Give yourself rewards.

  • For example, agree that if you study for three hours, you can go to the cafeteria and have something like ice cream or pizza for a treat.

Seeking Outside Resources

Step 1 Refer to your syllabus as needed.

  • For example, say you've been getting frustrated memorizing the years of major scientific breakthroughs for a science course. The syllabus says the goals of the course are to help you gain a better understanding of scientific theory. It's more important for you to understand the overarching theories than know the exact dates.

Step 2 Form a study group.

  • Choose the right peers. If your study group is made up of friends, studying may turn into socializing fast. Pick good students who are genuinely engaged in class.
  • Bounce off one another's strengths. If a classmate is confused on a subject you're skilled at, and does well in an area that confuses you, they would make a good partner. The two of you can help one another out.

Step 3 Go to your professors with questions.

  • Your professor's office hours should be stated on their green sheet, which they handed out at the beginning of the semester.
  • When e-mailing your professor, state your class day and time in the subject header. Professors often teach more than one class.

Step 4 Go to review sessions if they are offered.

  • If your teacher does not offer a review session, ask them if they are willing to do it. If enough students are interested in a review session, they may create one.

Step 5 Use a tutor.

  • Not all tutors advertise in the tutoring center on college campuses. Some tutors post their fliers on the school bulletin board, alongside other fliers for housing and textbook sales.
  • If you cannot find any tutors, ask your classmates. Some of them may be willing to help you before or after class, and not all of them will charge a fee.

Study Schedule Template

study habits for college

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Create Good Study Habits for Exams

  • ↑ https://usq.pressbooks.pub/academicsuccess/chapter/study-space/
  • ↑ https://www.ecpi.edu/blog/top-10-effective-study-habits-college-students
  • ↑ http://www.educationcorner.com/habits-of-successful-students.html
  • ↑ https://psychcentral.com/health/highly-effective-study-habits
  • ↑ https://psychcentral.com/health/highly-effective-study-habits#positive-study-habits
  • ↑ https://psychcentral.com/lib/top-10-most-effective-study-habits/
  • ↑ https://learningcenter.unc.edu/tips-and-tools/changing-habits/
  • ↑ https://learningcenter.unc.edu/tips-and-tools/study-partners/

About This Article

Ted Dorsey, MA

To develop good study habits for college, find a quiet, dedicated space and create a consistent study schedule for yourself. Make sure you have everything you need to study at your space and eliminate all distractions, like your smartphone, while you're reviewing your materials. Figure out what topics are most pressing before each study session and try to tackle the hardest stuff first to make the most efficient use of your time. For tips on forming an effective study group with your classmates, read on! Did this summary help you? Yes No

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16 Study Tips for College: Building good study habits to succeed

College is an exciting and life-changing experience. It may be the first time you’ll be living on your own, and it’s a fantastic opportunity to make friends, meet new people, and learn about your interests both personally and professionally. However, adjusting to college life can be overwhelming – and figuring out a solid study routine is no exception! Take a look at these study tips for college to help you succeed.

How To Find the Most Effective Study Habits

16 study tips for college:, 1. organization is key, 2. plan ahead, 3. take good notes, 4. find a routine, 5. study with friends, 6. ask for help, 7. teach someone, 8. switch up your study spots, 9. eliminate distractions, 10. don’t cram, 11. memorize vs. understand, 12. review and reorganize your notes, 13. study smarter, not harder, 14. use the reward system, 15. take breaks, 16. be confident about your studies, now that you have a better understanding of these study tips for college, make sure your college writing stays in tip-top shape.

There’s no magic formula or set prescription for how to study effectively…every student is different! You might study well in a library, while your roommate studies better in his or her dorm room. The key is to try out different studying methods – including different study environments – to figure out what works best for YOU.

Student on computer

First, Focus on Preparation.

First and foremost, make sure you get a college planner. This can be a planner with a creative design, a plain notebook, a wall calendar, or even a small dry erase calendar for your desk that changes each month. A wall calendar or desk calendar is best for double-checking appointments, events, and due dates while a notebook planner of some sort will be best for planning on-the-go, wherever you are. This planner will keep you in check when you’re in class or in a meeting with your advisor. 

If digital works better for you (since you can sync it with just about anything – your computer, phone, tablet), think about setting up an agenda on your mobile device. You can set up reminders for test dates, department events, study times, and assignment due dates. Additionally, you can create a study outline on your device in something like Google Docs, Microsoft Word, or another digital format that works for you.

Create a study plan at the beginning of the semester based on your course syllabus. Ideally, you should study a little bit every day throughout the week —even just 20 minutes can make a huge difference—so you don’t wind up cramming and stressing out right before the big exam.

Studying starts in the classroom. Pay attention and take good notes , so when you’re studying later, you’re just reviewing information (instead of learning it for the first time). Speak with your professor about recording lectures on your phone. A recording can complement your notes so you can go back and re-listen to the information in case there are other details you pick up on later to note. Effective note-taking strategies can have a direct impact on your study habits and is one of the most important study tips for college.

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Getting yourself into a study routine is one of the best ways to make sure that studying becomes a part of your everyday habit. Figure out what time of day works best for you and make a real effort to dedicate that time to reviewing notes, videos, and other related resources.

Pick times during the week to try out your studying. You can try studying in the morning on one day, the afternoon another day, and in the evening if that works best for you when there are no distractions at the end of the night. Once you’ve decided which time works best for you, try to stick with that time of day every day (or at least 3 days a week) to get in the habit of studying consistently. You might wind up rearranging your routine due to extracurricular activities, time with friends, and other commitments, but be sure to prioritize your studies and get them done in one way or another.

Teamwork is Essential

Encouraging friends to study with you can make everything more fun and productive! Ask your classmates to study with you at a certain time and location. For example, you can ask your biology colleagues to study with you after class for an hour at the school cafe. You can set up your computers at a table together and grab some snacks and coffee to enjoy the time. 

The same goes for studying with your friends. If you’re not in a class with them, studying together in-person can help you hold each other accountable. When you make plans with friends, you don’t want to be that person who cancels or doesn’t show, right?

If you really don’t understand a concept, ask questions! Stop by your professors’ offices during their office hours, or contact classmates and professors via email. Some classes might even have a Facebook Group to keep students engaged and to create an environment to ask questions outside of class. Either way, your professors will be on your side – nonjudgmental, wanting to help you understand the class in its entirety.

Teaching a friend, family member, or even your pet the material is a great way to see how well you know it! When you explain it to someone else, you’ll have a better grasp of which information you already have mastered and which information you should revisit for yourself. 

You can create a fun PowerPoint or  Google Slides presentation, get creative and present the information in a way that’s easy for you and your audience to understand. Who knows – you might even use that presentation in the future for your classmates!

Student researching study tips for college

Create an Ambiance

Studying in the same spot can get tedious, so why not mix it up and get a new perspective on things? College campuses have tons of study spots for students—from the library to the campus lawn to local cafes (think back to studying with friends and finding an area to set up for an hour or for the day). Take advantage of these study areas, both indoors and outdoors, and give yourself a new view every day!

Studying without distractions is crucial. If you’re studying alone, try to find a quiet space or put headphones in to block out noise from your surroundings. If you’re in an area trying to study and it’s just not working out, relocate. It might be frustrating to have to pick up and move, but it will be worth it once you’re in a good environment. 

Consider putting your phone on silent or vibrate too – you can always respond to your messages after your study session!

How to Approach Studying

While it may seem like a good idea to learn an entire semester’s worth of information in one night, it’s not an effective study habit, and it can cause a lot of unnecessary stress. Instead, study a little bit of information every day for at least 20 – 30 minutes. You’ll likely remember more later and you’ll feel calm and prepared when it comes to exam time.

One of the study tips for college that can make a massive difference in how you approach new information is knowing the difference between memorizing the material and understanding it. Memorizing information isn’t actually learning the information—it’s just helping you learn how to repeat it during a finite time. 

For example, if you’re studying for a Spanish exam and you’re memorizing a conjugated verb chart, remembering what the verbs look like in written form will help you remember the information for that exam. However, you might forget the meanings of the verbs and how to use them in a sentence afterward since it’s a very specific way of studying. This may catch up with you when you take the next level up of Spanish.

Whether you’re using a notebook, a laptop, or good old-fashioned flashcards, reviewing each line of your notes helps ensure that you hit all the right information you reviewed in class and might even remind you of a few things you would have missed otherwise. It’s good to review notes shortly after class, and then again a few days later. This allows you to take a break between edits and come back to the information with a fresh perspective.

Occasionally, college professors will tell you the information that will (or won’t) be on an exam—listen to them! They’re sharing this information with you to save you time so you’re not studying the wrong information for hours, and you can focus on the important points. If you’re unsure about what to focus on while studying, send your professor a quick email to confirm or speak with him or her after class.

Study tips for college

Keep Your Cool

Studying can be draining, so treat yourself for a little motivation. Buy a coffee from your favorite coffee shop or get some study snacks from the campus convenience store. You can also reward yourself by taking breaks for activities you enjoy, like walking, reading, or watching TV. Adding in a reward will give you something fun to work towards.

Continuing from the previous point, taking breaks is important. Breaks give you a boost of productivity, reset, and prevent burnout. It might seem like you need to use all the time you possibly can to study, back-to-back, but your brain will start to slow down if you don’t give it a chance to relax. Taking breaks can help you get the most out of your study time with the least amount of stress.

It might be easy to fall into a trap of stressing yourself out while you’re studying, but that will be counterintuitive in the big picture. You can control when you study and how you study to help prepare you for your exams. After that, you have to be confident and try your best to retain the information. Believing in yourself and trusting that you’ve got this can help you forget about the stress and focus on moving forward.

Check out these additional resources and study tips for college to help you succeed in your college planning and writing:

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Studying 101: Study Smarter Not Harder

Do you ever feel like your study habits simply aren’t cutting it? Do you wonder what you could be doing to perform better in class and on exams? Many students realize that their high school study habits aren’t very effective in college. This is understandable, as college is quite different from high school. The professors are less personally involved, classes are bigger, exams are worth more, reading is more intense, and classes are much more rigorous. That doesn’t mean there’s anything wrong with you; it just means you need to learn some more effective study skills. Fortunately, there are many active, effective study strategies that are shown to be effective in college classes.

This handout offers several tips on effective studying. Implementing these tips into your regular study routine will help you to efficiently and effectively learn course material. Experiment with them and find some that work for you.

Reading is not studying

Simply reading and re-reading texts or notes is not actively engaging in the material. It is simply re-reading your notes. Only ‘doing’ the readings for class is not studying. It is simply doing the reading for class. Re-reading leads to quick forgetting.

Think of reading as an important part of pre-studying, but learning information requires actively engaging in the material (Edwards, 2014). Active engagement is the process of constructing meaning from text that involves making connections to lectures, forming examples, and regulating your own learning (Davis, 2007). Active studying does not mean highlighting or underlining text, re-reading, or rote memorization. Though these activities may help to keep you engaged in the task, they are not considered active studying techniques and are weakly related to improved learning (Mackenzie, 1994).

