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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: April 23, 2024 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 818,926 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 in 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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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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Top 10 Effective Study Tips for College Students 

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study habits in 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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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 in 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

  • The Cornell Note Taking System  – How to use the Cornell note taking system, with our interactive Canvas module.
  • Learning from Digital Materials – What strategies work best?

Reading Strategies

  • 3 P’s for Effective Reading  – Purpose, Plan, and Preview
  • Textbook Reading Systems  – How to use the SQ3R and other reading systems.

Learning Online

  • Online Learning Checklist : a checklist of how to be prepared to learn online.
  • Things to Keep in Mind as you Participate in Online Classes  (including troubleshooting tips!)
  • 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.
  • Learning Online Resource Videos 

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  • Office Hours  – What they are and how to make the best use of them.
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  • LSC offers tutoring in a variety of disciplines including chemistry, biology, math, statistics, physics, languages, and economics.
  • You can also form your own study group or find a study buddy .

Learn How to Study: 30 Proven Tips and Techniques for College Students

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study habits in college

By CVO Staff

Key Takeaways :

  • Effective study tips involve active engagement with material, such as creating study guides, explaining concepts aloud, and creating diagrams.
  • Reading is considered a pre-study activity; active studying techniques like creating concept maps and teaching content enhance learning.
  • Planning and organization are crucial for effective studying; setting goals, avoiding cramming, and seeking help improve academic performance.

Studying in college should be a breeze, right? After all, you’ve been doing homework and studying notes in elementary through high school for 12 years now. 

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College is a whole different ball game, with different rules and expectations. In many classes, your entire grade is dependent upon just a few tests and papers. This means good and effective study habits and study techniques are crucial to finding success as a college student. 

In this article, we break down 30 proven study tips and techniques, including popular techniques like visual aids, mind mapping, and retrieval practice, that college students can use to improve long term memory and ensure straight As at the end of the semester. To make things even easier, we organized our tips into three categories — organization and good habits,  notes and study materials, and active studying. 

Happy Studying!

How to Study

30 Proven Study Techniques for College Students 

Organization & Good Habits   

1. It Takes More Than a Bunch of School Supplies to Stay Organized 

Buying school supplies is one of the most exciting parts of the entire semester, but unfortunately, all of the Post-Its, flash cards, and highlighters in the world won’t make you organized on their own! Staying organized throughout the semester takes discipline and practice, but the extra work is worth it and saves you time in the long run. 

When developing study habits, many students find it helpful to have a dedicated binder for each class. Using dividers, organize your class binder into sections for notes (further divided into units or chapters), graded tests and quizzes, and papers. If you like to handwrite your notes in your own words, include a stack of college-ruled paper or a spiral notebook. Keeping each class separated will make studying easier because there will be less to sift through, distinguish, and lose.

2. Utilize a Planner 

There is a ton that happens during a college semester! Stay on top of it all by finding a planner you like, and using it to organize your classes, study times, work shifts, and more. 

Look over the syllabi for your classes, and record in advance any noted exams and due dates. If you are a student-athlete, jot down practice times and game dates. Hours you are meant to work, volunteer shifts, parties, and club meetings should also be written down into your planner. 

By organizing your life and study plan on a calendar, you will find it easier to stick to a study schedule. Knowing how long you have to compose a report or study for a test is extremely helpful, and will (hopefully!) help you avoid having to cram. 

Finally, don’t forget to schedule some “me” time in your planner, too. College can get overwhelming quickly, and it’s a good idea to take care of yourself by making time to do things you enjoy. And of course, get a good night’s sleep.

3. Make To-Do Lists 

If you find yourself becoming overwhelmed by all there is to do on your study schedule, then put together daily and weekly To Do Lists! Having a list of tasks that you can physically check or cross off is a great motivation for getting everything done.  

Each Sunday night, look over your planner and put together a checklist of things you hope to accomplish that week. Separate your list into things that can be done at any point during the week, and things that need to be done on a certain day. 

Creating a week-long list will also help you to organize study sessions in preparation for an upcoming quiz or test. 

If planning out an entire week doesn’t work for you, then end each day by creating a To Do List for the following day. You can even do this on your cell phone!

4. Always Plan Ahead 

Cramming for a quiz, test, paper, or presentation is one of the worst things you can do in college. Not only are you not likely to do well after a cram session, but you are also more likely to burn out and develop negative feelings towards your classes or the subject matter. 

Avoid burnouts by planning ahead using your planner and/or To Do lists. Figure out how long you have until an upcoming assignment, how many hours you will likely need to prepare, and then schedule that time into your life. This is the key to figuring out how to study effectively.

For example, if you know you have an upcoming French exam that is going to be tough, you may need more time to prepare. Set aside a half hour each day for two weeks before the exam to just review notes for French. 

On the other hand, an upcoming math quiz might be looking like it will be a breeze. In this case, you may want to set aside just 10-15 minutes per day for self testing and reviewing.

Create a plan to study effectively and stick to it.

5. Routine, Routine, Routine!

Routine is one of the most important points for students looking to develop better study habits. People thrive on routine, and this is especially true for college students looking to develop study skills. While you may fancy yourself a spontaneous person, for the most part, your days and weeks should follow a healthy routine. 

Consider these study tips: Wake up at the same time each day and get something accomplished right off the bat. Consume a nourishing breakfast before your day of classes, then study according to the study schedule you have planned out in your planner. End your day with dinner, some “me” time, and a good night’s rest. 

Sticking to a routine with your study habits and other activities lets your body know what to expect at any given time. From your metabolism, to your sleep cycles, to your energy level, this is an important part of success, and allows your brain to focus on other things — like that upcoming Lit paper!

study habits in college

6. Exercise Before Studying 

Even the shortest study session can feel exhausting. Fight fatigue by exercising for a short time before you sit down to work.

Not only does exercising on a regular basis increase your energy levels, but it also kickstarts brain function, improves your memory and cognitive performance, reduces stress levels, and improves your mood. 

If you aren’t up for a full gym sesh, that’s okay. A quick, 20-minute workout does the job, as does a brisk walk around your campus or neighborhood. The bottom line is to exercise and then start studying. If you’re like mosr people, you’re almost guaranteed to perform better as a result.

7. Space Out Your Study Sessions 

“Distributed practice” is a good study tip for avoiding last-minute cram sessions, and also helps our brain to more permanently remember the important information we are studying. Studies have shown that distributed studying is most effective over a two-week time period. For example: 

Day 1: Attend class and learn the material Day 2: Review the material Day 3: Review the material One week later: Review the material Two weeks later: Review the material

Keeping up with this review takes planning and organization — yet another reason to use a planner and to stay organized!  

8. Prioritize Good Sleep 

Sleep is so important when you are a college student, yet it is often the first thing many young people put off. 

Studies have shown that there is a positive relationship between how well a student does in school and how much sleep they are getting . But it is important to note that this doesn’t mean sleeping eight hours the night before a big test will help you to earn an A. Rather, it is getting enough sleep consistently that primes your brain for successful studies. In other words, you need sleep for your brain to function properly! Plus, if you’re not getting a good night’s sleep, you’re more likely to fall asleep in class and miss important material.

9. Stick to Healthy Snacks 

Food is fuel, and you’ll need fuel to get through studying. But think again before you make a trip to the campus store for candy and energy drinks. 

Things like coffee, candy, and sodas are a bad idea in the long room. They may give you the temporary energy boost you think you need to get through tonight’s study session, but these foods will ultimately end in a sugar crash. And with sugar crashes can come total brain farts. 

Instead, snack on healthier snacks like apples, nuts, and edamame before you start studying. If you can, just drink water or tea while you’re studying. Foods like this will provide you with energy that is both focused and sustainable.

10. Take (Good!) Notes

Even if you are the most effective studier on the planet, it won’t mean much if you don’t have good notes from which to learn. Whether you are hearing about a topic for the first time in class, or just reviewing, come up with a consistent method for taking notes, then stick to it. This is the first step toward retaining information, and you’ll be glad you did it when it’s time to start preparing for the final exam.

Some study tips for learning the material by taking notes include:

  • Notice Verbal Cues : When your professor begins a section of their lecture with something like “This is important…,” or when they repeat something more than once, they are basically telling you to write down what they are saying, so pay attention. Take notes on these points, and consider them key concepts for upcoming tests.
  • Write Down Anything That Goes on the Board : If your professor takes the time to write something on the whiteboard, then make sure it gets written into your notes, too. The same goes for anything included on a PowerPoint presentation, practice questions, or similar.
  • Write Your Notes By Hand : To the best extent you can, write your notes by hand. Research shows that writing by hand helps with memory formation. In other words, your brain will remember the material more effectively, giving you a better understanding of the content.
  • Take Margin Notes : As you are reading, make notes on main ideas in the margins of your book. These notes could be connections you’ve made, thoughts and opinions, or additional information offered by your professor. This is a good way to take an active approach to your learning.
  • Color Code Your Notes : You may find it helpful to study effectively for exams and compose papers if you have color-coded notes. You can use different colored pens or highlighters for different sections of a chapter or unit. You can also use different colors for your ideas versus your professor’s ideas. For example, pink highlighter and red pen practice problems or for things your professor has said, and yellow highlighter and black pen for your own thoughts. These visual aids can really be helpful when it comes time to study for the big test.

study habits in college

11. Re-Organize Your Notes 

Here are some more tips regarding notes: The more you look at your notes, the more you are likely to remember the material. Within a day or two of taking notes in class, take some time to re-organize your notes so that everything makes sense. Re-write your notes if you’ve typed them, turn your bullet-pointed notes into an organized outline, or create flashcards with important notes and points. You can use these later as practice tests. This is especially helpful if you happen to be a visual learner.

