Student Studying Tips & Techniques

When, Where and How

The transition from high school to college brings common challenges for almost all students. How to maintain one’s study skills on campus continues to be one of the biggest challenges faced by most new college freshmen. And since academic concepts shift from the high school model of teaching to one of learning, some study skills must modulate as well. Note taking may rise to level of art, and study schedules may serve as your best stress management.

Too Much of a Good Thing

For the first time in most of their lives, freshmen taste independence. That wild-eyed sense of freedom is often accompanied by a let loose attitude and the idea that life is now one big party. I did not end up on a four-year campus until I transferred in as a junior following two years at a community college. I faced some challenges, but not nearly the caliber I observed in my 18-year-old peers around me. I had chosen community college because I lacked maturity and academic skills for anything more. Had I ended up on a campus my inability to cope with independence would have been the quick undoing of me.

Type of College Matters

In the section on Kinds of Colleges, I stressed that your choice of college environment makes a big difference when it comes to study goals. Choose a large university that is most renowned for its football team or parties and chances are you face an uphill battle with quiet study time. On the other hand, smaller, academically-heavy colleges will provide scores of quiet nooks and crannies, and isolated library stacks in which to lose yourself.

Find Your Space

Requirements for study space are as personal and subjective as the college choice itself. Within a study space you must feel comfortable and safe, stress-free and able to concentrate. No telling where exactly a student may find those elements. While some students may crave noise and activity while they study, this is outside the norm. Ideally good study skills and habits would already be formed early in life. You would know what types of surroundings you must have for study success. And based on those needs, you would seek out all those options on campus. Academic experts suggest that the best environment in which to study is well-lit without being overly bright, free from social distractions, free from sensory stimulation and interruptions like cellphones, music, television and loud talking.

Make a Schedule

With your classes laid in stone, make a daily, weekly and monthly schedule. A part of each day should be blocked off for study. Your ability to adhere to a schedule and motivate yourself to drop what you’re doing for the sake of study time may well determine your success at college; it will certainly help you control stress.

Study Alone or In a Group

Yet another subjective alternative is to study alone or with a group. Plenty of students seek out classmates for study companions. Under some conditions the collaborative effort works nicely, but in the hands of the wrong students it may make for a detrimental mix. Should you give companion study a go make sure you re-examine its effectiveness after the first week or so. If you’re getting little studying done, reconsider the concept.

Transition from High School Study Skills to College Study Skills

Tests and quizzes are not nearly as commonplace in college. Emphasis is placed on writing assignments, especially longer essays that argue a view-point. The tests that do matter are few and far between and may be cumulative. Adequate study means you must have a corpus of notes from which to draw. Luckily many professors post their notes online now. If you missed a critical point in class you may be able to look up the reference. If not check with a classmate.

Seek Tutors, Mentors or Academic Assistance

Learning how to study effectively is a large piece of the college pie. Many colleges offer special services designed to guide you as you acclimate to a new academic environment. There are specific tricks for note-taking, reading for your courses and for taking exams. These elements are quite distinct from your high school brand. Mentors and tutors are often available to help you until you catch on.

On-campus assistance will likely also be available for students with learning disabilities. LDs such as dyslexia and ADD demand a specialized set of study tools and skills students may not have honed.

The Art of Taking Notes

College classes are lecture-heavy. For the most part you’ll need to take copious notes to keep up. While some professors closely follow a textbook, others diverge into important points you’ll need to make sure you write down. And why does your classmate’s notes look like a road map? Likely he or she is utilizing a variant type of note taking, akin to flow-charting. A variety of methods have been devised over the years some of which are more well-suited to particular types of students and particular subject matters. If you find it difficult to keep up with your current note taking scheme seek out an academic counselor for advice on alternative methods.

Acclimation to college takes a rather brief amount of time in the larger scheme of things. Successful students stick to their schedules and are consistent, yet flexible with study skills.