Ideas for active studying include:

  • Create a study guide by topic. Formulate questions and problems and write complete answers. Create your own quiz.
  • Become a teacher. Say the information aloud in your own words as if you are the instructor and teaching the concepts to a class.
  • Derive examples that relate to your own experiences.
  • Create concept maps or diagrams that explain the material.
  • Develop symbols that represent concepts.
  • For non-technical classes (e.g., English, History, Psychology), figure out the big ideas so you can explain, contrast, and re-evaluate them.
  • For technical classes, work the problems and explain the steps and why they work.
  • Study in terms of question, evidence, and conclusion: What is the question posed by the instructor/author? What is the evidence that they present? What is the conclusion?

Organization and planning will help you to actively study for your courses. When studying for a test, organize your materials first and then begin your active reviewing by topic (Newport, 2007). Often professors provide subtopics on the syllabi. Use them as a guide to help organize your materials. For example, gather all of the materials for one topic (e.g., PowerPoint notes, text book notes, articles, homework, etc.) and put them together in a pile. Label each pile with the topic and study by topics.

For more information on the principle behind active studying, check out our tipsheet on metacognition .

Understand the Study Cycle

The Study Cycle , developed by Frank Christ, breaks down the different parts of studying: previewing, attending class, reviewing, studying, and checking your understanding. Although each step may seem obvious at a glance, all too often students try to take shortcuts and miss opportunities for good learning. For example, you may skip a reading before class because the professor covers the same material in class; doing so misses a key opportunity to learn in different modes (reading and listening) and to benefit from the repetition and distributed practice (see #3 below) that you’ll get from both reading ahead and attending class. Understanding the importance of all stages of this cycle will help make sure you don’t miss opportunities to learn effectively.

Spacing out is good

One of the most impactful learning strategies is “distributed practice”—spacing out your studying over several short periods of time over several days and weeks (Newport, 2007). The most effective practice is to work a short time on each class every day. The total amount of time spent studying will be the same (or less) than one or two marathon library sessions, but you will learn the information more deeply and retain much more for the long term—which will help get you an A on the final. The important thing is how you use your study time, not how long you study. Long study sessions lead to a lack of concentration and thus a lack of learning and retention.

In order to spread out studying over short periods of time across several days and weeks, you need control over your schedule . Keeping a list of tasks to complete on a daily basis will help you to include regular active studying sessions for each class. Try to do something for each class each day. Be specific and realistic regarding how long you plan to spend on each task—you should not have more tasks on your list than you can reasonably complete during the day.

For example, you may do a few problems per day in math rather than all of them the hour before class. In history, you can spend 15-20 minutes each day actively studying your class notes. Thus, your studying time may still be the same length, but rather than only preparing for one class, you will be preparing for all of your classes in short stretches. This will help focus, stay on top of your work, and retain information.

In addition to learning the material more deeply, spacing out your work helps stave off procrastination. Rather than having to face the dreaded project for four hours on Monday, you can face the dreaded project for 30 minutes each day. The shorter, more consistent time to work on a dreaded project is likely to be more acceptable and less likely to be delayed to the last minute. Finally, if you have to memorize material for class (names, dates, formulas), it is best to make flashcards for this material and review periodically throughout the day rather than one long, memorization session (Wissman and Rawson, 2012). See our handout on memorization strategies to learn more.

It’s good to be intense

Not all studying is equal. You will accomplish more if you study intensively. Intensive study sessions are short and will allow you to get work done with minimal wasted effort. Shorter, intensive study times are more effective than drawn out studying.

In fact, one of the most impactful study strategies is distributing studying over multiple sessions (Newport, 2007). Intensive study sessions can last 30 or 45-minute sessions and include active studying strategies. For example, self-testing is an active study strategy that improves the intensity of studying and efficiency of learning. However, planning to spend hours on end self-testing is likely to cause you to become distracted and lose your attention.

On the other hand, if you plan to quiz yourself on the course material for 45 minutes and then take a break, you are much more likely to maintain your attention and retain the information. Furthermore, the shorter, more intense sessions will likely put the pressure on that is needed to prevent procrastination.

Silence isn’t golden

Know where you study best. The silence of a library may not be the best place for you. It’s important to consider what noise environment works best for you. You might find that you concentrate better with some background noise. Some people find that listening to classical music while studying helps them concentrate, while others find this highly distracting. The point is that the silence of the library may be just as distracting (or more) than the noise of a gymnasium. Thus, if silence is distracting, but you prefer to study in the library, try the first or second floors where there is more background ‘buzz.’

Keep in mind that active studying is rarely silent as it often requires saying the material aloud.

Problems are your friend

Working and re-working problems is important for technical courses (e.g., math, economics). Be able to explain the steps of the problems and why they work.

In technical courses, it is usually more important to work problems than read the text (Newport, 2007). In class, write down in detail the practice problems demonstrated by the professor. Annotate each step and ask questions if you are confused. At the very least, record the question and the answer (even if you miss the steps).

When preparing for tests, put together a large list of problems from the course materials and lectures. Work the problems and explain the steps and why they work (Carrier, 2003).

Reconsider multitasking

A significant amount of research indicates that multi-tasking does not improve efficiency and actually negatively affects results (Junco, 2012).

In order to study smarter, not harder, you will need to eliminate distractions during your study sessions. Social media, web browsing, game playing, texting, etc. will severely affect the intensity of your study sessions if you allow them! Research is clear that multi-tasking (e.g., responding to texts, while studying), increases the amount of time needed to learn material and decreases the quality of the learning (Junco, 2012).

Eliminating the distractions will allow you to fully engage during your study sessions. If you don’t need your computer for homework, then don’t use it. Use apps to help you set limits on the amount of time you can spend at certain sites during the day. Turn your phone off. Reward intensive studying with a social-media break (but make sure you time your break!) See our handout on managing technology for more tips and strategies.

Switch up your setting

Find several places to study in and around campus and change up your space if you find that it is no longer a working space for you.

Know when and where you study best. It may be that your focus at 10:00 PM. is not as sharp as at 10:00 AM. Perhaps you are more productive at a coffee shop with background noise, or in the study lounge in your residence hall. Perhaps when you study on your bed, you fall asleep.

Have a variety of places in and around campus that are good study environments for you. That way wherever you are, you can find your perfect study spot. After a while, you might find that your spot is too comfortable and no longer is a good place to study, so it’s time to hop to a new spot!

Become a teacher

Try to explain the material in your own words, as if you are the teacher. You can do this in a study group, with a study partner, or on your own. Saying the material aloud will point out where you are confused and need more information and will help you retain the information. As you are explaining the material, use examples and make connections between concepts (just as a teacher does). It is okay (even encouraged) to do this with your notes in your hands. At first you may need to rely on your notes to explain the material, but eventually you’ll be able to teach it without your notes.

Creating a quiz for yourself will help you to think like your professor. What does your professor want you to know? Quizzing yourself is a highly effective study technique. Make a study guide and carry it with you so you can review the questions and answers periodically throughout the day and across several days. Identify the questions that you don’t know and quiz yourself on only those questions. Say your answers aloud. This will help you to retain the information and make corrections where they are needed. For technical courses, do the sample problems and explain how you got from the question to the answer. Re-do the problems that give you trouble. Learning the material in this way actively engages your brain and will significantly improve your memory (Craik, 1975).

Take control of your calendar

Controlling your schedule and your distractions will help you to accomplish your goals.

If you are in control of your calendar, you will be able to complete your assignments and stay on top of your coursework. The following are steps to getting control of your calendar:

  • On the same day each week, (perhaps Sunday nights or Saturday mornings) plan out your schedule for the week.
  • Go through each class and write down what you’d like to get completed for each class that week.
  • Look at your calendar and determine how many hours you have to complete your work.
  • Determine whether your list can be completed in the amount of time that you have available. (You may want to put the amount of time expected to complete each assignment.) Make adjustments as needed. For example, if you find that it will take more hours to complete your work than you have available, you will likely need to triage your readings. Completing all of the readings is a luxury. You will need to make decisions about your readings based on what is covered in class. You should read and take notes on all of the assignments from the favored class source (the one that is used a lot in the class). This may be the textbook or a reading that directly addresses the topic for the day. You can likely skim supplemental readings.
  • Pencil into your calendar when you plan to get assignments completed.
  • Before going to bed each night, make your plan for the next day. Waking up with a plan will make you more productive.

See our handout on calendars and college for more tips on using calendars as time management.

Use downtime to your advantage

Beware of ‘easy’ weeks. This is the calm before the storm. Lighter work weeks are a great time to get ahead on work or to start long projects. Use the extra hours to get ahead on assignments or start big projects or papers. You should plan to work on every class every week even if you don’t have anything due. In fact, it is preferable to do some work for each of your classes every day. Spending 30 minutes per class each day will add up to three hours per week, but spreading this time out over six days is more effective than cramming it all in during one long three-hour session. If you have completed all of the work for a particular class, then use the 30 minutes to get ahead or start a longer project.

Use all your resources

Remember that you can make an appointment with an academic coach to work on implementing any of the strategies suggested in this handout.

Works consulted

Carrier, L. M. (2003). College students’ choices of study strategies. Perceptual and Motor Skills, 96 (1), 54-56.

Craik, F. I., & Tulving, E. (1975). Depth of processing and the retention of words in episodic memory. Journal of Experimental Psychology: General, 104 (3), 268.

Davis, S. G., & Gray, E. S. (2007). Going beyond test-taking strategies: Building self-regulated students and teachers. Journal of Curriculum and Instruction, 1 (1), 31-47.

Edwards, A. J., Weinstein, C. E., Goetz, E. T., & Alexander, P. A. (2014). Learning and study strategies: Issues in assessment, instruction, and evaluation. Elsevier.

Junco, R., & Cotten, S. R. (2012). No A 4 U: The relationship between multitasking and academic performance. Computers & Education, 59 (2), 505-514.

Mackenzie, A. M. (1994). Examination preparation, anxiety and examination performance in a group of adult students. International Journal of Lifelong Education, 13 (5), 373-388.

McGuire, S.Y. & McGuire, S. (2016). Teach Students How to Learn: Strategies You Can Incorporate in Any Course to Improve Student Metacognition, Study Skills, and Motivation. Stylus Publishing, LLC.

Newport, C. (2006). How to become a straight-a student: the unconventional strategies real college students use to score high while studying less. Three Rivers Press.

Paul, K. (1996). Study smarter, not harder. Self Counsel Press.

Robinson, A. (1993). What smart students know: maximum grades, optimum learning, minimum time. Crown trade paperbacks.

Wissman, K. T., Rawson, K. A., & Pyc, M. A. (2012). How and when do students use flashcards? Memory, 20, 568-579.

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It can be difficult to settle into the routine of higher education for the first time, or even if you are returning to school--especially when you choose an accelerated curriculum or must balance classes with a full-time job. Luckily, old habits and new distractions don't have to stand in the way of your college degree. Incorporate these top ten effective study habits for college students into your daily routine, and watch yourself blossom into a capable, disciplined college student. They are easy to follow and implement, and require only a commitment on your part to follow through.