12. Review Your Notes Daily 

The most effective way to really learn anything is to review it frequently. To study smart, try re reading the material frequently over a period of time, as opposed to just cramming before a quiz or test. 

Between creating your notes and being tested on them, read through your re-organized materials for each of your college classes for 10-15 minutes each day. To make the most of your study time and study efficiently, self-test and use retrieval practice to call to mind what you know about course concepts. Then, sit back and watch as your academic performance soars!

13. Learn From Your Mistakes 

Everyone makes mistakes, but students have the unique opportunity of learning from theirs. Be sure to keep every quiz and test you take in each class. This includes those short reading quizzes that can sometimes seem a little trivial. 

When you receive back a graded quiz or a test, pay attention to the items you missed. Then, take some time during your next review session to look over your answers and correct any that have been marked wrong. Then add these to your notes to review before the next exam or the final. Professors love to include frequently missed quiz questions on future exams. 

14. Use a Color Coded System in Your Notes 

A color-coded organizational system can really help you to distinguish between parts of a topic, making this one of the most effective study techniques. 

Use different colored highlighters, pens, and Post-It notes for different parts of your notes and reading to create a useful study guide. For example, you may choose to highlight the main points in yellow and supporting details in blue, or one argument in pink and the second argument in green.

15. Create a Glossary or Vocabulary List 

While you should of course review every part of your notes, studying vocabulary is especially important. Not only do most professors include a vocabulary section on quizzes, exams, and finals, but vocabulary words appear in multiple-choice questions, short answer questions, and essay prompts. If you have not mastered a chapter’s relevant vocabulary, then you may not understand a question well enough to answer it! 

Master vocabulary by creating a glossary or vocabulary list from which to study. Your list can be as simple as words and their definitions written on a piece of paper, or they can be flashcards. There are even some apps and websites that can help you study vocabulary with your smartphone, laptop, or tablet.

study habits in college

16. Make and Study Flashcards

Flashcards are an excellent tool for studying just about anything, from main points to vocabulary and everything in between. Though flashcards make a very effective study tool when they are carried around and reviewed over a few spare moments, they can also be beneficial when used with the Leitner System . 

The Leitner System is a study method using three stacks or boxes. You can label the stacks as you would like — perhaps “Needs Work,” “Almost There,” and “Mastered,” or “Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays;” “Wednesdays and Fridays,” and “Fridays.” 

However you label your stacks or boxes, the goal is to end up with all of your flashcards in the far right box. Using the above examples, those would be “Mastered” and “Fridays.”

First, create flashcards of your study materials. If you answer a flashcard incorrectly, then it should go in the left-most box or stack (i.e. the flashcards that will need more frequent review). Once you answer that same flashcard correctly, you can move it to the second group in the middle. Flashcards that you are answering correctly on a consistent basis can go in the right-most box, that is the box that needs the least review. 

17. Practice Mind Mapping 

Mind Mapping is a very effective strategy for organizing study material in your mind to ensure that you are really understanding things. 

What is a mind map? Mind maps look a lot like the “spiderweb” outlines your elementary school teacher taught you. The center of the map is the main concept, and the spokes coming off of that center are the supporting details. Your map can have as many spokes as you need to fully outline an idea. 

Use mind mapping as a method for reorganizing your notes, or use it to test your understanding closer to an exam. In addition to helping you study smarter, mind mapping is also an effective strategy for preparing for a paper.

Active Studying

18. study with classmates – study group, make a friend in every class.

Mix things up a bit by holding a study session at your school or a local library with friends and/or classmates! It is helpful to make at least one friend in each class, but if you haven’t already met anyone, forming a study group is a great way to do just that. Some benefits of holding a group study session include:

  • Hearing the material in a different voice, with different words used to summarize
  • Bouncing ideas off of a peer, and hearing different perspectives 
  • Discussing for clarification
  • Learning in a positive study environment
  • It’s fun! 

19. Don’t Just Memorize 

While memorizing material may work for your upcoming quiz or test, it doesn’t always equal long-term understanding. 

Certain things like vocabulary definitions, names and dates, math facts, etc. can be memorized. However, you are better off ensuring that you understand the whys and hows of other things. This will help you to actually retain information.

Mind mapping, re-organizing your notes, and quizzing yourself are all effective ways to practice your understanding of certain concepts.

20. Try to “Teach” the Material 

One of the most efficient ways to check our understanding of something we have learned is to try to summarize it, and one great way to do that is to attempt to re-teach it. When we attempt to explain an idea on our own, as simply as possible, we are more likely to understand it better. 

This is called The Feynman Technique, and it works in just four simple steps. 

  • Give the concept you are studying a short title, and write that title at the top of your paper.
  • Explain the concept in your own words, as if you were teaching it to a class or to another person. 
  • Review what you have just “taught,” and try to identify the parts where you made a mistake and/or missed an important detail. Return to your textbook or your official class notes, and attempt to correct your mistakes. 
  • Finally, re-read your summary and identify any complex language, technical terms, or more advanced vocabulary words. Take a moment to simplify these terms. 

The Feynman Technique is theoretical re-teaching and uses paper, but you can also attempt to summarize material for a friend, classmate, pet, or even an imaginary or stuffed friend.

study habits in college

21. Don’t Be Afraid to Ask for Help

College is expensive, and there is no point in spending all of that time, effort, and money if you don’t graduate having understood what you were meant to. If you are not understanding a concept in a class, then do not be afraid to ask for help. 

Your professor has office hours especially for this reason, and should make him- or herself available to help students who are having some trouble. If you aren’t comfortable with the idea of approaching your teacher, then it can help to ask someone else, like a classmate who is understanding better. If that’s not possible, then your university’s academic services can help you set up a study session with classmates or a tutor. 

However you get some extra help, it will be worth it. Sometimes it helps to hear someone else explain a concept, too. 

22. Rotate Study Spots (and Get Out of Your Dorm!)

According to multiple studies, rotating your study area can help with recall performance — that is, the percentage of information you remember after learning and studying it. While it can be tempting to always grab the same study spot, try to alternate your study area throughout the week to maintain good study habits. One day in your favorite cafe, and another in the library, perhaps. 

The one place you shouldn’t study often is your dorm room. Not only are you most likely to find distraction in the place you call home, but studying where you sleep can train your brain to associate your dorm room with work, rather than rest.  

23. Eliminate Distractions! 

Distractions are an effective destroyer of concentration and hard work, making them the opposite of good study skills. With distractions around, studying will both take longer and prove less effective. 

Turn off or silence your phone and social media while you are studying. Silence, too, any radio or television noise that might prove to commandeer your attention. Don’t allow yourself to check social media until one of your scheduled breaks.  

Other distractions will vary by student. While some students focus better with some classical music playing, others need complete silence. Some other common distractions include friends, food, the ability to people watch, and your computer. If you find something is becoming overly distracting, find a way to turn it “off” during the times you are meant to be studying.

24. Reward Yourself for Effective Study

There is nothing wrong with bribing yourself every once in a while! If it gets you to sit down and practice effective study skills, then schedule in some rewards. For example, a longer period of study such as one solid hour of review can be rewarded with an episode of your favorite television show or a quick trip to the campus coffee shop. Or allow yourself an M&M for each math problem completed. The most effective bribe will depend on your likes and finding what motivates you. And remember, better grades is the biggest reward!

25. Take Frequent, Small Breaks 

There isn’t a prize for who studies the longest, so allow yourself to take a five to ten minute break every once in a while. Your breaks can be as frequent as you would like — every 20 or 30 minutes, perhaps — but make sure you are not abusing your own reward system. A short period of rest at regular intervals is best.

Set a timer for the amount of time you want to study before taking a break, then set another timer for the length of your intended break, which shouldn’t be longer than 5-10 minutes. Once your timer goes off letting you know it’s time to return to studying, re-set your timer for the same amount of study time and get back to your books. Don’t be afraid to take a break–you’ll be amazed at the difference a five minute break can make!

study habits in college

26. Quiz Yourself 

Every once in a while, set your books and notes aside to quiz yourself. A self-administered quiz can be a helpful method for gauging how well you are understanding the material.  This is a good way to utilize retrieval practice–that is, bringing important information to mind in order to retain it longer.

You can use flashcards, or have a friend come up with questions while reading your notes. Keep track of which questions you answer correctly, and which need a little more practice.

