Summer is almost over and many college students are finding their way to campus for the new school year. While the hype is currently all about dorms and student life, here are some tips to do well this semester. Whether or not you were a top student before, as college freshmen we all could use some advice to shift into what college classes are really like, and how to ace those exams and surprise pop quizzes.
1. Take great notes.
As simple as this may sound, there is so much more than just grabbing a notebook and jotting down what you see and hear. The best method for note-taking is to take notes as if you are taking them for someone else’s use. That way, you are more likely to be thorough and conscientious with what you are putting down. And aside from the common notes many people tend to take with a title and simple bullet points, try a new format and find what works for you. Use abbreviations and maybe try Cornell notes, an innovative way to record information. Include questions or other forms of annotation in the side margins that you can ask your professor in discussion time or during office hours. Simply, don’t try so hard to make your notes the prettiest thing in the world, as that can waste time. Just stay neat and legible and use highlighters to color code! Quick tip: Writing in blue ink is a proven way to memorize the material more effectively. For more tips, check out this comprehensive guide to note-taking.
2. Rewrite important information and create study guides.
The more you repeat information you learn, the better you’ll remember and understand it. If you are fast at writing and typing, the best way to take notes is to handwrite them and type them all down later. If typing is not your thing, rewrite important key ideas from your notes on a flashcard as if you were allowed to use it on your exam. That way, you will reinforce the material you need to know most. Create study guides for yourself to further test your knowledge, and share them with your study group. You can even try making study guides for each other.
3. Cater to your personal learning style.
It is a psychological fact that while all humans behave similarly, we all have our slight differences in behavior. By identifying what your personal learning style is, you can better determine which studying methods are best for you to use when learning new material. Don’t know what yours is? Take this quick online quiz that will not only give you results but helpful “do’s and don’ts”. For example, for an auditory learner, the best methods to obtain and memorize material are through listening to lectures and speaking aloud what they learned. Auditory listeners often need to avoid noise distractions to perform their maximum ability. Whereas, visual learners are best at reviewing with colorful graphs and charts, but may run into trouble staying focused when surrounded by visual distractions.
4. Review as you go.
Studies show that you are more likely to retain information and remember your notes well if you review every twenty minutes. If you are studying for an hour, every twenty minutes, look back on what you just went over. This helps to reiterate your knowledge and by the end of your session, you should not feel as overwhelmed. Another good tip is review your new notes right after you get out of class so you do not forget what you have learned that hour.
5. Color code your materials.
Color-coding all of your school supplies and notes will not only help you stay organized, but it is proven that color stimulated creativity and prevents boredom. Colors help you recall certain things when they are associated with notes and adds to graphs and charts, making the things you highlight and draw stand out more. Always highlight and underline so you can look back easily. My advice? Assign specific highlighter colors to certain phrases/words. For example, highlight the information you have trouble understanding or memorizing in purple, and highlight main ideas in blue, and so forth.
6. Take small breaks.
The longer you go without taking a break while studying, the more fatigued you will feel. Your brain will become too tired to function efficiently, so take a walk every now and then, grab a healthy snack or chat with a friend. This way, you will improve your attention and focus and ease frustration when you sit back down in front of your textbook and/or computer. The last thing you want to do is be cooped up in your dorm cramming a load of information into your head when it’s working way harder than it has to.
7. Make flashcards.
No matter how many times you tell yourself to ditch the flashcards thinking you won’t need them, you should be surprised how effective they really are. Like tip #2 above, repeating information is really the only way you’ll be prepared for a quiz or exam. Not only will you have to make them yourself, but you can use them to quiz yourself when there is no one to study with. Nowadays, if you aren’t into handwriting so many flashcards out, you can try online services like Quizlet, that even has an app for you to download. With Quizlet, you can play games that will make you memorize them even more while having fun doing it. They are portable, easily accessible and very interactive for all learning styles.
8. Read and review slides before class, as well as notes from the previous lecture.
If your professor is the type who will upload the slides ahead of time, take that as an advantage. By reviewing notes from last time, you can see where you left off and the new slides will allow you to expect what is coming up. Studies have shown that this has enhanced overall comprehension of the topic when it is introduced for the first time.
9. Create a study schedule and stick to it.
Like how you have a set schedule every day for classes, find study windows of when you can devote time to sit down and read the text, or do assignments. This will help you manage your time better, as time management is a necessary college-student skill. By writing down when exams are and studying for them in advance, this will prevent you from bombarding yourself that late night before the day of the exam. Divide the chapters and sections and designate certain times/days you will study each. Chart the study plan on a calendar. For more information of creating a study schedule for finals, check out this link.
10. Be responsible and stay disciplined.
In college you won’t have your parents or lenient teachers to hold your hand along the way. Colleges cannot stress enough how important it is to go to class. The only way to get a good grade and keep up with the course is to show up, do the assignments and reading and stick to good studying habits. Learn to say no to distractions and try your hardest not to procrastinate. Most of all, enjoy what you’re learning, because in the end, you are doing this to graduate with satisfaction.
11. Make the most out of every class and what your school has to offer.
Participation is greatly stressed in college classes because as a young adult, you must have great communication skills to be successful in the real world. Get to know your professor and establish connections. You never know when they might just find you as a great candidate for their upcoming research project or have networks to internships. Also, check out the resources the school has to offer. You are not paying that much money to go there not to use them. If you need tutoring, many schools offer help for free and you can reach out to faculty and administrators. If and when a professor offers extra credit, if you have time to do it, by all means go for it. You never know how much that may boost your grade and GPA, even if you are already doing well.
12. Study at the right time and place.
Find what time of day works for you when you are setting up a study schedule. Some people work best bright and early in the morning, some at the darkest of night, and some during a time in between. Whatever the case may be, aim for those moments. Moreover, the best places to study are often ones free of too many distractions, where you are at ease and can clear your mind. Libraries with multiple floors often get quieter the higher up you go. And if you decide to study with friends, make sure you stay on task and be conscious of those around you.
13. Stay focused and motivated.
As difficult as it may be for the college student of the modern era, avoid using social media and using other electronic devices that may distract you while studying. Stay away from putting yourself in a place where you are bound to lose concentration. Remind yourself that the most important reason you are going to college is to receive an education to achieve the dreams and goals you have set for yourself.
14. Stay organized.
Most students study best when they are at least somewhat organized. Make sure to keep and neat desk area and have the necessary school supplies and books to excel. Keep a planner or calendar that you update frequently, use sticky notes to make lists, and keep your class materials and notes in a specific order so that when you need them, they are easy to grab and take out.
15. Take care of your health.
Last but certainly not least, if not the most paramount tip, be mindful of your health. Get exercise and stay active to increase all around healthy blood flow and fitness. Snack on healthy brain-boosting foods like fresh fruit and protein bars. Relieve stress by doing yoga or meditating and get sufficient amounts of sleep. Not only will your grades benefit, but so will you overall as a person.
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