1. Take & review thorough notes while in class

Whether you're sitting through a lecture or doing an assigned reading, always take notes. You'll absorb key terms and ideas more quickly by writing them down immediately. Don't be afraid to ask classmates for a refresher if you miss a lecture.

2. Eliminate lifestyle distractions

Technology offers unprecedented ways to access new information. However, it also creates distractions that can prevent you from concentrating on your research. Stick to academic websites, silence your phone, and turn off your wireless connection as soon as you have enough information to write.

3. Schedule your study time

Instead of squeezing study sessions in between classes, naps, and other responsibilities, treat studying like any other class or commitment. Pick a specific location that's quiet, peaceful, and will give you plenty of room to work. Then set a specific appointment with yourself each week, and stick to it.

4. Organize your class materials

Instead of keeping one bulky binder or a backpack of loose paper, organize your notes and handouts into separate folders. This makes it easier to find what you need for each exam, keep your homework together, and prevent overwhelming clutter. Color-coding can also help you keep different topics separate.

5. Take every extra opportunity to study

If a professor or TA offers an after-class study session or extra credit opportunity, try to fit it into your schedule. This doesn't just give you a stronger safety net in case you make a mistake in the future; it also shows your initiative as a student.

6. Take care of yourself first - Get plenty of rest!

Your brain needs to recharge regularly in order to process and absorb new information. Sometimes all-nighters are inevitable, but don't let it become a habit, because sleep-deprivation can prevent you from learning or thinking critically. Give yourself permission to make up for lost sleep, too.

Don't Wait to Learn More About ECPI University's Degree Programs!

7. Study with a group or partner

Study groups usually meet before big tests, but many students have realized how helpful it is to help one another throughout the school year. You can exchange notes, quiz each other, and most importantly, hold each other responsible for showing up to each session.

8. Exercise to release stress

Instead of succumbing to anxiety or pressure until studying seems impossible, find a productive outlet to express your frustration. Physical activity releases endorphins that reduce stress and depression, and it's completely free.

9. Take care of yourself first - Eat well

Nutrition plays a huge role in your ability to learn. Instead of depending on sugar and caffeine--and weathering the crashes that follow--drink plenty of water and make sure you get enough fruits and vegetables. A well-rested, well-nourished, hydrated body is capable of staying awake and alert without help from chemicals.

10. Don't be afraid to ask for help

Don't be afraid to reach out to tutors, professors, and classmates if you think you're falling behind. Whether you have trouble understanding a new concept or just need help managing your time, college is full of people who know exactly what you're going through.

ECPI University is a flexible, stimulating learning environment for students of all ages and backgrounds. Take advantage of the support systems and academic resources that we offer, and always look for new ways to improve your time management skills. If you are interested in learning more about ECPI University and our accelerated degree programs, contact us TODAY! You can go from Zero to Bachelors in 2.5 years and that could be the Best Decision You Ever Made!

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How to Study

Many of your study strategies–habits you have developed on and relied on over time–work great! Still, many students find when they start college or take on more challenging course material that some habits might need to be tweaked. Reflection is a powerful tool, and LSC is ready to help you delve into thinking about what study habits continue to work for you and what you might want to change – studying for college can be very different than studying in high school; you will be expected to not just memorize things, but to apply and evaluate information.

Below are some strategies you can explore and try out-see what works for you!

study habits for college

Studying for and Taking Exams

  • Effective Study Strategies : Retrieval Practice, Blank Page Testing, Interleaving, Spaced Practice, etc.
  • Concept Mapping  – How to make a concept map, and why they can help you tie ideas together.
  • Guidelines for Creating a Study Schedule  – Suggestions for making your study more efficient.
  • The Five Day Study Plan – A way to plan when and how to study for exams.
  • What to do with Practice Exams – Why does taking practice tests work?
  • Consider Exam Logistics – Your approach to exams should vary depending on if the exam is in-person or online, if it is timed, and if you have access to a quiet place to take it.
  • Online Exam Checklist  – Online exams present a unique set of logistical challenges, whether you are home or on-campus. Be prepared! Gather as much intel as possible about the testing format before the exam.
  • Open-Book Exams : Understand what it means, you still need to study!
  • How to Tackle Exam Questions  – Strategies for different types of exam questions plus tips for decoding exam questions.
  • What to do when you get your graded test (or essay) back : Whether the score you earned makes you want to jump for joy or curl up into a ball, learning from your graded work is an incredibly valuable opportunity. Do not, repeat DO NOT, immediately toss or file away the test or essay you just got back! Here’s what to do instead.

Taking Notes

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Reading Strategies

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Learning Online

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  • Learning from Online Lectures and Discussions : Successful online learners, like all learners, have a growth mindset! They are flexible, tolerate the inevitable technical problems that arise, ask for help when they need it, keep on top of regular work for each class, minimize distractions as much as possible, and persist when things are hard.
  • Online Group Work : Just because you aren’t in the same room (or country!), doesn’t mean that you can’t collaborate effectively. Just like with any kind of group work- for online group work to be successful it helps if you think through, in advance, the ground rules for how you will work together. See LSC’s  Student Guide for Studying Together  for more tips.
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Life Kit

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College is important. So is mental health. Here's how to study without burning out


Elissa Nadworny

There's no single magic way to take notes, but the act of writing down our interpretation of what we've learned helps organize and consolidate information in our brains.

You've signed up for classes, you've learned your way around the virtual course system — and now, you've got to make sure you survive all the way to graduation.

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Laptop or paper notes? Highlighter or flashcards? And does music help while studying? Here's how to take better notes and study so that you remember what you've learned — without getting crushed by college stress. Plus: what to do if you do feel crushed.

1. Learn how to take notes.

There's no single magic way to take notes, but the act of writing down our interpretation of what we've learned helps organize and consolidate information in our brains.

What should you write down? Use clues from your professors to figure out what information is important and what is not.

  • Listen to their words: "This is going to be on the exam" or "This is important," for instance. 
  • Watch them as they teach — they might get animated, repeat themselves, write things on the board. 
  • Pay attention when they offer categories and numbered lists. "Be on the lookout for the ways that professors will organize information," says Natalie Murr, a psychologist at North Carolina State University. "You know, 'Here are the categories of x. There's three categories: No. 1, No. 2 and No. 3.' "

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Also, laptop or paper? It doesn't matter, Murr says. What's more important is that you take down key information, not everything your professor says verbatim.

2. Get a planner and actually use it.

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How to survive college when you're paying your own way.

You'll have a lot going on in college, and managing your time is a critical skill to master. Use your planner to control your schedule. Write everything down: your classes, your work shifts, assignments and meetings. Let your schedule help you find small windows of time to knock out smaller tasks and keep track of bigger deadlines.

3. When studying, don't just put information into your brain. Draw it back out.

We know from research that the most common study strategies are rereading textbooks, rereading notes, and highlighting. We also know that those methods don't really work, because they only focus on the input, not the retrieval, says Pooja Agarwal, a cognitive scientist at the Berklee College of Music.

Think of learning as a two-way street. When you re-read and highlight, you're only focused on getting information in, not doing any retrieving.

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"Research demonstrates that when we engage in that process of overtly retrieving, we actually organize concepts and create a better structure for what we're understanding," Agarwal says. "So through that process of retrieval, we help make sense of what we're trying to learn."

Here's what Agarwal recommends to strengthen your retrieval skills.

  • The "Two-Things Rule": As soon as you finish a lecture or a reading, write down two things you remember.
  • Explain the information to a friend or classmate to test your understanding.
  • Use flashcards — but say the answer out loud (in other words, retrieve it) before you turn it over to check yourself. Shuffle the flashcards and do it again.
  • Set a timer to study for a certain time, take a break, then to get back to work. "It's almost like an intentional forgetting or a purposeful forgetting," Agarwal explains. "By taking that break, you're letting things simmer a little bit."

Another tip — and you might not like this one: Don't listen to music while you read. Research has shown that silence almost doubles reading comprehension, compared to listening to music with lyrics, Agarwal says.

4. Know that failure is not the end.

An F on a test — or even for an entire class — doesn't mean you won't graduate.

"Anyone can do badly in a class," says Odette De Leon, an adviser at Valencia College in Orlando. "We're not born knowing college material. That's why we go to college. That's why we're college students. We're trying to learn these things."

Sure, it's difficult to hear negative things about yourself — and bad grades are no exception. But being hard on yourself can just make it worse.

5. Take care of yourself — and get some sleep.

Students who are sleep-deprived show many of the same symptoms as students diagnosed with attention disorders, says Natalie Murr at North Carolina State.

Emotional problems can also throw off a student's focus and interfere with academics.

"If you're really sleepy or if you're really struggling emotionally, there's not a lot of motivation to get up and go to class or do your work or put the effort in that needs to be done," Murr says. "They can really kind of take up space in the brain that would otherwise be open for learning."

6. Let go of the stigma around mental health problems.

Mental health issues are pervasive among college students, and COVID-19 is only making things tougher. It's nothing to be ashamed of.

"One out of two Americans over their lifetime will have a diagnosable mental health disorder," says B. Janet Hibbs, psychologist and author of The Stressed Years of Their Lives . "They're highly treatable. It's not something to be scared about."

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And parents, if your kid is in distress, don't judge, says Hibbs. Listen and be supportive so they'll continue to confide in you, and take their anguish seriously.

7. Know when to reach out for help.

Stress is so common in college, it can be hard to recognize when it becomes clinically treatable anxiety or depression, says Anthony Rostain, a doctor and professor at the University of Pennsylvania and Hibbs' co-author.

Here are warning signs to watch for:

  • Trouble sleeping.
  • Trouble waking up.
  • Trouble eating.
  • Feelings of hopelessness or worthlessness.
  • Drinking to the point of blacking out.
  • Having lots of random sexual partners.
  • Not being able to stop playing video games.

Got a neighbor or a niece in college? Consider sharing this story with them.

If you're experiencing thoughts of suicide, call or text 988 to get in touch with someone who can help.

The Jed Foundation specializes in supporting mental health in teens and young adults as they transition into adulthood .

ULifeline.org, by the Jed Foundation, offers a database of campus mental health resources at more than 1,600 colleges .

Lauren Migaki produced the podcast version of this story.

We'd love to hear from you. Leave us a voicemail at 202-216-9823, or email us at [email protected].

For more Life Kit, subscribe to our newsletter .

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Top 10 Effective Study Tips for College Students 

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study habits for college

As a college student, you have many demands placed on your time: learning material, working, and finding time to study. Juggling all these responsibilities can be overwhelming and time-consuming. That's why following the most effective study tips is important in helping you meet deadlines, retain what you learn and make the most of your college experience. Read on to learn more about the best study habits for college students.

1. Plan Your Time

Planning your study time in advance is one key to success. Taking the time to create an organized program of activities, either with a physical planner or digital calendar, will help minimize stress, keep things on track, and ensure that you are covering all the applicable material. It can be smart to exercise or eat before you study, so you don’t feel restless or hungry. Planning also allows you to set achievable goals, which is essential for motivation and progress. You can ensure that work is distributed evenly across all subjects and that no relevant information or tasks are overlooked. 