27. Chew Gum While You Study

Wait, what? 

Believe it or not, studies have shown that chewing gum while you study can help with memory and recall. Stock up on your favorite gum at the campus store, then chew a little guilt-free during your study session and look forward to better marks on your next test. Just make sure your chewed gum ends up in the nearest trash can once you are done with it.

28. Read Material More Than Once

College students learn constantly, and the amount of new information can get overwhelming. Give yourself the best shot at retaining everything in your long term memory by going over your reading material more than once.

Many students prefer to read a chapter for the first time before class. This way, your professor’s lecture is actually the second time you are hearing the information. Then after class, you can re-read the material to go over it a third time.  

29. Know the Test Format 

Answering questions and figuring out a test format can really take its toll. Once you have taken a test in a class, spend some time studying its format. 

For example, would you lose more points missing a short answer question or an essay? Are dates part of your history test? Did your professor take questions from the charts and footnotes of your textbook chapters? 

Knowing these things will help you focus your studying and score high on assessments. 

30. Practice the SQ3R Method

The SQ3R Method is a study tool of which every student should be aware in order to study smart. It is a reading comprehension technique that helps students retain information beyond short term memory and identity the most important parts of what they are studying. The method’s name, SQ3R, stands for the five steps of the reading comprehension process: 

Survey — Before you read a new chapter in your textbook, begin by surveying — or looking over — the assigned pages. Look at any images and charts, and note the headings and subheadings. 

Question — In your head, begin to formulate questions around what you are seeing in your initial survey. What is this chapter going to be about? What do you already know about this topic? What questions do you expect the chapter might answer? 

Read — Begin reading the chapter completely. Pay attention to the answers to any questions you formulated in the above step. 

Recite — After each section in your text, summarize what you just read using your own words. Your summary does not need to be long but should include major points and your answers to your questions. This is a good way to practice retrieval of information in your short term memory.

Review — Once you have finished reading the assigned material, review it once more to make sure you fully understand. Re-read any confusing portions, and quiz yourself on important elements. The more practice retrieval before the big test, the better!

We hope you found this article helpful! As a final note, we encourage you to try each of these study tips, but know that not all of them will work for everyone. It may take a little experimental psychology on your part to determine which strategies and techniques work best for you as an individual. Good luck!

25 Scientifically Proven Tips for More Effective Studying

How to study tips for students

Staying on top of schoolwork can be tough.

Whether you’re in high school, or an adult going back to college, balancing coursework with other responsibilities can be challenging. If you’re teetering on the edge of burnout, here are some study tips that are scientifically proven to help you succeed!

Editorial Listing ShortCode:

2024 Ultimate Study Tips Guide

In this guide, we explore scientifically-proven study techniques from scientific journals and some of the world’s best resources like Harvard, Yale, MIT, and Cornell.

In a hurry? Skip ahead to the section that interests you most.

  • How to Prepare for Success
  • Create Your Perfect Study Space
  • Pick a Study Method that Works for You
  • Effective Study Skills
  • How to Study More Efficiently
  • How to Study for Tests
  • Memory Improvement Techniques
  • Top 10 Study Hacks Backed by Science
  • Best Study Apps
  • Study Skills Worksheets
  • Key Takeaways

This comprehensive guide covers everything from studying for exams to the best study apps. So, let’s get started!

Part 1 – How to Prepare for Success

Prepare to Study

1. Set a Schedule

“Oh, I’ll get to it soon” isn’t a valid study strategy. Rather, you have to be intentional about planning set study sessions .

On your calendar, mark out chunks of time that you can devote to your studies. You should aim to schedule some study time each day, but other commitments may necessitate that some sessions are longer than others.

Harder classes require more study time. So, too, do classes that are worth several credits. For each credit hour that you’re taking, consider devoting one to three hours to studying each week.

2. Study at Your Own Pace

Do you digest content quickly, or do you need time to let the material sink in? Only you know what pace is best for you.

There’s no right (or wrong) study pace. So, don’t try matching someone else’s speed.

Instead, through trial and error, find what works for you. Just remember that slower studying will require that you devote more time to your schoolwork.

3. Get Some Rest

Exhaustion helps no one perform their best. Your body needs rest ; getting enough sleep is crucial for memory function.

This is one reason that scheduling study time is so important: It reduces the temptation to stay up all night cramming for a big test. Instead, you should aim for seven or more hours of sleep the night before an exam.

Student napping after studying

Limit pre-studying naps to 15 or 20 minutes at a time. Upon waking, do a few stretches or light exercises to prepare your body and brain for work.

4. Silence Your Cell Phone

Interruptions from your phone are notorious for breaking your concentration. If you pull away to check a notification, you’ll have to refocus your brain before diving back into your studies.

Consider turning off your phone’s sounds or putting your device into do not disturb mode before you start. You can also download apps to temporarily block your access to social media .

If you’re still tempted to check your device, simply power it off until you’re finished studying.

Research shows that stress makes it harder to learn and to retain information.

Stress-busting ideas include:

  • Taking deep breaths
  • Writing down a list of tasks you need to tackle
  • Doing light exercise

Try to clear your head before you begin studying.

Part 2 – Create Your Perfect Study Space

college student studying at desk

1. Pick a Good Place to Study

There’s a delicate balance when it comes to the best study spot : You need a place that’s comfortable without being so relaxing that you end up falling asleep. For some people, that means working at a desk. Others do better on the couch or at the kitchen table. Your bed, on the other hand, may be too comfy.

Surrounding yourself with peace and quiet helps you focus. If your kids are being loud or there’s construction going on outside your window, you might need to relocate to an upstairs bedroom, a quiet cafe or your local library.

2. Choose Your Music Wisely

Noise-canceling headphones can also help limit distractions.

It’s better to listen to quiet music than loud tunes. Some people do best with instrumental music playing in the background.

Study listening to music

Songs with lyrics may pull your attention away from your textbooks. However, some folks can handle listening to songs with words, so you may want to experiment and see what works for you.

Just remember that there’s no pressure to listen to any music. If you do your best work in silence, then feel free to turn your music player off.

3. Turn Off Netflix

If song lyrics are distracting, just imagine what an attention sucker the television can be! Serious studying requires that you turn off the TV.

The same goes for listening to radio deejays. Hearing voices in the background takes your brainpower off of your studies.

4. Use Background Sounds

Turning off the television, talk radio and your favorite pop song doesn’t mean that you have to study in total silence. Soft background sounds are a great alternative.

Some people enjoy listening to nature sounds, such as ocean waves or cracks of thunder. Others prefer the whir of a fan.

5. Snack on Brain Food

A growling stomach can pull your mind from your studies, so feel free to snack as you work. Keep your snacks within arm’s reach, so you don’t have to leave your books to find food.

Fuel your next study session with some of the following items:

  • Lean deli meat
  • Grapes or apple slices
  • Dark chocolate

Go for snacks that will power your brain and keep you alert. Steer clear of items that are high in sugar, fat and processed carbs.

Part 3 – Pick a Study Method That Works for You

List of Study Methods

Mindlessly reading through your notes or textbooks isn’t an effective method of studying; it doesn’t help you process the information. Instead, you should use a proven study strategy that will help you think through the material and retain the information.

Strategy #1 – SQ3R Method

With the SQ3R approach to reading , you’ll learn to think critically about a text.

There are five steps:

  • Survey : Skim through the assigned material. Focus on headings, words in bold print and any diagrams.
  • Question : Ask yourself questions related to the topic.
  • Read : Read the text carefully. As you go, look for answers to your questions.
  • Recite : Tell yourself the answers to your questions. Write notes about them, even.
  • Review : Go over the material again by rereading the text and reading your notes aloud.

Strategy #2 – PQ4R Method

PQ4R is another study strategy that can help you digest the information you read.

This approach has six steps:

  • Preview : Skim the material. Read the titles, headings and other highlighted text.
  • Question : Think through questions that pertain to the material.
  • Read : As you work through the material, try to find answers to your questions.
  • Reflect : Consider whether you have any unanswered questions or new questions.
  • Recite : Speak aloud about the things you just read.
  • Review : Look over the material one more time.

Strategy #3 – THIEVES Method

The THIEVES approach can help you prepare to read for information.

There are seven pre-reading steps:

  • Title : Read the title.
  • Headings : Look through the headings.
  • Introduction : Skim the intro.
  • Every first sentence in a section : Take a look at how each section begins.
  • Visuals and vocabulary : Look at the pictures and the words in bold print.
  • End questions : Review the questions at the end of the chapter.
  • Summary : Read the overview of the text.

Ask yourself thought-provoking questions as you work through these steps. After completing them, read the text.

Studying Online

Although these three study strategies can be useful in any setting, studying online has its own set of challenges.

Dr. Tony Bates has written a thoughtful and thorough guide to studying online, A Student Guide to Studying Online . Not only does he highlight the importance of paying attention to course design, but he also offers helpful tips on how to choose the best online program and manage your course load.

Part 4 – Effective Study Skills

1. Highlight Key Concepts

Looking for the most important information as you read helps you stay engaged with the material . This can help keep your mind from wandering as you read.

