Let’s face it: college is nothing like high school. Classes and assignments are more complex, and without teachers and parents keeping you on track, it can be hard to focus. The study skills you had in high school may no longer work for you as an undergrad—and that’s okay.
When I was in college (which wasn’t too long ago—class of 2022 grad over here), I was a writing and study skills tutor for three years. Helping students figure out how to create a study schedule and find ways to study that worked for their needs was a huge part of my college experience.
Studying isn’t a one-size-fits-all task. It’s important to find a study method that works for you and your schedule. This guide contains some of my tips on how you can effectively study, manage your time, and create a study routine.
1) Take great notes
Note-taking is a key part of getting good grades, and it all starts by going to class. Whether you take down notes by hand or type them, this will make you an active participant and help you listen and understand the material better. This can also jog your memory when you review them later.
- Use highlighters, sticky notes, or color-coded pens or pencils to remember key information.
- Come up with your own acronyms to remember details more effectively.
- Write in bulleted lists or any other outline form that makes the most sense to you.
- Use digital tools like OneNote, EverNote, and Google Docs to keep track of your notes.
- Create folders on your device for each class.
- Try transcribing the lecture—typing is quicker than handwriting, so this will be easier.
2) Create a study schedule
You’ve got a lot on your plate. From classes to work-study jobs and extracurriculars, it’s a juggling act to manage everything at once. Trust me, I know. But to study effectively, you have to make time for it. No one likes last-minute cramming the night before an exam. A study schedule prevents that.
- Start by laying out everything you need to do during the week. From there, you can begin filling in times to focus on studying.
- Create a list of all the tasks you need to complete each week. From there, designate certain days in which you’ll accomplish these tasks.
- Allocate short bursts of time each day to complete your to-dos, and you’ll find that you’re getting more work done than you thought.
- Treat yourself! For every task you complete, do something that makes you happy—whether that’s watching your favorite show, online shopping, or going out to eat, reward yourself for time well spent.
3) Find your favorite study spots
Once you’ve figured out when to study, pick the right place to do it—here are some suggestions if your dorm or home aren’t the study space for you.
- The library’s a go-to spot for a quiet learning space. Ask your school’s librarian about common areas and private study rooms.
- Check out any on-campus or local coffee shops and cafes—you can sip a caffeinated pick-me-up and get some studying in.
- Don’t forget about the dozens of benches and tables sprawled across campus—these make perfect outdoor study spots.
Remote learning can provide challenges when it comes to studying and finding a spot to focus, but it’s not impossible.
- At home, try to find a space that’s free of clutter and as quiet as possible. Use noise canceling headphones to drown out any loud sound.
- Avoid distractions! Make sure the remote’s as far away from you as possible and your phone is on airplane mode or turned off. Leave the phone in another room if you have to.
Commuter students have the best of both worlds and can study on campus, at home, and in the car.
- When you’re on the go, take advantage of that time and consider listening to class recordings or audio lessons from your textbooks or other online resources.
- When you’re on campus, keep a lookout for commuter student lounges and spaces meant for you to relax and get some much-needed studying in.
4) Find out what your unique learning style is
There are so many ways to study; what works best for you depends on the type of learner you are: visual, auditory, verbal, kinesthetic, logical/analytical, social, and solitary to name a few. Whether you prefer reading or writing notes in the library, or being out in nature, how you study is totally up to you. Try some of these studying strategies according to your personal learning style.
You need to see information to understand it. Here are some study tips for you:
- Make flash cards with pictures
- Draw charts, graphs, and symbols
- Record lectures and professor demonstrations to watch later
You learn best by listening intently. Here are some study strategies that are worth a try:
- Study in quiet spaces—try to avoid areas with loud noises and people talking
- Record audio from lectures to review later
- Come up with a jingle, rhyme, or mnemonic to remember class concepts
You like to talk out what you’re learning to help you remember. Here are some study habits to try:
- Form study groups or meet with your professor to have conversations about the material
- Present your work to a friend or family member
- Record yourself explaining the material
You’re hands-on and prefer learning through physical activity and movement. Try these methods:
- Write down all your notes and thoughts—the act of writing can help you remember things better
- Keep moving as you review your notes! Use a fidget spinner, tap your feet, squeeze a stress ball, or whatever other motion you’re comfortable with.
- Take breaks—go for a walk or do a full workout between study sessions
You remember class concepts best when you read and write down the information. If this sounds like you, here are some study tips to help:
- Take thorough notes during lectures and re-write them in your own words outside of class
- Re-read articles, chapters, and handouts from class in a quiet space
- Conduct outside research—read and take notes on the class material that was not provided to you in class
You prefer finding answers through your own theories and formulations. Here are a few ideas to help you study:
- Only take notes on key points—break up the information into digestible tidbits
- Create charts, graphs, and diagrams to flesh out your thinking in a visual format
- Look for patterns and relationships in class readings and materials
You thrive academically by working in groups. Here are some tips for social/linguistic learners:
- Collaborate in study groups, with tutors, or with a professor during office hours
- Give and receive feedback on classwork
- Take advantage of social media, discussion boards, and group chats to talk about class materials
You love working by yourself. Here are some tips that can work for solitary learners:
- Find a quiet and private study space
- Keep a journal to track your studying progress—this is a great way to make sure you’re on the right track
- Be an active participant in class—take notes and ask questions! This will ensure that you get the right information and help you study better on your own outside of the classroom
Nature learners excel by working outside or in a relaxing environment. There are a few ways for you to study effectively:
- Get outside! Find a picnic table, bench, or anywhere you could sit and focus on your work.
- Take breaks—if you can’t study outside, make sure you take a break to get some fresh air. Take a walk, go for a bike ride, or any other outdoor break you see fit.
- Frame your coursework around nature—use nature examples to tailor studying to your interests
Studying looks different for everyone, but there is a method that will work for you. Don’t forget that all students can take advantage of online resources like Khan Academy and Coursera to name a couple, as well as on-campus resources like study groups, tutoring, and office hours. Try any of these study tips to feel more prepared and confident in class.