2. Learn to Take Good Notes

Taking good notes is a vital habit for any college student to develop. Taking extensive and accurate notes can help students recall the details of lectures, readings, and discussions once test time rolls around. Taking notes by hand is recommended over typing, as studies have shown it encourages deeper mental processing of the material. However, typing notes can work and adding visuals and colors can help make typed notes more impactful. The most effective type of note-taking involves summarizing what the professor is saying or highlighting essential aspects of a reading. Notes should be reviewed and organized regularly to create the best system for each student. With consistent practice, note-taking can become an invaluable asset in easily navigating college success.  

3. Create a Routine

College students often need help prioritizing their schoolwork and other responsibilities while combating stress and procrastination. A study routine effectively can help you to manage their time and stay on track with their coursework. With a study routine, individual goals can be set and broken down into smaller achievable tasks so that each step of the process can be efficiently completed. This also allows for personal breaks, such as physical activity or spending quality time with family and friends, without derailing progress. A study routine is also beneficial because it can help develop good habits that will last long after college and be carried into future professional careers. 

4. Understand—Not Simply Memorize—Material

Learning how to prioritize the material is crucial. Some students focus too much on memorizing facts and figures, while others focus more on comprehending the information. Although memorizing can be helpful in recalling certain statistics or dates in quizzes and tests, it is important to truly understand the material at a deeper level. That way, you can apply your knowledge to future research and real-world scenarios in your career. Taking time to reflect upon material helps form connections with past learnings, leading to a superior comprehension of the subject matter. 

5. Eliminate Distractions

Staying focused while studying is essential to maximize your retention of the material. Picking a comfortable, designated study spot, turning off phone notifications, and sitting away from TVs or other electronics are all good ways to eliminate distractions. Setting yourself regular self-care breaks can also be beneficial for keeping your mood up and maintaining focus and concentration without becoming stressed out or overwhelmed.  

6. Include Variety in Your Routine

Having a routine in your studying habits is essential to succeeding with your academic responsibilities. However, over-relying on staying within your routine can be detrimental to understanding the finer points of course materials. Changing up studying techniques and locations periodically can offer a refreshing outlook on approaching courses and provide opportunities to build additional skill sets. For example, alternating between environments such as the library, coffeehouse, or common area can add a fun element to study sessions. By supplementing familiar methods of studying with alternative strategies such as making audio recordings for concepts or using visual study aids for diagrammatical subjects, one can further understand the materials with greater depth and ease. Taking breaks from regular routines provides new perspectives and encourages creativity that can expand academic capabilities beyond expected levels. 

7. Share Your Wisdom

Teaching or tutoring others can be one of the best ways to master a subject. When you take on the role of a teacher, your mind must form a deeper understanding of what you are attempting to teach. In doing so, you become more knowledgeable on the subject. Student teachers learn why things work the way they do rather than just what works and what doesn't. They start to see how the topics are related to each other and understand their effects on one another. Overall, teaching or tutoring is proven to help you remember the details of a subject, resulting in mastery of that material. 

8. Professors Are Resources

With abundant resources available to college students, remember that your professors can help make navigating higher education more accessible.  Good professors, in addition to Program Mentors, provide invaluable academic guidance, from explaining concepts to helping with research methods. If you’re struggling with the material, remember that other students probably have struggled with it too, and the professor is there to help. Professors usually are available for one-on-one consultation and advice. If you develop a relationship with them, they may serve as networking contacts for internships or as great references after you graduate. Unfortunately, most students do not take advantage of connecting with their professor to get help. Doing so can get you ahead of the curve.

9. Take Frequent Breaks

Taking breaks allows your mind to rest and reset, making your study session more productive in the long run. Short 5- to 10-minute breaks such as going for a walk, doing stretches, or making a meal allow your brain to refresh, replenishing its energy and improving concentration . Breaks can also help you manage fatigue from reading or writing intensely for an extended time. Additionally, during a break, you can take the opportunity to move around and get the blood flowing again, improving productivity as well as physical health.

10. Reward Yourself

Rewarding yourself during study sessions can boost your engagement significantly. When you complete tasks or goals, celebrate your successes with something fun, such as a treat, extra sleep, a new playlist, or anything else that brings you joy. Rewarding yourself will not only motivate you to focus on your studies, but it also helps give direction and purpose to your work. For best results, pair short-term rewards with tangible effects of long-term success by visualizing the future outcome of achieving your academic goals. Doing so allows you to stay dedicated and focused on the present moment while cultivating motivation for the future.

Overall, studying requires dedication and commitment. However, with some smart study strategies and helpful tips, students can hone their study skills, stay organized, and realize their academic goals.

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27 Good Study Habits of Straight-A Students

good study habits, explained below

Study habits refer to the consistent practice and approach to study, on a regular basis, to enhance academic performance.

The good thing about a habit is that once you do it on a regular basis, it becomes easy. So, your job is to get into this habit early. Once you’re into the habit, university becomes easy (well, easier ).

Good study habits that I recommend include getting into the routine of heading to the library (or a similar study space) to study without distractions, chunking your studies by subject, and using spaced repetition for things that require rote memorization .

I also recommend studying with friends – such as by testing one another – whenever possible.

The integration of efficient study habits enhances academic performance and motivation to study . By developing effective study strategies adjusted to your personal learning style, you improve concentration and retention of information – and concentration, more than time spent studying, is found to be a key factor for success (Nonis & Hudson, 2010).

Good Study Habits

1. Time Management Time management refers to being able to efficiently allocate your time so you don’t run out of time, and so you have enough time to allocate to all important tasks. As a basis, you could initiate a dedicated study schedule, specifying the time slots for each subject. For instance, you might want to allot your mornings for theory-heavy subjects like Anatomy, and save the afternoons for practice-oriented subjects like Clinical Skills. Don’t forget to also block time for regular study breaks and social events. This is crucial to prevent burnout and maintain longevity – university is a marathon, not a sprint.

Read Also: 7 Things to do in your First Week of University

2. Using Active Reading Strategies This is the process of engaging with the material by asking questions and drawing connections. Instead of passively reading your texts, you can participate more actively by summarizing the information in your own words, teaching it to someone else, quizzing yourself, or creating visual aids like diagrams and mind maps. As Issa et al. (2012) found, reading relevant information daily is an effective study habit for improving grades.

3. Setting Realistic Goals This strategy involves laying out achievable objectives for each study session or topic. Setting goals not only keeps you focused, but also helps gauge your progress. For example, instead of aiming to read an entire biology textbook in two days, you might target mastering one chapter per day. I recommend setting both short-term study goals and long-term study goals using the SMART Goals method .

4. Prioritization Successful students often prioritize tasks based on their deadlines and degree of importance. You might follow the Eisenhower Box method: divide your tasks into four categories, namely, important and urgent, important but not urgent, not important but urgent, and not important and not urgent. For instance, an upcoming exam translates into an important and urgent task, hence it would be first on your list.

5. Spaced Repetition This strategy involves studying information over incremental intervals instead of cramming it in one sitting. You might review your notes on the day you learn something, then again in a couple of days, then after a week, and so forth. There are even apps like the Anki flashcards app that have a built-in spaced repetition algorithm that can space how often ideas are presented to you.

6. Creating a Suitable Environment Each individual’s ideal study environment may differ based on personal preferences . Some people need complete silence, while others work better with some background noise. If you like silence, the quite section of a library is a good place to start – I recommend making it a habit to go to the library at your university as often as possible. Conversely, if you feel background noise helps you to concentrate, consider studying at a cafe. But the key is to ensure your environment is right for you. As Ogbodo (2010, p. 229) argues: “Where to study is as important as what to study and how to go about studying.”

7. Taking Breaks Integrating regular short breaks into your study pattern can boost your productivity and mental agility because it decreases distractions during focused study time. And this is important. As Walck-Shannon, Rowell and Frey (2021) found, “students reported being distracted about 20% of their study time, and distraction while studying negatively predicted exam performance.” So, let’s avoid that – by splitting our time between strong focus, then rest. Typically, the Pomodoro technique is a popular method for this, where you study for 25 minutes, then take a 5-minute break. After four such cycles, you take a longer break of 15-20 minutes. During your breaks, you can engage in some light activity such as stretching or walking to invigorate yourself.

8. Maintaining Physical Health Eating well, getting regular exercise, and ensuring enough sleep are often overlooked aspects of efficient studying. Research shows that a balanced diet, physical activity, and proper sleep improve cognitive functions , including memory and concentration. You may want to establish a regular sleep schedule, incorporate a balanced diet, and schedule regular exercise sessions each week into your routine.

9. Using Technology Wisely Technology offers a range of tools that can streamline your study process. For instance, you can use apps for time management (e.g., Rescue Time), note-taking (e.g., Evernote), or spaced repetition (e.g., Anki). While these apps can be beneficial, remember to keep checks on screens’ disruptive nature and the habit of digital distraction. As practice, try turning off your phone’s notifications when you study, or set ‘Do Not Disturb’ intervals.

10. Review and Revise Sessions Regular review of study materials aids in long-term retention of information. You can allocate specific time slots each week to revisit old notes, attempt self-test papers or engage in group discussions. For instance, you might dedicate your Sunday mornings to revising everything you’ve covered during the preceding week.

11. Active Writing Transcribing information demands active engagement, thereby reinforcing your understanding and memory of the subject. You might opt to rewrite complex concepts in your own words or diagrammatically represent intricate processes. For example, instead of merely reading about the human circulatory system, consider drawing it out with brief annotations.

12. Seeking Help When Needed Understanding when to seek help is an underrated study habit. If you find yourself struggling with a subject, don’t hesitate to approach your professors, peers, or study groups for clarification. You might also seek online resources such as academic forums or educational websites. Remember, it’s better to clarify doubts initially than to have misconceptions hamper your overall learning.

13. Mindfulness and Focus Mindfulness, or present-moment awareness, can help enhance your comprehension and retention during studying. You could practice mindfulness by removing distractions, concentrating on the task at hand, and making a conscious effort to absorb the material.

14. Integrating Study with Real-Life Scenarios Applying the theoretical knowledge learned during study sessions to real-life instances can facilitate a deeper understanding. You might relate basic principles of economics to household budgeting or chemistry to cooking. This practice can help convert abstract concepts into tangible examples.

15. Regular Self-Assessment Implementing regular exams or quizzes to assess your understanding and memory can be a direct way to monitor progress. You can either use ready-made quizzes available online or design a short assessment yourself. As you answer, mark out the areas you struggled with for further review. This method will help you know where you stand in your preparation and what areas need extra effort.

16. Employing Mnemonics This involves using techniques to retain and retrieve information. The method could be as simple as creating an acronym or conjuring up a relevant mental image. For example, in recalling the taxonomical rank in biology – Kingdom, Phylum, Class, Order, Family, Genus, Species – you might use the well-known mnemonic phrase: “King Phillip Came Over For Good Soup.” Examples of additional mnemonic techniques include the method of loci and memory linking .