As you find important details, mark them with a highlighter, or underline them. It can also be effective to jot notes along the edges of the text. Write on removable sticky notes if the book doesn’t belong to you.

When you’re preparing for a test, begin your studies by reviewing your highlighted sections and the notes you wrote down.

2. Summarize Important Details

One good way to get information to stick in your brain is to tell it again in your own words. Writing out a summary can be especially effective. You can organize your summaries in paragraph form or in outline form.

Keep in mind that you shouldn’t include every bit of information in a summary. Stick to the key points.

Consider using different colors on your paper. Research shows that information presented in color is more memorable than things written in plain type. You could use colored pens or go over your words with highlighters.

After writing about what you read, reinforce the information yet again by reading aloud what you wrote on your paper.

3. Create Your Own Flashcards

For an easy way to quiz yourself , prepare notecards that feature a keyword on one side and important facts or definitions about that topic on the reverse.

Writing out the cards will help you learn the information. Quizzing yourself on the cards will continue that reinforcement.

The great thing about flashcards is that they’re easily portable. Slip them in your bag, so you can pull them out whenever you have a spare minute. This is a fantastic way to squeeze in extra practice time outside of your regularly scheduled study sessions.

As an alternative to paper flashcards, you can also use a computer program or a smartphone app to make digital flashcards that you can click through again and again.

Small group studying together

4. Improve Recall with Association

Sometimes your brain could use an extra hand to help you hold onto the information that you’re studying. Creating imaginary pictures, crafting word puzzles or doing other mental exercises can help make your material easier to remember.

Try improving recall with the following ideas:

  • Sing the information to a catchy tune.
  • Think of a mnemonic phrase in which the words start with the same letters as the words that you need to remember.
  • Draw a picture that helps you make a humorous connection between the new information and the things that you already know.
  • Envision what it would be like to experience your topic in person. Imagine the sights, sounds, smells and more.
  • Think up rhymes or tongue twisters that can help the information stick in your brain.
  • Visualize the details with a web-style mind map that illustrates the relationships between concepts.

5. Absorb Information in Smaller Chunks

Think about how you memorize a phone number: You divide the 10-digit number into three smaller groups. It’s easier to get these three chunks to stick in your mind than it is to remember the whole thing as a single string of information.

You can use this strategy when studying by breaking a list down into smaller parts. Work on memorizing each part as its own group.

6. Make Your Own Study Sheet

Condensing your most important notes onto one page is an excellent way to keep priority information at your fingertips. The more you look over this sheet and read it aloud, the better that you’ll know the material.

Student making a study sheet

Furthermore, the act of typing or writing out the information will help you memorize the details. Using different colors or lettering styles can help you picture the information later.

Just like flashcards, a study sheet is portable. You can pull it out of your bag whenever you have a spare minute.

7. Be the Teacher

To teach information to others, you first have to understand it yourself. Therefore, when you’re trying to learn something new, challenge yourself to consider how you’d teach it to someone else. Wrestling with this concept will help you gain a better understanding of the topic.

In fact, you can even recruit a friend, a family member or a study group member to listen to your mini-lesson. Reciting your presentation aloud to someone else will help the details stick in your mind, and your audience may be able to point out gaps in your knowledge.

8. Know When to Call It a Day

Yes, you really can get too much of a good thing. Although your studies are important, they shouldn’t be the only thing in your life. It’s also important to have a social life, get plenty of exercise, and take care of your non-school responsibilities.

Studies show that too much time with your nose in the books can elevate your stress level , which can have a negative effect on your school performance and your personal relationships.

Too much studying may also keep you from getting enough exercise. This could lower your bone density or increase your percentage of body fat.

Part 5 – How to Study More Efficiently

How to study more efficiently

1. Take Regular Breaks

Study sessions will be more productive if you allow yourself to take planned breaks. Consider a schedule of 50 minutes spent working followed by a 10-minute break.

Your downtime provides a good chance to stand up and stretch your legs. You can also use this as an opportunity to check your phone or respond to emails. When your 10 minutes are up, however, it’s time to get back to work.

At the end of a long study session, try to allow yourself a longer break — half an hour, perhaps — before you move on to other responsibilities.

2. Take Notes in Class

The things that your teacher talks about in class are most likely topics that he or she feels are quite important to your studies. So, it’s a good idea to become a thorough note-taker.

The following tips can help you become an efficient, effective note-taker:

  • Stick to the main points.
  • Use shorthand when possible.
  • If you don’t have time to write all the details, jot down a keyword or a name. After class, you can use your textbook to elaborate on these items.
  • For consistency, use the same organizational system each time you take notes.
  • Consider writing your notes by hand, which can help you remember the information better. However, typing may help you be faster or more organized.

Recording important points is effective because it forces you to pay attention to what’s being said during a lecture.

3. Exercise First

Would you believe that exercise has the potential to grow your brain ? Scientists have shown this to be true!

Student exercising before studying

In fact, exercise is most effective at generating new brain cells when it’s immediately followed by learning new information.

There are short-term benefits to exercising before studying as well. Physical activity helps wake you up so you feel alert and ready when you sit down with your books.

4. Review and Revise Your Notes at Home

If your notes are incomplete — for example, you wrote down dates with no additional information — take time after class to fill in the missing details. You may also want to swap notes with a classmate so you can catch things that you missed during the lecture.

  • Rewrite your notes if you need to clean them up
  • Rewriting will help you retain the information
  • Add helpful diagrams or pictures
  • Read through them again within one day

If you find that there are concepts in your notes that you don’t understand, ask your professor for help. You may be able to set up a meeting or communicate through email.

After rewriting your notes, put them to good use by reading through them again within the next 24 hours. You can use them as a reference when you create study sheets or flashcards.

5. Start with Your Toughest Assignments

Let’s face it: There are some subjects that you like more than others. If you want to do things the smart way, save your least challenging tasks for the end of your studies. Get the hardest things done first.

If you save the toughest tasks for last, you’ll have them hanging over your head for the whole study session. That can cost you unnecessary mental energy.

Effective study skills

Furthermore, if you end with your favorite assignments, it will give you a more positive feeling about your academic pursuits. You’ll be more likely to approach your next study session with a good attitude.

6. Focus on Key Vocabulary

To really understand a subject, you have to know the words that relate to it. Vocabulary words are often written in textbooks in bold print. As you scan the text, write these words down in a list.

Look them up in a dictionary or in the glossary at the back of the book. To help you become familiar with the terms, you could make a study sheet with the definitions or make flashcards.

7. Join a Study Group

Studying doesn’t always have to be an individual activity.

Benefits of a study group include:

  • Explaining the material to one another
  • Being able to ask questions about things you don’t understand
  • Quizzing each other or playing review games
  • Learning the material more quickly than you might on your own
  • Developing soft skills that will be useful in your career, such as teamwork and problem solving
  • Having fun as you study

Gather a few classmates to form a study group.

Part 6 – How to Study for Tests

How to study for tests and exams

1. Study for Understanding, Not Just for the Test

Cramming the night before a big test usually involves trying to memorize information long enough to be able to regurgitate it the next morning. Although that might help you get a decent grade or your test, it won’t help you really learn the material .

Within a day or two, you’ll have forgotten most of what you studied. You’ll have missed the goal of your classes: mastery of the subject matter.

Instead, commit yourself to long-term learning by studying throughout the semester.

2. Begin Studying at Least One Week in Advance

Of course, you may need to put in extra time before a big test, but you shouldn’t put this off until the night before.

Instead, in the week leading up to the exam, block off a daily time segment for test preparation. Regular studying will help you really learn the material.

3. Spend at Least One Hour per Day Studying

One week out from a big test, study for an hour per night. If you have two big tests coming up, increase your daily study time, and divide it between the two subjects.

How to study for finals

The day before the exam, spend as much time as possible studying — all day, even.

4. Re-write Class Notes

After each class, you should have fleshed out your notes and rewritten them in a neat, organized format. Now, it’s time to take your re-done notes and write them once again.

This time, however, your goal is to condense them down to only the most important material. Ideally, you want your rewritten notes to fit on just one or two sheets of paper.

These sheets should be your main study resource during test preparation.

5. Create a Study Outline

Early in the week, make a long outline that includes many of the details from your notes. Rewrite it a few days later, but cut the material in half.

Shortly before the test, write it one more time; include only the most important information. Quiz yourself on the missing details.

6. Make Your Own Flashcards

Another way to quiz yourself is to make flashcards that you can use for practice written tests.

First, read the term on the front side. Encourage yourself to write out the definition or details of that term. Compare your written answer with what’s on the back of the card.

This can be extra helpful when prepping for an entrance exam like the GRE, though there are a growing number of schools that don’t require GRE scores for admission.

7. Do Sample Problems and Essays from Your Textbook

There are additional things you can do to practice test-taking. For example, crack open your book, and solve problems like the ones you expect to see on the test.

Write out the answers to essay questions as well. There may be suggested essay topics in your textbook.

Part 7 – Memory Improvement Techniques

Man studying before bed time

1. Study Right Before Bed

Although you shouldn’t pull all-nighters, studying right before bedtime can be a great idea.

Sleep helps cement information in your brain. Studies show that you’re more likely to recall information 24 hours later if you went to bed shortly after learning it.

Right before bed, read through your study sheet, quiz yourself on flashcards or recite lists of information.

2. Study Small Chunks at a Time

If you want to remember information over the long haul, don’t try to cram it all in during one sitting.

Instead, use an approach called spaced repetition :

  • Break the information into parts
  • Learn one new part at a time over the course of days or weeks
  • Review your earlier acquisitions each time you study

The brain stores information that it thinks is important. So, when you regularly go over a topic at set intervals over time, it strengthens your memory of it.

3. Tell a Story

Sometimes, you just need to make information silly in order to help it stick in your brain.

To remember a list of items or the particular order of events, make up a humorous story that links those things or words together. It doesn’t necessarily need to make sense; it just needs to be memorable .

Study to improve memory

4. Change Study Locations Often

Studying the same information in multiple places helps the details stick in your mind better.

Consider some of the following locations:

  • Your desk at home
  • A coffee shop
  • The library
  • Your backyard

It’s best to switch between several different study spots instead of always hitting the books in the same place.

5. Swap Topics Regularly

Keeping your brain trained on the same information for long periods of time isn’t beneficial. It’s smarter to jump from one subject to another a few times during a long study session.

Along those same lines, you should study the same material in multiple ways. Research shows that using varied study methods for the same topic helps you perform better on tests.

6. Quiz Yourself

Challenge yourself to see what you can remember. Quizzing yourself is like practicing for the test, and it’s one of the most effective methods of memory retention .

If it’s hard to remember the information at first, don’t worry; the struggle makes it more likely that you’ll remember it in the end.

7. Go Old-school: Use a Pen and Paper

The act of writing answers helps you remember the information. Here are some ways to use writing while studying:

  • Recopy your notes
  • Write the answers to flashcards
  • Make a study sheet
  • Practice writing essay answers

Writing by hand is best because it requires your attention and focus.

8. See It & Hear It

Say information out loud, and you’ll be more likely to remember it. You’re engaging your eyes as you read the words, your mouth as you say them, and your ears as you hear yourself.

Scientists call the benefit of speaking information aloud production effect .

Part 8 – Top 10 Study Hacks Backed by Science

Form a study group

1. Grab a Coffee

Drinking coffee (or your preferred high-octane beverage) while you study may help keep you alert so you don’t doze off mid-session. There’s even evidence that caffeine can improve your memory skills.

However, avoid sugary beverages. These could cause your energy level to crash in a few hours.

2. Reward Yourself

Studies show that giving yourself a reward for doing your work helps you enjoy the effort more.

Do it right away; don’t wait until the test is over to celebrate. For example, after finishing a three-hour study session, treat yourself to an ice cream cone or a relaxing bath.

3. Study with Others

Working with a study group holds you accountable so it’s harder to procrastinate on your work.

When you study together, you can fill in gaps in one another’s understanding, and you can quiz each other on the material.

Besides, studying with a group can be fun!

4. Meditate

It may be hard to imagine adding anything else to your packed schedule, but dedicating time to mindfulness practices can really pay off.

Meditate during study sessions

Studies show that people who meditate may perform better on tests , and they are generally more attentive.

Mindfulness apps can help you get started with this practice.

5. Hit the Gym

To boost the blood flow to your brain, do half an hour of cardio exercise before sitting down to study.

Aerobic exercise gives your brain a major dose of oxygen and other important nutrients, which may help you think clearly, remember facts and do your best work.

6. Play Some Music

Listening to tunes can help you focus. Studies show that the best study music is anything that features a rhythmic beat .

It’s smart to choose a style that you like. If you like classical, that’s fine, but you could also go for electronica or modern piano solos.

7. Grab Some Walnuts

A diet rich in omega-3 fatty acids helps your brain do its best work.

Good sources include:

  • Fish: cod liver oil, salmon and mackerel
  • Vegetables: spinach and Brussels sprouts

To calm your pre-test jitters, eat a mix of omega-3 and omega-6 foods.

8. Take Regular Breaks

Your brain needs some downtime. Don’t try to push through for hours on end. Every hour, take a break for several minutes.

Take regular study breaks

Breaks are good for your mental health . They also improve your attention span, your creativity and your productivity.

During a break, it’s best to move around and exercise a bit.

9. Get Some Sleep

Although studying is important, it can’t come at the expense of your rest. Sleep gives your brain a chance to process the information that you’ve learned that day.

If you don’t get enough sleep, you’ll have a hard time focusing and remembering information.

Even during busy test weeks, try to get seven to nine hours of sleep each night.

10. Eliminate Distractions

It’s hard to get much studying done when you’re busy scrolling Instagram. Put away your phone and computer while studying, or at least block your social media apps.

Turn off the television while you work, too.

If you’re studying in a noisy area, put on headphones that can help block the distracting sounds.

Part 9 – The Best Study Apps

Student using Study App on iPhone

1. iStudiez Pro Legend

Scheduling study time is a must, and iStudiez Pro Legend lets you put study sessions, classes and assignments on your calendar. Color coding the entries can help you stay organized.

istudiez pro study app

For each class, you can enter meeting times and homework assignments, and you can keep track of your grades.

2. Dragon Anywhere

Instead of writing notes in the margins of your textbooks, you can use Dragon Anywhere’s voice dictation feature to record your thoughts and insights.

Dragon Anywhere study app

Just be sure to rewrite your dictated notes in your own handwriting later for maximum learning!

3. Evernote

When you’re in school, you have a lot of responsibilities to juggle, but Evernote can help you organize them.

Evernote Study App

You can add notes and documents to store them in one digital spot, and tagging them will help you quickly pull up all files for a class or a topic.

4. Quizlet Go

Make digital flashcards that you can practice on your mobile device with Quizlet Go .

Quizlet Study App

This means that you can pull out your phone for a quick study session whenever you have a couple of minutes of downtime. You don’t even need internet access to practice these flashcards.

5. My Study Life

Enter your upcoming tests and assignments into My Study Life , and the app will send you reminder messages.

My Study Life Study App

The app has a calendar so you can keep track of your class schedule. It can even notify you when it’s time to go to class.

6. Exam Countdown Lite

You should start studying for tests at least a week in advance. Input the dates for your exams and assignments into Exam Countdown Lite so you’ll have a visual reminder of when you should begin your test prep.

Exam Countdown Study App

The app can send you notifications as well.

7. Flashcards+

With Chegg’s Flashcards+ , you can make your own digital flashcards or use ones designed by others.

Chegg Flashcards Study App

Because you can add images to your cards, you can quiz yourself on the names of famous artworks, important historical artifacts or parts of a scientific diagram.

Organize information into categories by creating a visual mind map on XMind . This can help you classify facts and figures so you see how they relate to one another.

Xmind Study App

This visual representation can also help you recall the information later.

9. ScannerPro

Do you have piles of handwritten notes everywhere? Once you have written them out, consider scanning them into digital form. ScannerPro lets you use your phone as a scanner.

Scanner Pro Study App

You can store your scanned files in this app or transfer them to Evernote or another organization system.

Part 10 – Study Skills Worksheets

Could you use more help to develop your study skills? Rutgers University has dozens of study skills worksheets online .

Study Skills Worksheets

These documents are packed with tips that can help you become a better student. The checklists and charts can help you evaluate your current strengths and organize your work.

Part 11 – Key Takeaways

Study tips summary

You’re a busy person, so you need to make the most of every study session.

By now, you should understand the basics of effective studies:

  • Schedule study time
  • Study regularly
  • Minimize distractions
  • Read for information
  • Write the important stuff down
  • Use creative memory tricks
  • Quiz yourself
  • Be good to your body and your brain

Put these study tips to good use, and you’ll soon learn that you’ve learned how to study smarter.

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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.

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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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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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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:

  • How to write an essay about yourself
  • Structuring an essay about your career goals
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Education Corner

10 Study Habits of Highly Effective Students

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The key to becoming an effective student is learning to study smarter, not harder. As you advance in your education, this becomes even more important.

An hour or two of studying a day is usually sufficient to make it through high school with satisfactory grades. But when college arrives, without smart study habits, you can feel like there aren’t enough hours in a day to cover your coursework.

While some students breeze through school with minimal effort, the vast majority of students succeed because they deliberately develop and apply effective study habits.

The following are the top 10 study habits of highly effective students:

10 Study Habits of Highly Effective Students

If you want to become a successful student, don’t get discouraged or give up. Work to develop each of these habits, and you’ll see your grades rise, your knowledge increase, and your ability to learn and assimilate information improve.

1. Don’t attempt to cram all your studying into one session

Are you ever up late at night spending more energy trying to keep your eyelids open than you are studying? If so, it’s time to change your approach.

Research shows that spacing out study sessions over longer periods improves long-term memory . In other words, if you have 4 hours to spend on a subject, it’s better to study it for one hour each for four days than to cram all 4 hours into one.