17. Incorporating Understandable Examples Since abstract concepts can be confusing, associating them with relateable analogies can help you grasp the idea. This technique depends heavily on your creativity and could be as simple as linking a literary theme to a popular movie plot. Ensuring your examples make sense to you is vital.

18. Varying Study Methods It is beneficial to avoid monotony and experiment with multiple learning techniques. This can include oscillating between solitary studying and group study sessions, or alternating between text-based learning and audio-visual aids. For instance, following a hefty reading session, you might want to watch a related documentary or podcast on the topic. Switching up strategies not only prevents burnout but also caters to different facets of your learning style.

19. Note-Taking Strategy Effective note-taking is a skill that helps in better understanding and remembrance of knowledge. You should decide a note-taking strategy which could be outlining, mind mapping, or the Cornell method, and stick to it. For example, you might use the Cornell Method, which divides the paper into notes, cues, and a summary section for enhancing retention and review.

20. Regularity and Consistency Consistency is the cornerstone of strong study habits. Establishing a regular routine that allocates specific periods for study each day leads to better academic performance. For instance, studying for two hours per day consistently is more effective than cramming for fourteen hours once a week.

21. Engage All Senses Engaging multiple senses aids in strengthening your memory of the subject matter. This could involve reading aloud, rewriting notes, creating visual aids, or even using software to convert text to speech. The goal is to consume the information through as many sensory channels as possible to maximize retention. For example, if you’re studying foreign vocabulary, you could listen to the pronunciation, read the definition, write the word several times, and visualize an image related to it.

22. Reflective Learning Reflective learning involves regularly taking a few moments to contemplate what you’ve learned. This process ensures you understand the main concepts and helps you evaluate how effectively the learning material has been understood. For instance, after reading a section on World History, take a moment to think about what questions have been answered and what new questions have arisen in your mind about the topic.

23. Preparing for the Next Class Reviewing the material that will be covered in the next class helps make the class more productive and understandable. By having prior knowledge of the topic, you can better participate in class discussions and raise insightful queries. For example, if tomorrow’s Physics class covers Electromagnetic Waves, you might want to read the corresponding chapter tonight.

24. Constructive Procrastination While complete avoidance of procrastination is the goal, sometimes it’s unavoidable. Constructive procrastination involves doing another task that also needs to be done when you feel like procrastinating. If you find yourself unable to study Civil Law, consider switching to another pending task, such as completing your Mathematics assignment. This way, you remain productive while giving in to the urge to procrastinate.

25. Visualization Techniques Visualization involves picturing the information in your mind, which can significantly improve memory and recall. For instance, when studying Anatomy, envisioning the body parts, systems, and processes can enhance your understanding. If you’d like to explore this strategy more, read my article on the visual peg-word system for memorization .

26. Listen to Music Without Lyrics Listening to music while studying is a controversial topic. Some people think it helps them to achieve a flow state, while most research suggests that “ media multitasking ” is a distraction whether we realize it or not (Xu, Wang, & Woods, 2019). Generally, I recommend that if you do like that background nose, try to listen to music without lyrics, like lo-fi playlists from YouTube, which act as background noise and could potentially prevent your mind from wandering.

27. Study with Friends Thalluri (2016) found that “study buddy support groups” significantly support studying. Friends can keep each other accountable and help motivate one another. And, according to social learning theory , working in groups helps us to reinforce knowledge. For example, if you’re talking about the course content with friends, you’ll hear their unique perspectives, which you can critically compare to your own, which augments, supports, positively alters, and strengthens your own perspectives.

Study habits act as the building blocks of your academic journey. Efficient study habits not only ensure better academic performance but also help in gaining lifelong skills like time management, goal-setting, and self-discipline. By adopting effective study habits, you modulate your academic journey to a more favorable and fruitful path.

If you want to dive deeper into getting good study habits, I’d recommend James Clear’s Atomic Habits book – it’s an amazing book for learning to get more productive and optimize your time as a student.

Issa, A.O., Aliyu, M.B., Akangbe, R.B., and Adedeji, A.F. (2012). Reading interest and habits of the federal polytechnic students. International Journal of Learning & Development, 2 (1): 470-486.

Nonis, S. A., & Hudson, G. I. (2010). Performance of college students: Impact of study time and study habits.  Journal of education for Business ,  85 (4), 229-238.

Ogbodo, R. O. (2010). Effective Study Habits in Educational Sector: Counselling Implications.  Edo Journal of Counselling ,  3 (2), 230-242.

Thalluri, J. (2016). Who benefits most from peer support group?–First year student success for Pathology students.  Procedia-Social and Behavioral Sciences ,  228 , 39-44.

Walck-Shannon, E. M., Rowell, S. F., & Frey, R. F. (2021). To what extent do study habits relate to performance?.  CBE—Life Sciences Education ,  20 (1). doi: https://doi.org/10.1187/cbe.20-05-0091

Xu, S., Wang, Z., & Woods, K. (2019). Multitasking and dual motivational systems: A dynamic longitudinal study.  Human Communication Research ,  45 (4), 371-394. doi: https://doi.org/10.1093/hcr/hqz009


Chris Drew (PhD)

Dr. Chris Drew is the founder of the Helpful Professor. He holds a PhD in education and has published over 20 articles in scholarly journals. He is the former editor of the Journal of Learning Development in Higher Education. [Image Descriptor: Photo of Chris]

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College Info Geek

How to Build Good Study Habits: 5 Areas to Focus On

study habits for college

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study habits for college

Growing up, I learned the importance of good study habits early.

I was responsible for writing down my homework assignments each day, checking I had all the right books the night before school, and making flashcards to study spelling or vocab words. If I didn’t stay diligent in these study habits, then I was bound to hear about it from my mom.

Establishing good study habits at an early age paid off. In high school and college, I was able to focus on learning the material instead of learning how to study. I never got bad grades because I forgot to turn in homework, and if I ever did poorly on a test I had no one to blame but myself.

However, I recognize that not everyone has the benefit of learning good study habits early in life. For many people, college is the first time you even have to think about how to study and manage a schedule all on your own.

To bridge the gap, I’ve put together the following guide to good study habits. First, we’ll look at what good study habits are and why they matter. Then, we’ll give some practical examples of good study habits in action (and how they can solve some common academic issues).

What Is a Good Study Habit?

Before we go any further, we need to define what a good study habit is. To start, we should define “habit”.

A habit is an action (or series of actions) that you perform automatically in response to a particular cue. For instance, the sound of your alarm going off might cue the habit of getting out of bed and walking into the kitchen to make coffee (or, for some of us, hitting the snooze button).

But what makes a habit “good”? Generally, we define a good habit as one that helps you achieve your goals and live in line with your values . A bad habit, meanwhile, is detrimental to your goals and values in the long-term (even if it relieves pain or provides pleasure in the short-term).

A good study habit, then, is a habit that helps you achieve your academic objectives while still supporting your broader goals and values.

3 Reasons Good Study Habits Matter

Good study habits matter for three main reasons: focus, grades, and mental health.

Starting with focus, having the right study habits in place frees up your mind to concentrate on the material you’re learning.

Instead of having to think about how to create flashcards, for example, you can focus on using flashcards to learn a new language .

If your study techniques aren’t automatic, meanwhile, they can distract you from the larger work you’re trying to do.

While good study habits won’t automatically raise your GPA , they’ll certainly improve your chances.

As an example, you’re likely to perform better on an exam if you’re in the habit of studying for it over several days (or weeks) instead of the night before.

Mental Health

Most important of all, however, is the benefit good study habits have for your mental health.

No matter how much “raw intelligence” you might have, poor study habits will make college stressful and anxious.

If you aren’t in the habit of starting research papers well in advance, for instance, then you’ll be in for some sleepless, caffeine-fueled nights. But if you habitually start your research papers early, then you can avoid the unnecessary stress that comes from procrastination.

5 Types of Good Study Habits (and How to Build Them)

Originally, this section was going to contain a long list of good study habits. But since we already have an extensive list of study tips , many of which are specific study habits, I decided to do something different.

Instead of listing yet more study tips, I’m going to examine some common college academic struggles that good study habits can help eliminate or avoid. This way, you can get some practical tips for building good study habits and putting them into action.

This section focuses on how to build good study habits, specifically. For a more general overview of how to build good habits, read this .

Study Habits for Doing Better on Exams

Are your exam grades lower than you’d like? If so, your study habits could be the culprit.

When it comes to studying for exams effectively, here are some habits to keep in mind:

Go to Review Sessions

Usually, your professor and/or TA will hold a review session before each exam. This review will only be helpful, however, if you attend it. Therefore, make a habit of going to any scheduled exam review sessions, especially in classes you find difficult.

How to build the habit: This is one of the easier habits on this list to build. All you have to do is put the review session on your calendar and then be sure you go to it. To make this easier, pay attention in class for any announcements of review sessions.

Make and Study Flashcards

If you’re studying for an exam that requires you to memorize lots of information, then flashcards are your friend. In particular, building a habit of daily flashcard review leading up to an exam can help your performance greatly.

How to build the habit: First, be sure you understand the best ways to make and study flashcards .

From there, we recommend using a flashcard app that reminds you to study the cards each day (and focuses your efforts on the cards you struggle with). This is a case where notifications on your phone can be a study aid instead of a distraction.

Study Habits for Writing Better Papers

No matter your major, you’ll have to write a paper at some point in college. And having the right study habits will make the process much easier and less stressful. Here are some study habits that will help you write better papers:

Don’t Procrastinate on Writing

I won’t deny it: I pulled my share of all-nighters in college. And usually, I was staying up late to finish a paper I’d procrastinated on.

While you can certainly write a paper in one night, it’s unlikely to be your best work. Instead, make it a habit to work on your paper a little bit each day in the week before the due date.

How to build the habit: If you’re struggling with procrastination, then read into the science behind why we do it .

From there, consider the stress and pain that will come from writing a paper in one night. Use that as motivation to work on your paper a little bit at a time.

Once you’ve done this for one paper and seen how much better it makes your life, you’ll be more inclined to do it with future papers.

Visit the Writing Center

While procrastination is a common issue with writing papers, you may also struggle with the writing itself. Depending on where you went to high school, in fact, you might never have learned how to write the kind of papers college requires.

If this is the case, get in the habit of visiting your college’s writing center when you’re working on a paper. The staff there would be more than happy to help you improve your writing.

How to build the habit: Going to the writing center is a fairly easy habit to build if you schedule your writing center appointments in advance.

This should be possible at most colleges, and it’s often required during high-demand times such as finals season. Making an appointment in advance adds some external accountability, so you’re more likely to show up.

For more paper writing tips, read this .

Study Habits for Completing Homework Faster

Homework is important for practicing and solidifying the concepts your professor discusses in lectures, but that doesn’t mean you should spend all your time outside of class doing it.