Likewise, cramming everything right before an exam may probably help you with grades, but it is horrible for your long-term memory retention. Without realizing it, you may be undercutting your learning in the long term.

Successful students typically space their work out over shorter periods and rarely try to cram all their study into just one or two sessions. If you want to become a successful student, you need to learn to be consistent in your studies and have regular, yet shorter, study periods.

2. Plan when you’re going to study

Successful students schedule specific study times throughout the week and stick to them, while those who do not perform as well typically study sporadically and whimsically.

A study schedule can help you plan, break your study load into manageable amounts, and ensure you don’t rush on assignments when following deadlines.

In short, a study plan helps you manage and achieve your learning goals better.

Even if you’re all caught up with your studies, creating a weekly routine, where you set aside some time every few days a week to review your courses, will ensure you develop habits that will enable you to succeed in your long-term education.

3. Study at the same time; be consistent

Not only is it important to plan when you’re going to study, but it’s also essential that you create a consistent, daily study routine.

The power of consistency is well understood in academics. It helps you rely a lot less on intensity – which means fewer late nights or all-nighters and fewer moments of overwhelm and panic, which is a positive for your mental health.

When you study at the same time every day, you develop a habit. You rely less on willpower. Motivation increases, and you’ll be mentally and emotionally prepared for each session. This will improve productivity.

Your schedule may require adjustments from time to time due to unexpected events, and that’s okay, but it is important to get back to your routine as soon as the event has passed.

Here are some strategies to stick to your routine:

  • Prepare a timetable – even if your track record of sticking to timetables is poor, make one. Make it realistic and display it in your place of study. Timetables aid in better time management, which research has shown to have a direct positive impact on academic results .
  • Exercise and meditate – To be consistent in your studies, your health, as well as your mind, must support you. Physical exercise helps you maintain good health and a fresh mind, while meditation helps reduce stress and anxiety .
  • Reward yourself – If you follow your timetable, you deserve a reward. Go outside and enjoy some free time with your friends and family. And when you do it, don’t think about your studies. Rewarding yourself will motivate you to be consistent .
  • Take breaks –  Contrary to popular belief, taking breaks , if they are of the right kind, can increase productivity rather than decrease it. Avoid activities such as scrolling through social media or surfing the internet. Instead, take a short walk, have a healthy snack, or speak with your roommate.

4. Each study time should have a specific goal

Simply studying without direction is not effective. You need to know exactly what you need to accomplish during each study session.

If you observe, most adults around you – from those working in great companies to your favorite athletes and entrepreneurs will have written goals and objectives. Goals dictate their day-to-day activities and how they manage their time.

There is enough research evidence to show a positive correlation between goals and student outcomes . Hence, before you start studying, set a study session goal that supports your overall academic objectives. Here are some best practices:

  • Set optimally challenging goals – your goals must be such that you must push yourself to achieve them, but at the same time, they must not be so hard that they demotivate you.
  • Make your goals specific, measurable, and time-bound – a good example is “Memorize 30 Spanish vocabulary words in 60 minutes to ace the Spanish test.” It’s a good goal because it tells you what exactly to do, how to measure it, and by what time you must complete it. A not-so-good example is “Study Spanish to ace the Spanish test” – this does not tell you what to focus on, the results can’t be properly measured, and you don’t know when to complete this task.
  • Set mastery goals – your goals must focus on deeply understanding concepts and skills. This will help you in your long-term learning journey that extends far beyond your exams and grades. 
  • Define goals positively – How you frame your goal can make a difference. If you word your goal such that it sounds more like a threat rather than a challenge, it may adversely impact your achievement. For example, “I will complete at least 7 out of 10 tasks correctly” is a better goal than “I will not make more than 3 mistakes when attempting 10 tasks”

To understand why goals work, look at the below diagram:

Why goals work

Setting goals clarifies what needs to be done. You know where to focus your attention and effort while avoiding distractions. This clarity encourages you to put in more effort and seek out or develop new strategies for success.

You apply what you know innovatively and learn new methods. Reaching your goal boosts your confidence in your abilities, enhances your motivation, and sets you up for further success.

5. Never procrastinate your planned study session

It’s very easy and common to put off your study session for several reasons – the subject may not be interesting, you may have other things to do, or it may be because the assignment is very hard.

Successful students DO NOT procrastinate when studying.

It is a tough habit to break, particularly when the Internet allows you to escape frustrations with the click of a mouse.

Procrastinating can have negative effects – your study will be much less effective, and you may not accomplish everything you need, which could lead to rushing at the last minute – the number one cause of errors.

It can also affect your mental health by increasing stress and anxiety:

Procrastination and stress

Procrastination can increase stress levels and affect a student’s mental health and well-being.

Procrastination results from the emotional part of your brain taking over the logical side. Your logical brain surrenders when you choose Facebook over work or decide to binge on another Netflix series.

Here is what you can do to give your logical brain the upper hand:

seven procrastination triggers

  • Reverse the trigger: Consider which of the seven triggers your study activity sets off. Then, try to think differently about the task – make the idea of completing it more attractive. For example, if studying history through plain reading can be boring, you can make it interesting by drawing a timeline with important events and characters.
  • Work within your resistance level: Let’s say you have a complicated math problem to solve. To find your resistance level, consider the effort you commit to that task along a scale. For example, could you focus on it for an hour? No, what about 30 minutes? Shorten the amount of time until you find a period with which you’re no longer resistant to the task, and then do it.
  • Do something, anything, to get started : tasks that induce procrastination are rarely as bad as we think. It’s easier to keep going once you have overcome the initial hump of starting it in the first place. Starting a task means you’ll continue to process it, making you more likely to resume the work later.
  • List the costs of procrastination: remind yourself about what it would cost you to postpone something.
  • Disconnect – Put your phone in another room or shut off the Wi-Fi. Cut down the distractions that can stop you from focusing on the task.

6. Start with the most difficult subject first

Your most difficult assignment or subject will require the most effort and mental energy; hence, you should start with it first.

Research has shown that when you are tired, your brain tries to save mental energy to help you make decisions quickly . It tags effort as bad (because it’s hard work), and you are likely to “go with your gut” instead of carefully considering all the available information.

When your focus is not at its best, studying hard subjects can be, well, hard!

But if you complete the most challenging part of your study in a fresh state of mind, completing the more accessible ones later becomes easier. This can significantly improve the effectiveness of your study sessions and your academic performance.

7. Always review your notes before starting an assignment

Research shows that 10 minutes of review for every lecture hour, done within 24 hours of class, dramatically improves recall. Hence, regularly reviewing class notes is one of the most powerful study strategies.

Obviously, before you can review your notes, you must first have notes to review. While there is no single right approach to note-taking, the following are some of the popular ones:

study habits in college

Cornell method

Split up your paper into three sections (see image). The first aspect requires you to write out notes during class as you hear them. Once class is over, you reread your “Notes” section and add any questions or essential ideas within the “Cues” section.

Once you have filled in these two sections, it is time to write a summary of the lesson that you can refer to study. You will have a stack of neatly organized notes from each lecture by exam time. Learn more about the The Cornell System for taking notes .

Mapping method

Allows a visual representation of your notes in a way that shows the relationships between ideas. Start by jotting down the lecture’s main idea and add subheadings throughout the class. By the end, you should have a main topic with many subheadings and additional notes beneath them.

Sentence method

It is a relatively simple method that requires a main topic followed by notes in sentence or point form. The heading creates some organization while at the same time allowing for freedom.

While these three are time-tested pen-and-paper methods, you can also use electronic devices for note-taking. Apps like Evernote, Microsoft OneNote, or Google Keep can help you stay organized with your note-taking.

Before you start each study session and a particular assignment, review your notes thoroughly to ensure you know how to complete the assignment correctly. This will help you remember important subject matter learned during the day and ensure your studying is targeted and effective.

Learn how to improve your note taking .

8. Make sure you’re not distracted while you’re studying

The negative outcomes of distracted learning have been well documented . It can prolong learning tasks due to the need for reacquaintance with material, induce mental fatigue from constant task-switching, and reduce long-term memory retention.

But everyone gets distracted by something. Maybe it’s the TV, or maybe it’s your family or the very many electronic gadgets that surround you. When you’re distracted, you lose your train of thought and cannot focus, leading to ineffective studying.

Some students cannot study when it’s too quiet. Research has shown that some people study better with a bit of background noise .

You must experiment and identify what surroundings suit you best. Whether it is a quiet cubicle in the recesses of the library or a common area with a bit of background noise, find a place where you won’t be disturbed or distracted.

9. Use study groups effectively

Study groups can help you externalize your thoughts, address procrastination, stimulate study sessions, and maintain accountability. They can be an effective part of your comprehensive study plan.

Working in groups enables you to get help from others when struggling, complete assignments more quickly, and teach others, which is a great way to internalize the subject.