Here are some study habits to help you complete your homework faster, without sacrificing quality:

Schedule Your Homework Time

If you can fit all of your homework into a defined block each day, it will be much easier to get started on it. Plus, knowing that you only have to spend a defined amount of time working will reduce the dread that generally accompanies homework.

How to build the habit: First, find a time each day that’s free of obligations. Evenings will work well for some, while mornings are better for others; it depends on your schedule.

Then, put that block of time on your calendar with the title “Homework Time.” If you like, you can also break that block down into smaller chunks for each of the courses you’re taking.

Next, decide on a study space where you’ll do your homework: dorm room, library, student center, etc. Note that location on your calendar as well.

Finally, treat this block of study time like any other class, meeting, or appointment. If someone tries to schedule something during that time, tell them you already have an obligation.

Focus Completely On Your Work

You’ll get your homework done much faster if you only focus on the assignment at hand. But if you’re checking social media and your phone as your work, the process will take longer overall.

To avoid this issue, make a habit of distraction-free homework. When you’re working on homework, let nothing else fragment your attention.

How to build the habit: First, turn off your phone and put it away. If you can’t do that, then at least take some steps to make it less distracting .

Next, try to work without an internet connection whenever possible. If that isn’t practical, then use an app like Freedom to block distracting sites and apps.

If that still isn’t enough, then you can also try the Pomodoro technique .

Study Habits for Being Less Stressed

As I mentioned earlier, one of the main advantages of good study habits is reduced levels of stress.

Some study habits, in particular, are great at making the studying process less stressful. Here are a couple to try:

Use the Fudge Ratio

Due to something called the planning fallacy , humans are terrible at estimating how long things will take. The fudge ratio is a solution to this problem. It helps you create more accurate time estimates for tasks, using a simple formula that we’ll explain below.

Applying the fudge ratio to your studies will help you be less stressed since you’ll be in the habit of planning more time than you need to do assignments. If you get done early, then you’ll get a great sense of accomplishment. But if something takes the full time you “fudged,” then you won’t be caught off guard.

How to build the habit: To work the fudge ratio into your planning, you’ll need to keep track of how long you think tasks take vs. how long they truly take. Record these numbers somewhere you can review them regularly. For an accurate measure of how long tasks actually take, you can use time-tracking software .

Once you’ve done this for a bit, you can then compare your estimated times to your actual completion times. This will allow you to calculate a literal ratio that you can use to make future time estimates.

To calculate the fudge ratio for a task, use this formula:

Estimated completion time / Actual completion time = Fudge ratio

For instance, if you think it will take you 30 minutes to finish your Intro to Sociology reading but it actually takes you 45, then your fudge ratio for these reading assignments is 45/30 = 1.5. Now, you know that whenever you’re estimating how long reading will take for this class, you should multiply your estimate by 1.5.

Doing this for each class and assignment can be time-consuming. But with time, using the fudge ratio will help you get into the habit of making better time estimates overall. Eventually, you won’t need to do the tracking and math described here.

Not all classes are created equal. Sure, each instructor thinks their class is the most important on your schedule, but we all know that isn’t true. Some classes require more time and effort than others, and how you study should reflect that.

Specifically, you’ll be much less stressed if you prioritize studying the subjects that take the most work.

How to build the habit: During the first couple weeks of the semester, pay attention to how much work each class on your schedule will require. From there, you can decide where to prioritize your attention.

Then, spend most of your study time on the most difficult classes. Of course, you’ll still need to spend some time on your easier classes, but not nearly as much. Doing this will give you more free time and reduce your general stress levels.

Study Habits for the Forgetful

For our final area of habits, we turn to the pernicious problem of forgetting. Whether you’re having trouble remembering homework assignments or even showing up for class, these habits will help.

Keep a List of Your Assignments

If you’re having trouble remembering your assignments, then build the habit of keeping them on a list. This is a classic piece of advice. But if you put it into practice, it can change your life.

How to build the habit: First, decide where you’ll write down your assignments. We’re a big fan of to-do list apps for this purpose. But you could also go analog and use a paper planner. Just make sure it’s something you can easily carry with you to class.

Then, write down assignments as the professor gives them. In many cases, of course, the professor will expect you to refer to the syllabus for homework assignments. So be sure to review your syllabus each week (and bring a copy to class so you can note any changes).

Finally, review your list of assignments at the start of each homework session. As you complete an assignment, cross or check it off the list. With this habit in place, you’ll be much less likely to forget assignments.

Put Your Classes on Your Calendar

Unlike in high school, where your schedule is regimented and closely supervised, college offers more independence. While this can be exciting, it also means greater responsibility. And one of the first responsibilities you’ll face as a college student is showing up for class at the right time.

While simple in theory, it can be challenging to remember the time and location of all of your classes. Especially during the first couple weeks of class. To ensure you don’t forget when and where your classes are, put them on your calendar.

How to build the habit: Leading up to the first week of school, go online and consult the syllabus for each of your classes.

Note the class times and locations, and put that information on your calendar in recurring events. Make sure your calendar is set up to send you event notifications on your phone, and you should be able to remember each class no problem.

With time, of course, you’re likely to memorize you schedule and won’t need to consult the calendar. But having your classes on your calendar will still be helpful for planning, ensuring you don’t schedule a meeting or other event during a class.

If you’ve never set up a digital calendar, check out this guide to using your calendar efficiently in college .

Good Study Habits Aren’t Built in a Day

I hope this article has shown you the importance of good study habits, as well as how to start making them a part of your academic life.

As with any new habit, forming good study habits takes time and focus. For greater odds of success, work on forming one or two of these habits at a time. When they’re a solid part of your routine, you can add new ones.

Habit formation is such a vast topic, there was no way we could cover all the details in one article. For a deep dive into building habits that last, check out our habit-building course:

Building habits isn’t just about discipline; there are real-world steps you can take to set yourself up for success! In this course, you'll learn how to set realistic goals, handle failure without giving up, and get going on the habits you want in your life.

Take My Free Class on Mastering Habits

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College Students Guide to Improving Study Skills

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Updated September 19, 2023

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How to Assess and Advance Your Study Habits Before College

For most individuals, college will provide the biggest challenge of their academic career. And even though it usually takes two or four years to a college degree, it only takes one semester to sink a GPA or substantially delay graduation. Therefore, it's important to brush up on study habits – or even learn new ones – before college begins. After all, students can expect to spend anywhere from 10 to 24 hours per week studying in college, and it's important to make every one of those hours count. This guide is here to help students determine their current study effectiveness and equip them with the study skills they need to succeed.

“One of the biggest mistakes high school students make entering college is underestimating the amount of studying they will have to do. Students may believe that because they like the subject or excelled in it in high school, that it will come easy in college.” Dr. Marquita S. Blades

“Your attitude is key in dealing with the stress and anxiety of college. Approach your studies with a positive attitude.” Rita Schiano

4 Crucial Study Skills to Master Before College

The following is a list of study skills you'll want to make sure you have before your first day of class.

  • Note Taking Note taking is a staple study skill, even in this age of apps, smartphones and tablets. Whether it's dictating into a device, typing on a laptop or writing with pen and paper, students will have to be able to take information they see or hear and place it in written form. As information comes so quickly, students should learn how to glean key information and ignore less important points or those they can access at a later time.
  • Time Management Making efficient use of time will be one of the most important skills a college student can have. There is a way to fit it classes, studying and a social life, though sacrifices might need to be made. Even when a student cuts back on social activities to focus on school, careful management of that free time is critical. Students will need to organize their studying to fit into the time and resources available, such as that 10-minute window between classes.
  • Organization Organization is essential to keep track of the obligations, assignments and responsibilities in college. Even the best time managements skills will be useless if students can't keep track of what they have due and when. Remember, organization is very personalized. Whether it's a paper agenda, digital calendar or small notebook, students must find a way to stay organized that works for them.
  • Memorization The ability to memorize large amounts of information will be useful to create a strong foundation for learning more substantive concepts. Whether memorizing foreign vocabulary words or scientific formulas, students must find ways to repeat large amounts of information. To aid in memorization, students must figure out what strategies work best for them, such as creating mnemonics, flashcards, outlines or taking special notes.

“One of the biggest mistakes I see with my students is time management with procrastination being the biggest culprit. For some people, doing assignments very close to the due date works for them because the adrenaline helps with focus. But for many, that is not the case and stress and anxiety set in.” Rita Schiano

Common Study Pitfalls & How to Avoid Them

If you can't reach your academic potential, there's a good chance you're victim to at least one or more of the following college study pitfalls.

  • Collapse All

Pitfall #1: Cramming the night before.

Compared to high school, tests and exams are typically spread further apart. This means there will be a lot of material to cover for each test. Instead of trying to cover everything the night before (which doesn't lead to long-term learning and prevents you from getting a good night's rest), begin your test review at least a few days before the exam.

Pitfall #2: Not getting extra help.

It's not surprising that students have trouble grasping new material the first time they receive exposure to it. Sometimes it takes a few tries to learn it or an alternative teaching method before it “clicks.” Find a tutor, use a study buddy or meet with the professor during office hours to get extra help. Do it well before test time!

Pitfall #3: Allowing study groups to turn into social groups.

It's easy for a group study session to turn into a social event if group members don't remind themselves to go over the course material. Set an agenda before the meeting begins and have a deadline to help stay on task. Otherwise, it's very easy for the group to meet for three hours and only spend 45 minutes actually going over the material.

Pitfall #4: Giving in to distractions.

The solution to this pitfall will depend on what kind of distractions are preventing studying from taking place. Turning off the television, radio or phone might be adequate. However, you might need to also turn off your computer or find a study cubicle deep in your college library where it's extremely quiet.

Pitfall #5: Not getting enough sleep

Staying up all night and sleeping in until noon is a rite of passage in college. However, to get the most out of studying, you should limit this type of sleep pattern. Studying is most effective when you get enough rest the night before. This might mean not going out as often or taking two days to binge watch an entire season of your favorite television show, but you'll notice a difference when you study.

“Studying with friends can be a mistake. Students don't always know their learning styles so studying with people who learn differently can actually be a waste of time, not to mention, a general distraction.” Dr. Marquita S. Blades

Study Methods for College-Bound Students

There are almost as many methods to study as there are classes to study for. Below are some of the fundamental study methods most college students will need to learn to reach their college potential.

“Students should also be willing to try several study techniques in order to find what will work and have patience with themselves as they navigate this transition!” Dr. Marquita S. Blades

Study Method #1: Create a study routine.

This routine can refer to a variety of factors, such as time of day or location. It might include using a specific study cubicle on a particular floor in a library right after dinner. Or perhaps it includes going to the gym right before a study session to relax the body. Whatever it is, develop a routine. It will help with learning and make it easier to create a learning mindset before you actually study.

Study Method #2: Active recall.

Taking notes and rereading the material is helpful, but it can lead to overconfidence. Instead, try to actively recall the information by removing access to the material, such as by closing the textbook and avoiding looking at the notes and course materials. Self-testing can include talking it through or writing down what has already been learned, then comparing it with what needs to be learned.

Study Method #3: Review of information.