Here are some best practices for forming effective study groups:

  • Limit the group size – in larger groups, it becomes increasingly difficult to keep everyone involved. Typically, 3-5 students can ensure a good functional dynamic.
  • Have a structure – define the goals for every session and stick to them. 
  • Come prepared – it is much easier as a group to help each other if each member comes to the session with a list of questions or topics to discuss.
  • Empower each other – Don’t hesitate to help your fellow classmates. Tutor-tutee relationships are mutually beneficial. Help someone else, and they will help you!
  • Quiz each other – Quizzing each other on facts and concepts is a valuable way to prepare for an exam. This could also mean designing practice tests together.
  • Work independently but together – if you work hard on your own before meeting as a group, your group time will be more rewarding. Groups are your place to experiment, seek help, and share your learning. However, you must develop an independent grasp of concepts to do well in a course.
  • Form friendships – connections can leave you feeling more motivated than ever, making studying enjoyable.

It is also helpful to designate one of the members to facilitate the group. This person will be responsible for scheduling, tracking group progress, and helping the group stay focused. A good way to do this is by designating a “leader of the week” on a rotation basis.

Study groups are not just about meeting right before an exam. To achieve great results, you must meet regularly throughout the semester. Online tools such as Zoom, Teams, and Slack are great ways to connect when you cannot meet in person.

10. Review your notes, schoolwork, and other class materials over the weekend

Successful students review what they’ve learned during the week over the weekend. Research shows that academic success is positively correlated with weekend study time .

But remember, the weekend is just 48 hours, and time flies quickly. So, reflect on your goals and prepare ahead. Here are some tips:

  • Use Friday after school to plan your weekend.
  • Keep a journal – record how you spend your time and where you can improve.
  • Look at it as a time to practice for “real life” – you are totally in charge of your time.
  • Balance your sleep and energy.
  • Budget time for sports and other activities – keep twice the time you think you’ll need.
  • Get ahead of others – wake up early (most don’t). Mornings are a good time to study.

A well-spent weekend can prepare you to continue learning new concepts that build upon previous coursework and knowledge acquired the previous week.

In summary, you can learn the “10 study habits of highly effective students” and consciously apply them to improve the effectiveness of your study. We’re confident that if you develop these habits, you’ll see a significant improvement in your academics.

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College Info Geek

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

study habits in college

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study habits in 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.

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5 proven study and time management habits for college success

  • September 14, 2020

study habits in 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 in 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 in 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 in 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 in 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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Why Go to College? Is a University Education Worth It?

What was an education going to get me—except into trouble .

Posted May 13, 2024 | Reviewed by Hara Estroff Marano

  • Why Education Is Important
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  • Diplomas are like wedding rings: they are meaningless if they're there only for show.
  • I worry we’re defining education in merely quantifiable terms. It's not ONLY about making money, right? Right.
  • Curiosity, like originality and delight, has to be nurtured. An excellent education helps you form questions.

My family, filled with smart, shrewd, and funny people, would shrug their collective shoulders and ask, “What good is college?” Only my mom, who died when I was young, valued education . I knew that because her single ambition for me growing up was that I might marry a man with a degree.

I applied to college only because my high school history teacher told me the place he’d attended on a football scholarship just started accepting female students. He thought maybe I had a shot.

When I told my relatives that I was heading to New Hampshire in 1975, they assumed I was pregnant . Why else would an 18-year-old girl leave the state? “It happened to your cousin,” one aunt whispered as I boarded the bus for White River Junction. “You can always come home.” They were skeptical about what I’d learn in some cold building far away that I couldn’t learn in Brooklyn. What was an education going to get me—except into trouble?

I had no idea what I wanted to do or wanted to be, but I wanted a degree of my own. Revising my mother’s wishes, I didn’t just want to stand next to someone who was knowledgeable. I wanted to be knowledgeable.

Also, I didn't just want to marry a man with a degree. Even at 18, I realized an education can’t divorce you.

Besides, receiving an education is different from getting a degree. A degree is like a wedding ring: It’s meaningless if it’s there just for show. Like a thin piece of gold, a printed piece of paper—even in a fancy font-- is worthless unless it represents substantial personal commitment.

An education is about learning things you don’t know. Just as we need to try foods we’ve never eaten before, we need to approach unfamiliar subjects. Life's menu can be innovative, varied, and delightful, but without outside influences, it can too often be limited, boring , and unappetizing.

I have a friend who pretty much eats only those things she was served in childhood : meat, potatoes, beans, and applesauce. She’s not excessively fun when it comes to dining out.

Curiosity, like originality and delight, has to be nurtured. But if we keep emphasizing the notion of familiarity and security at the expense of new and potentially challenging experience, then we’ll be stuck with the intellectual equivalent of a 1968 Swanson’s TV Dinner.

Authentic education demands that students learn and not merely that they are taught. It’s not about simply offering access to information or data. What happens in classrooms is not the same as what happens at UPS: it is not like transferring an unexamined parcel of information from one person to another. It must include, as all reputable teachers know, instructing students in academic discipline and personal responsibility.

This is one reason that students should be required to take classes from outside their area of specialization. Their futures are under construction: While they may have blueprints in place, perhaps handed down through their families or fantasies from glittering daydreams, there are many architectural models from which to choose. That way they won’t end up with the academic equivalent of a five-story one-bedroom apartment with no kitchen and a bathroom on the roof.

Unable to predict the ineffable results of education, I worry we’re defining education in merely quantifiable terms—judging institutions, subjects, and majors by how much money their graduates earn once they’re in the workplace. That’s not an assessment of a demanding course of study. That’s an assessment of who makes coin. If that’s all anybody needs know, I could have stayed in the old neighborhood.

Gangsters, after all, make more money than anybody else.

An authentic liberal arts education has value of a different kind: It’s a triumph over ignorance and a refusal to be intimidated by the unknown.

A good education is about taking a class in a cold building on a quiet morning and learning that words, as well as numbers, in the proper sequence, can unlock the universe. It’s about proficiency, of course, but it’s also about perspective.

study habits in college

It’s not what you “get” out of college that changes your life; it’s what you’re given. You gain authority not only over subjects but over yourself.

As my family predicted, education got me into trouble—but it was trouble for which I looked, not from which I ran. That’s the payoff.

Gina Barreca Ph.D.

Gina Barreca, Ph.D., a board of trustees distinguished professor at UConn, is the author of 10 books, including the bestselling They Used to Call Me Snow White, But I Drifted.

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May 14, 2024

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Places with more college graduates tend to foster better lifestyle habits overall, research finds

by Christy DeSmith, Harvard Gazette

Places with more college graduates tend to foster better lifestyle habits overall

Having more education has long been linked to better individual health. But those benefits are also contagious, say the co-authors of a new working paper .

"It's not just that the individuals who have more years of education are in better health," said David M. Cutler, Otto Eckstein Professor of Applied Economics. "It's that even people with fewer years of education—for example, people with just a high school degree—are in better health when they live around people who have more years of education."

The paper examines why cities with more college graduates see lower mortality rates for residents overall. It's not due to spatial sorting, or the practice of relocating to live amidst those with similar habits. Nor did the researchers find a particularly strong correlation with factors like clean air, low crime, and high-quality health care infrastructure. Instead, most of the explanation involves rates of smoking, physical activity, and obesity.

The pattern has everything to do with a community's common culture, said co-author Edward L. Glaeser, the Fred and Eleanor Glimp Professor of Economics and chair of the Department of Economics. "Smoking, for example, is a social activity," he said. "Fundamentally, being around other smokers is fine if you're smoking, but it's usually pretty unpleasant if you're not smoking."

Glaeser, an urban economist and author of "Triumph of the City" (2011), has spent decades studying how varying education levels play out across U.S. society. One well-established finding concerns economic resilience . "If you ask yourself, which American cities managed to turn themselves around after the very difficult period of the 1970s and 1980s? Educated places like Seattle or Boston did. Less-educated places did not," Glaeser said.

For his part, Cutler, a health economist , spent the last few decades parsing the strong link between education and individual health outcomes. All the while he kept collaborating with Glaeser to explore obesity , smoking , and other health-related behaviors at the community level. The economists revisited these issues in the 2021 book "Survival of the City: The Future of Urban Life in an Age of Isolation."

Also collaborating on the new paper were Jacob H. Bor, an associate professor of global health at Boston University, and Ljubica Ristovska, a postdoctoral fellow at Yale. Together, the researchers rejected the spatial sorting explanation with the help of data from the University of Michigan's Health and Retirement Study .

Similar analysis was done using data from the National Longitudinal Surveys of young women and men. Results showed that unhealthy people of all ages relocate more frequently than healthy ones. But both groups settle in areas with roughly equal levels of human capital (defined here as a population's years of education).

The team analyzed a variety of information sources—from county-level homicide statistics to regional estimates of air quality and a federal measure of hospital quality —to see whether mortality differentials are due to area amenities. "We estimate that at most 17% percent of the human capital externality on health is due to these external factors, driven largely by greater use of preventative care," the co-authors wrote.

Instead, the majority of the correlation between human capital and area health—at least 60 percent—is explained by differences in health-related behaviors, the researchers found. Combining data from both the U.S. Census Bureau and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention revealed that every 10% increase in an area's share of college graduates was associated with an annual 7% decrease in all-cause mortality.

With additional data from the CDC's Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System and the Census Bureau's Current Population Survey (CPS), the researchers were able to probe connections between human capital and various health-related behaviors. Every 10% increase in an area's college graduates was associated with a 13% decrease in smoking, a 7% decrease in having no physical activity, and a 12% decrease in the probability of being very obese.

"It really opens up all these questions of how people form their beliefs," Cutler said.

The paper went deepest on smoking, given the wealth of historical numbers on cigarette initiation, cessation, and beliefs. CPS data showed that in cities where people have more years of education—New York City, Boston, or Seattle, for example—people are more likely to think that smoking is bad for you.

Residents of these cities are also likelier to support smoking regulations. For every 10% increase in bachelor's degrees, the probability of working at a place with a complete smoking ban increases by 2 percentage points.

Cutler and Glaeser were especially fascinated to find a growing connection over time between human capital and area health, especially between the years 1990 and 2010. As the correlation between individual education and behavior increased, they explained, the relationship between a community's education levels and its mortality rates slowly followed suit.

"Just look at people who were 70 in 2000," said Glaeser, who has observed a similar dynamic over the same period between human capital and earnings . "These people were 30 in 1960. A lot of people were smoking in 1960, and there wasn't nearly as strong of an education gradient as we saw 30 years later."

Provided by Harvard Gazette

This story is published courtesy of the Harvard Gazette , Harvard University's official newspaper. For additional university news, visit Harvard.edu .

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‘college for what' high school students want answers before heading to campus, by jeffrey r. young     may 14, 2024.

‘College for What?' High School Students Want Answers Before Heading to Campus

Louis Bustos and Vivian Turbak, two juniors at Central High School, report on their school’s ‘Opportunity Fair’ for a student-run video news program.

This article is part of the guide: Doubting College: A Podcast Series.

ST. PAUL, Minn. — What do you want to be when you grow up? That’s a question long faced by high school students. But these days, students have access to far more information than in the past about what, specifically, they could do as a job after they graduate.

study habits in college

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As Public Skepticism of College Grows, Students Become Savvier Customers

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How Is the ‘College Is a Scam’ Narrative Influencing Who Chooses to Go to Campus?

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  1. Developing Good Study Habits

    study habits in college

  2. Top 3 Tips for Developing College-Worthy Study Habits

    study habits in college

  3. How to Develop Effective Study Habits: A Step-by-Step Guide for

    study habits in college

  4. What Are The Best Study Habits For Undergraduates?

    study habits in college

  5. The Good Study Habits of Highly Effective Students

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  6. 8 Good Study Habits for Students: Unlock the Key to Successful Studying

    study habits in college


  1. Studying 101: What, Why, and How to Study for Success

  2. Is There A Better Way To Study in College?!

  3. 7 Habits of Intelligent Students 🧑‍🎓🎯 || Secret habits 🎒 || #study #topper #students #explore

  4. Top 10 Bad Study Habits to Stop Right Now ❌️

  5. McGraw-Hill Education Cross-Platform Test Prep Course

  6. 22 Ways To Be a Better Student


  1. 11 Good Study Habits to Develop

    Here are 11 tips to improve your study habits: Find a good place to study. Minimize distractions. Take breaks. Space out your studying. Set study goals for each session. Reward yourself. Study with a group. Take practice tests.

  2. Top 10 Study Tips to Study Like a Harvard Student

    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.

  3. How to Develop Good Study Habits for College (with Pictures)

    5. Take breaks. No one can study for hours on end without getting frustrated and burnt out. Breaks help you relax, recharge, and approach a situation with new eyes. Make a habit of studying for one hour and then taking a five minute break to do something you enjoy, like go on social media or text a friend.

  4. 8 Evidence-Based Study Habits: What Research Says Works

    8 general effective study habits to boost your grades. Adopt the right study mindset. Know the class expectations. Choose an effective study location. Have the right study materials. Use helpful ...

  5. 27 Good Study Habits of Straight-A Students

    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.

  6. Top 10 Effective Study Tips for College Students

    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 ...

  7. 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 ...

  8. The 11 Best Study Tips for College

    10. Take Breaks. Study breaks can actually improve the quality of your studying. So make sure to schedule breaks — and throw in a reward for productive sessions, too. As University College London explains, breaks can improve your memory, reduce stress, and give you an energy boost.

  9. How to Study: 7 Ways To Get More Out of College : NPR

    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 ...

  10. 30 Study Tips for College Students

    Create a plan to study effectively and stick to it. 5. Routine, Routine, Routine! Routine is one of the most important points for students looking to develop better study habits. People thrive on routine, and this is especially true for college students looking to develop study skills.

  11. 25 Scientifically Proven Tips for More Effective Studying

    5. Snack on Brain Food. A growling stomach can pull your mind from your studies, so feel free to snack as you work. Keep your snacks within arm's reach, so you don't have to leave your books to find food. Fuel your next study session with some of the following items: Lean deli meat.

  12. Top 10 Effective Study Habits for College Students

    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.

  13. Studying 101: Study Smarter Not Harder

    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. ... 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 ...

  14. 16 Study Tips for College: Building good study habits to succeed

    Teamwork is Essential. 5. Study with Friends. 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.

  15. 10 Study Habits of Highly Effective Students

    5. Never procrastinate your planned study session. It's very easy and common to put off your study session for several reasons - the subject may not be interesting, you may have other things to do, or it may be because the assignment is very hard. Successful students DO NOT procrastinate when studying.

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

    Good study habits improve your focus, boost your grades, and reduce your stress. Learn useful study habits across 5 areas of academic life. ... 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 ...

  17. 5 proven study and time management habits for college success

    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.

  18. An Analysis of Study Habits for Students in the U.S.

    Another third of students (34.4%) say their time allotted for studying falls into the three-to-four-hour range and 15% of students regularly study more than five hours a day. Similarly, students are most likely to spend somewhere between six to 10 hours per week studying, with 22.7% of respondents falling in this range.

  19. 10 Effective Study Techniques to Try This Year

    Spacing out your studying allows your mind to make connections between ideas and build upon the knowledge that can be easily recalled later. To try this technique, review your material in spaced intervals similar to the schedule below: Day 1: Learn the material in class. Day 2: Revisit and review.

  20. 6 Crucial Study Habits for College Students

    4. Organize a Study Group. Studying on your own works well for many subjects, but it also might be easier to learn the material if you can bounce ideas off of your classmates. During your first year at college, give group study sessions a try. There's a good chance your fellow students will be interested in getting together to review course ...

  21. Improving Students' Study Habits and Course Performance With a

    Many first-year college students are unprepared for the academic rigors of college, with as few as 27% of American high school students demonstrating proficiency in English, reading, mathematics, and science on the ACT college entrance exam ().College students may rely on study habits they have developed throughout their elementary and secondary education which served them sufficiently in the ...

  22. Study Habits for College Students

    Organize your assignments and build a study schedule!. Use interleaving and retention to improve your study and comprehension skills!. Take breaks to avoid overstudying and burnout!. Read more college admissions tips on our blog!. How to Improve Your Study Habits . For newly admitted college students, navigating the academic environment in college will be a new and difficult experience.


    Study habits are at the core of a learner's academic success. It is an action like reading, taking notes, conducting study groups that students perform frequently, and regularly accomplishing the ...

  24. Navigating Life After College

    Earning a college diploma or professional certificate is a significant milestone that marks the culmination of early-morning classes, late-night study sessions, and countless projects and exams. Now that you have your certificate or diploma, the next question that every college graduate eventually asks is, "What comes after college?". We've compiled a few tips to help Maricopa Community ...

  25. Why Go to College? Is a University Education Worth It?

    An authentic liberal arts education has value of a different kind: It's a triumph over ignorance and a refusal to be intimidated by the unknown. A good education is about taking a class in a ...

  26. Places with more college graduates tend to foster better lifestyle

    Places with more college graduates tend to foster better lifestyle habits overall, research finds. by Christy DeSmith, Harvard Gazette. Study authors David M. Cutler (left) and Edward L. Glaeser ...

  27. Austin Community College District

    Find the Program for You. Austin Community College offers more than 100 programs in 10 areas of study that lead to career certificates, associate degrees, bachelor's degrees, or university transfer. Explore classes that can boost your income, improve your skills, and change your life.

  28. Wait Wait...Don't Tell Me!

    'Wait Wait' for May 18, 2024: With Not My Job guest Maya Hawke. Recorded at the Studebaker Theater in Chicago, with guest host Alzo Slade, Not My Job guest Maya Hawke and panelists Faith Salie ...

  29. 'College for What?' High School Students Want Answers Before Heading to

    EdSurge Podcast. 'College for What?'. High School Students Want Answers Before Heading to Campus. By Jeffrey R. Young May 14, 2024. Louis Bustos and Vivian Turbak, two juniors at Central High School, report on their school's 'Opportunity Fair' for a student-run video news program.