Never assume you can learn something new in class, never review it again, then have perfect recall of it on the test several weeks or months later. The human mind simply doesn't work that way. Instead, get organized and review the information gradually, over time, in small study sessions that help integrate all the material. These reviews might include rewriting notes, outlining, completing study exercises or rereading the material.

Study Method #4: Teach the material.

Nothing proves understanding better than teaching the material to someone else who doesn't understand it very well. This is one of the key advantages of study groups, as they provide the opportunity to explain key concepts to a fellow classmate. Not only does teaching it to someone else aid in retention and understanding, but any gaps or holes in understanding will quickly become evident when trying to teach it to someone else.

Study Method #5: Take practice tests.

A practice test can not only help identify areas of weakness but can provide familiarity with the format and style of the test. Additionally, catching the wrong answers can help pinpoint where more studying needs to take place. Talk to the professor about practice tests that will accurately reflect the format and style that will be presented on exam day for even more test-taking study power.

“Create a dedicated study space, whether in the dorm, library, or campus study rooms. Make a schedule and devote blocks of time for studying. During that time, it is critical to put away the cellphone and disengage auto-notifications from social media sites.” Rita Schiano

8 Apps to Improve Study Skills

If you're heading to college, you'll probably have a smartphone, tablet or laptop and can take advantage of one or more of the following apps to help you study.

“With today's generation being much more digital than ever, I recommend that students find an online resource with videos that they can watch to support their study efforts.” Dr. Marquita S. Blades

For those who procrastinate or easily forget deadlines, this app lets students know when tests or exams are scheduled with a handy countdown daily timer.

iStudiez PRO helps college students stay organized with their assignments and grades.

Note taking

AudioNote LITE is an app that synchronizes and indexes conventional notes with audio recordings. This allows users to find a specific piece of information in a voice recording without having to listen to the entire recording.

Evernote is one of the most popular note taking apps for mobile devices. Besides taking handwritten or typed notes, users can record voice notes, scan anything and use a variety of sharing options.

Cold Turkey is the ultimate tool for blocking distractions. It can prevent you from using your computer or mobile device to access the internet or specific websites for a set period of time.

Memrise helps with learning foreign languages through a variety of tools, including videos, games and pronunciation guides.

SimpleMind is an expensive piece of software, but it's one of the best for creating mind maps to organize complex relationships and ideas, expressing them in tangible form.

Quizlet allows the creation of flashcards. Students can also use flashcards made by other Quizlet users to help with studying that involves memorization.

“Set study goals. Before you begin studying, summarize a few objectives, gather what you will need, and determine a general strategy of accomplishment. Lastly, reward yourself upon completion.” Rita Schiano

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10 Effective Study Habits for College Students

by Emily Elizabeth Smith, Great Lakes student

Becoming an effective college student requires the ability to meet coursework demands and to form functional and successful study habits. The vast majority of successful students achieve their success by developing and applying effective study habits.

What makes good study habits?

A habit is just a behavior that is repeated until it is automatic. A habit is something that is done on a scheduled, regular and planned basis that is not relegated to a second place or optional place in one`s life. It is simply done, no reservations, no excuses, no exceptions. Study habits are the ways that we study. The habits that we have formed during our school years. Study habits can be ‘good’ which means they work and help us to make good grades – or “bad” which just means they don`t work and don`t help us make good grades.

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This article contains some of the top study habits utilized by highly successful students. Integrating these tools into your everyday college routine can be difficult at first. However, it is important to remain diligent and not get discouraged —work to develop each of the study habits below and you will be able to better maintain solid grades, your ability to learn and apply knowledge, and become the most efficient and organized college student possible.

1. Stay organized

Learning to stay organized will benefit you in every college course you take. Staying organized throughout college is essential to successfully passing your classes. Being organized in your classes will help you complete your assignments on time and study effectively while getting the most out of your education. Getting a planner, keeping track of syllabi, having a class schedule handy, color coding assignments and important dates, setting reminders, and building a daily routine will all contribute to the success of your college career. Instead of keeping one bulky binder or a backpack of loose paper, organize your notes and handouts into separate folders. This makes it easier to find what you need for each exam, keep your homework together, and prevent overwhelming clutter.

study habits 2

2. Do the reading

Many college courses are centered around extensive reading assignments. Keeping up on course reading will keep you involved in the material and allow for you to contribute in classroom discussions. Breaking up the reading into manageable sections is key. Doing this allows your brain more time to absorb smaller portions of information rather than reading everything the night before. If you are assigned multiple chapters of reading from the textbook between classes, getting behind could have you struggling to read half or more of the material right before the test—this does not work! The best thing you can do is stay caught up on all of your work.

Coming to class prepared is the first step to taking notes effectively. Make sure you are caught up on all reading and other assignments so you have a solid understanding of the material before the lecture. This allows you to focus in on other important details rather than struggling to grasp new concepts while taking notes. Being conscious of the direction of the lectures will help you keep your notes organized. Work to adapt to the material as the professor leads the topic into various directions. Reviewing and editing your notes after class gives you the opportunity to re-read the material while organizing it into logical sections.

4. Don’t cram

College students can easily fall into the trap of late at night studying that results in expending more energy trying to keep their eyelids open than actual studying. Becoming successful student involves learning to be consistent in your studies and having regular, yet shorter, study periods. Not only is it important that you plan when you're going to study, it's important you create a consistent, daily study routine . Your study session will yield productive results if you are both mentally and emotionally prepared with each session.

5. Use a planner

Planners are life savers! Trying to keep up with classwork, friends, and extracurricular activities can be easily overwhelming. Keeping up with a planner unlocks a sense of security and organization in your daily routine. Instead of using a phone or laptop to quickly type assignments in a notes app, physically writing things down does wonders for remembering important tasks. If it is difficult for you to find a planner that suits you, you can buy a blank notebook and turn it into a task management system tailored to your specific needs.

study habits planner

6. Set goals

Consistently setting new goals for yourself pushes you to be active in your learning. Falling into idleness in your college career can leave you feeling unaccomplished or that you are lacking direction. Setting both short-term and long-term goals is an important part of student success. Setting goals has a positive impact on performance as they work to direct attention and efforts towards activities aimed at achieving goals. Achievable goals steers students away from irrelevant activities. The content team from MindTools explains a functional goal-setting mindset: “When you set goals for yourself, it is important that they motivate you: this means making sure that they are important to you, and that there is value in achieving them. If you have little interest in the outcome, or they are irrelevant given the larger picture, then the chances of you putting in the work to make them happen are slim. Motivation is key to achieving goals.” Being self-aware and mindful of the steps you are taking to reach your goals can make the hard work less daunting. Take the time to figure out what you want to gain from your college experience and work to create goals to help get you there.  

7. Asking for help

Unless you took Advanced Placement or college-level courses in high school, your new intense workload will be a big adjustment. Being aware of the resources available to you for academic help can be the difference between a passing or a failing grade. Some of the extra help opportunities can be found in class study groups, by contacting your professor for help directly, or tutors employed by the college. These resources are there because students will struggle with their coursework over their college career—you are not alone! Feeling overwhelmed by coursework is a natural experience that you will have to adjust to, but you do not have to do it by yourself. Make the most of your education by doing everything in your power to understand the material and earn that grade.

study habits help

8. Study over the weekend

College students look forward to the weekend with no classes to attend. However, the work continues outside of the classroom. Yes, the weekend can be used to relax and prepare for the week to come. However, using this time to keep your mind focused on your coursework is immensely beneficial to the quality of your learning. Consistent review of the material will make the adjustment back into the school week easier. If you don’t have an assignment due on Monday, set goals to work ahead or spend extra time enhancing your understanding of class material. Using the weekend as a tool for your academic success is as equally important as taking some time to unwind and relax your mind!

9. Think positively

Being in the right, healthy mindset can make all the difference when it comes to your college experience. Making a conscious effort to think positively when studying or heading into an exam decreases stress and prepares you to give your best effort. Don’t get caught up in destructive thoughts that will limit your mental abilities. Strive to be the best version of yourself. You are only human—give yourself credit! It can be as simple as speaking praise out loud to yourself. Make the decision to cultivate a positive mindset.

10. Take care of yourself

Mental and physical health is always the number one priority. The topic of mental health is one of immeasurable importance for today’s college students. There is nothing to feel ashamed of if you get into a funk that you just cannot snap out of. Most colleges and universities have wellness centers where you can go to get counseling or quiet time. Simply talking to someone helps you to better understand yourself and how to navigate your circumstances. Many colleges offer wellness events throughout the semesters as well. These gives you an opportunity to learn about the different resources at your disposal.

study habits weekend

For your physical health, be deliberate in adopting a regular sleep schedule, making healthy food choices, and setting aside time for exercise. With busy schedules, it is always easier to grab fast food or snacks from the vending machine. This makes putting on weight during your college years very easy. Unhealthy eating, lack of sleep, and not exercising enough can have negative impacts on your overall health and affect your learning ability.

Despite the known benefits of regular physical activity, research shows a significant decline in physical activity participation and an increase in sedentary behavior during young adulthood during the college years. There is a significant amount of literature examining the relationship between physical activity, cardiorespiratory fitness and cognitive/academic outcomes among adolescent, adult and senior citizen populations.

 --International Journal of Exercise Science

The Good Study Habits Takeaway! 

Don’t let old habits and new distractions become stumbling blocks on the path to earning your college degree. By incorporating these ten effective study habits into your daily routine, you will see yourself transform into a capable, disciplined college student. How do you start implementing these tips? Simply make the decision and commitment to yourself to initiate this revamping of your routine and follow through.

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Emily Elizabeth Smith is a twenty-one-year-old college student attending Great Lakes Christian College where she is double majoring in Interpersonal and Organizational Communication and Bible Theology. She previously attended Alma College and Lansing Community College but decided to transfer to Great Lakes to immerse herself in an environment where she can mature in her faith and build personal, lifelong relationships with her professors and peers. She is a strong writer winning various awards throughout her schooling career such as the campus-wide poetry contest at Alma College. Emily’s plans after her time at Great Lakes are to use her invaluable skills to serve as a Kingdom representative of God and invest herself in enabling others to do their best, allowing communicative teamwork to move her into the professional workforce.

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5 proven study and time management habits for college success

  • September 14, 2020

study habits for college

Getting accepted into college is just the first step. This college journey that you are about to begin is an exciting and life-changing experience. The journey begins with many experiences that will be your first and new—living on your own, new expectations and responsibilities, and seeing new people every day. Such changes can be overwhelming; thus, adjusting to different aspects of life is the key to survive in college. A secret weapon to succeed in college is knowing how to study. Here are five tips on studying, so you know what to expect after making that transition from high school to college.

1. Get organized

Your life as a college student will be busy. There is so much to do, and if you’re not organized, you may feel like you are not on top of things. In high school, your teachers are around to help you get and stay organized. Teachers in high school might have a place for student’s notebooks. Additionally, the notes provided are typically in an organized format, so it is easier for students to learn. Thus, as a high school student, you may have to worry very little about such things. However, things are different for college students.

It helps to be tidy

In college, most professors just lecture, and everything else is up to you. It is crucial to organize your things, including your personal and academic materials. For example, tidying up your study table by putting things away helps you focus. Taking notes is essential to comprehend and retain information from lectures. However, just taking notes is not enough. The notes have to be organized to actually get the most value out of them. This may mean having different notebooks for each class so you can refer back to the whole semester’s worth of notes during midterms and finals.

Digital notetaking options

If you prefer a digital way of note-taking and keeping, I recommend exploring apps such as  Evernote , Notes in Apple products, and  Microsoft OneNote  in which you can look into to type your notes and put them into different folders and files. Handwritten notes are also a valid option, in fact, research shows that this can help you process the information better.

Worried about losing the notes on paper? After writing, you can digitize those notes by scanning them and organizing them into a folder online. This process will allow you to review and study the materials much more quickly and efficiently. In addition, to keep any physical class materials organized, you should either have a binder with tabs or pocket folders to keep them safe and in place. If you are a visual person, you can use a color-coded system to keep assignments and notes organized.

study habits for college

2. Plan, Plan, Plan

High schools have a specific schedule where you are in a building, most classrooms, for about seven classes a day. All you need to do is follow a set schedule every day. According to the  STEPP Program , the study times outside school day is about 1–3 hours per week per class, and a last-minute preparation may be enough for some classes. On the other hand, the STEPP-Program states that college students generally need to study for at least 2–3 hours outside of class for each hour in class. This means that if a student is taking a 12-hour course load a semester, they will require 24–36 hours of studying per week to do well on the courses.

In college, you can expect to be in class for about half of the high school classroom time. The rest of the day is completely up to you. Having a planner and schedule to know how you are going to spend that time is crucial to be productive in a day. You can record and save all your upcoming meetings and events on your calendar and have a reminder set before the time of the event, so you don’t forget what and where you are supposed to be.

Writing things down as a to-do list or even breaking tasks or topics down by hours and minutes is a great use of a planner. Since it is up to you to study the material presented during the lecture, you can use your planner to break down study times for each class every day to stay on track with the course material. Some popular planning and organizing options are bullet journals, google calendar, and apps like Asana. It is important to budget and plan your breaks in terms of duration and frequency of the study period.

study habits for college

3. Manage your reading and workload

High school provides all the textbooks needed, and in some classes, you don’t even have to touch a textbook for the entire year because teachers layout important information for students. In college, your professor may tell you to read a chapter before class, or you may have to read in order to fully understand the concepts. The aspects of class that require focus will vary depending on the type of professor and how the class is structured. There are courses where the exams are solely based on details from the book, and professors may assign readings for tests that are not covered in lectures as well. Book readings are essential and beneficial in many courses; thus, you should stay on top of them. This way, you don’t find yourself struggling to catch up.

Last minute work won’t do

It is possible to skate by and get decent grades in high school without doing a ton of work. Many students squeak out decent grades by cramming materials on the same day of the test or doing homework last minute. This does not work in college. As mentioned before, you are only in classrooms for a fraction of your day, and the rest of your time is to be used to decrease your workload, including homework, studying, research papers, essays, presentations, and group projects. Most assignments have deadlines that are outlined and tests that are specified in the syllabus.

Grades vary by course

Since you will receive a syllabus for every course at the beginning of the semester, you will have plenty of time to review and look over things as a big picture for the whole semester. The syllabus for each class will vary depending on the type and structure of the course. Each class may have different grade distribution, which is reflected by the assignments and exams planned. The grade distribution may look like four exams in total, each 25% worth of your total grade. Such an example can be seen in content-based subjects such as chemistry and genetics. Another example could be an English course where you will have a bunch of papers to write throughout the semester, and there may be some group projects. In this case, grade distribution would look like 15% each for four papers and 20% for 2 group projects. To keep up with materials, study every day and don’t cram at the last minute if possible!

study habits for college

4. Study smarter, not harder

First of all, it is important to know yourself and what works for you. As a high school student, teachers may have all the content ready in an outlined sheet, and you just have to fill it out and go over it. After going to college, however, figuring out your learning habits and ways to better grasp the information helps you become an effective learner. You may have to try out various methods to find the best way that fits you and your needs in learning.

Proven study tips

When you are studying, there are certain ways that are proven by research to be better, such as those from The Learning Center at the University of North Carolina . They state that these include teaching others helps you learn quickly, eliminating any distractions and not multitasking, asking questions, and quizzing or testing yourself after studying. More ways to learn faster is by practicing more to decrease test anxiety, connecting academic content to what you already know, simplifying and compressing the information, and reading out loud.

Key lecture points to note

You should also pay attention to any emphasis by listening for points that your professor stresses and repeats. Look for any bold words in the presentation or textbooks. During lectures, professors might spill some extra information like what will be on the exam or what won’t, so listen to them. You can save some time by not studying the wrong information, and it’ll help you focus on ideas that may be on the exam. If there is still some confusion or if you feel overwhelmed by the details, ask your classmates / friends first, then send a quick email to your TA or professor either asking your question or to make an appointment to talk to them.

study habits for college

5. Take care of yourself

Meanwhile, do not forget about yourself! Take breaks while studying because it will help you feel better, improve your focus, and enhance overall productivity. Before you begin studying, set a specific reward for completing your session. You will look forward to this reward and stay motivated throughout your study session. You may forget some general things at times since school keeps you busy, but it happens! So make sure to remind yourself to get enough sleep, stretch, and exercise to stay physically active, eat healthily, drink lots and lots of water, socialize, and feel your emotions.

You may also want to find other ways to recharge yourself. This may include reaching out and spending time with people that you care for, whether that is with friends, family, or roommates. Make sure to surround yourself with people who will care and support you when you need them the most. Being around and talking to people may help you release any bottled-up feelings and reduce your stress levels. If you have anything you enjoy, spend some time doing that activity.  Self-care can prevent burnout, increase your energy and contentment , and allow you to be at your best and most confident shape at any time.

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Developing Effective Study Habits for Adult Learners

Published in EDU Advice


Returning to education as an adult can be challenging, particularly when it comes to studying. Establishing effective study habits, however, can greatly enhance your academic performance and overall learning experience.

First, create a dedicated study space. Whether it's a home office or a quiet corner, having a specific location for studying can help you focus and make the most of your study time. This space should be well-lit, comfortable, and free from distractions.

Next, develop a study schedule. With multiple commitments, finding time to study can be tricky for adult learners. A set study routine can help you manage your time effectively. Break your study sessions into manageable chunks rather than long, exhaustive periods to maintain optimal concentration.

Don't neglect the power of active learning techniques. These could include summarizing information in your own words, teaching concepts to others, or using flashcards for memorization. Such techniques improve understanding and retention of information.

Lastly, make sure to take care of your physical and mental health. Regular breaks, adequate sleep, a healthy diet, and exercise are essential for maintaining high levels of focus and productivity. Remember, effective study habits are a blend of discipline, strategy, and self-care.

This article was generated by Open AI with human guidance and editing along the way.

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Academic Skills Center Blog

5 Ways to Enjoy your Academic Journey

Author: Mahrosh Gealani

Though it can be a bit tough at times, academic life can actually be quite a fun and fulfilling adventure if you tackle it with the right attitude. As the final exams approach us, here are five friendly tips to make your academic journey even more enjoyable:

  • Set Clear Goals : Do you plan to complete the entire assignment for that one class today, or is today dedicated to research? Keep in mind that an assignment can have multiple parts, so the goal is to complete what you can today. Try to break the tasks apart and tackle the first small chunk today.
  • Maintain a Healthy Work-Life Balance : Remember, it's important to maintain a lifestyle that balances out academic stresses. Have you taken a walk or called a friend today? A structured routine outside of academia can help keep you grounded. Have you tried the  ASC’s Take a Break Bingo ?
  • Embrace Challenges : Overcoming challenges boosts our confidence. It's beneficial to embrace difficulties, whether they stem from situations, assignments, or just challenging days. Try to make it through such days with a healthy lunch, a chat with friends, or a long walk can bring a sense of accomplishment.
  • Find a Supportive Community : Surround yourself with people who radiate positive energy and attitude. We all have challenging days and nobody can maintain positivity 100 percent of the time. It's crucial to find a community that understands we may face difficulties, but also encourages perseverance. Call or text a loved one, join workshops that help with navigating academic stress, like our MoTEAvational Monday workshops, or go on a coffee date with friends after a day of studying.
  • Celebrate Your Achievements : Setting small goals can motivate you to focus on the larger objective and make it more manageable. If you're having trouble with your goals, consider breaking them into smaller parts. Have you tried the ASC’s “4 Steps to Task Initiation” worksheet?

Remember, the process of academic journey is not always perfect or linear. Learn to embrace the small steps. If you would like someone to walk you through your academic journey, visit one of our wonderful Academic Coaches!

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  • All about heart surgery
  • Novel combination therapy offers promising results for treatment-refractory hepatoblastoma
  • Unhealthy habits to shed

Hyperparathyroidism: easy to cure but commonly under-diagnosed

  • Preferences: Cleaning up the concept and its use

Baylor College of Medicine Blog Network

Dr. Feibi Zheng , Baylor Medicine endocrine surgeon, wants patients to be aware of their calcium levels to treat an easily detectable and curable disease called hyperparathyroidism.

Hyperparathyroidism can occur when one or more of the four little glands next to your thyroid (parathyroid glands) become enlarged and your body starts increasing the calcium levels in your blood.

“The primary way your body puts more calcium in the blood is by breaking down your bones,” said Zheng, assistant professor in the Division of Surgical Oncology. “This makes patients at risk for a fragility facture. A fragility fracture is if someone falls from standing and breaks a bone. This is not supposed to happen but can in patients with hyperparathyroidism.”

In addition to weak bones, hyperparathyroidism can also cause kidney stones, memory loss, a decrease in planning ability, poor sleep quality and a decline in overall kidney function. This disease is most common in postmenopausal women, and the cause is largely unknown in most patients. A small percentage of patients have hyperparathyroidism due to a genetic condition. Patients with a history of lithium use can also develop hyperparathyroidism.

Pay attention to your regular blood test that you get for an annual physical. Zheng says if your calcium levels are elevated, ask your doctor to recheck calcium and parathyroid levels. This will tell your doctor if you have hyperparathyroidism.

The treatment for hyperparathyroidism is a surgery called parathyroidectomy where the surgeon removes the enlarged parathyroid gland or glands. Surprisingly, the body does not need all four complete parathyroid glands to function. “Like many other organs in the body such as the liver or pancreas, if most of the organ is normal, you only need a portion of it to live a healthy life,” Zheng said.

The cure rate after surgery is more than 95%; only 5% of patients will have parathyroid become enlarged again. Most of the surgeries are done outpatient and don’t require any extensive preparations.

“It is easy to cure this disease,” Zheng said. “This blood test is usually covered by insurance and widely available, so it’s sad that it’s missed so often.

By Tiffany Harston, communications specialist in the Michael E. DeBakey Department of Surgery

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