1. Space it out. When an exam date looms near, it’s quite common for students to begin cramming weeks of material in mere days before the test. Often referred to as “binge and purge” learning, this method of studying has students binging and absorbing as much information as they can so that they can purge it all out during the exam. Unfortunately, this doesn’t allow for long-term learning and the material is often forgotten before the next exam. To combat this, spacing out learning into small chunks of time over a longer period of time ensures a higher rate of knowledge retention and understanding. Set aside an hour or two each evening to cover material learned in class and take self-tests often to determine mastery in a concept.
2. Take care of yourself. Most students are stressed out, make poor dietary decisions, do not exercise, and definitely do not get enough sleep. It’s not easy juggling several courses, campus responsibilities, social demands, and, for some, work or family life. However, taking care of yourself will reflect positively on your studies and your grades will thank you for it. Making sure you are getting sufficient restful sleep every night helps your brain turn all that studying into memories and will assist in recall later. Checking in on your mental health and taking a few moments a day to take a nice, quiet walk or meditating for just a few minutes when you’re getting stressed out will clear your mind and center you. Replacing a few pizza and ramen meals with a balanced, nutritious meal will fuel your body to get you through the day. And while exercise is often viewed as a chore, getting your body moving and pumping blood will help energize and revitalize.
3. Break up study sessions. When examining exam schedules and syllabi, it is easy to block out entire afternoons or even days to immerse yourself into a single subject. Instead, try breaking your day or afternoon up by switching from one subject to another. By changing your focus and switching gears, your brain gets a little jumpstart and any waning interest can be piqued with a new subject. In conjunction with spacing your learning out, you can spend the same amount of time each day covering a little of every subject rather than having to devote an entire day to one course or subject.
4. Unplug. We are all plugged in to some extent. Whether you are a social media maven, a gamer, a Netflix binger, or are just always on your phone, we are all getting more screen time now than ever before. However, our devices and constant notifications aren’t just distracting, they can be detrimental to our daily lives, including our studies. If you have the willpower to silence or turn off your devices, commit to making your study time free of social media, mindless Amazon browsing, and cleaning out your email’s spam folder. For those who may struggle with unplugging, there are tons of apps and browser add-ons that can lock you out of your biggest temptations for a set amount of time. Check out www.focusme.com, www.focusboosterapp.com, www.stayfocusd.com, and www.selfcontrolapp.com.
5. Set up realistic goals. It can be overwhelming to look at your entire semester as a whole. Projects, exams, quizzes, and lectures can seem impossible when they span over 3 or 4 or 5 classes. Breaking your tasks up into smaller, more manageable items will create goals that are much more attainable. But be realistic! Know your limits and set goals that set you up for success, not failure.
6. Combat procrastination. We all procrastinate. Some of us justify our procrastination by saying we perform better under pressure. While this may seem true, some things should not be put off until the last moment. Begin by identifying the task you need to tackle, and list the reason why it is important the task is completed and how it will help you achieve your goals. Break the task down into smaller, easier tasks that you can accomplish in a short amount of time. Crossing something off your list will make you feel accomplished. Make a plan that outlines how you will achieve your task and when you need to start and end by. Start early so that if something unexpected arises, you can accommodate without risking your success.
7. Manage your time. There never seem to be enough hours in the day to get everything we need to accomplish finished. However, successfully managing your time and prioritizing the things that are important will allow you to reach your goals. Sit down and realistically chart out your week. Look at areas where you could be spending more time doing something productive rather than wasting it. Set out time for class, studying, work and home responsibilities, and even time for fun. Understanding how you currently spend your time will help you manage it better.
8. Find the perfect study space. There is no one study space that works well for everyone. Some students thrive in a bustling, loud environment where they can zone out, others prefer complete peace and total silence. Some study well at home, others must get away in order to study effectively. Identify what study space works well for you and your study habits, and make the effort to go to that place each time you want to sit down and study. You will easily slip into study mode in a place you have laid out as your study space.
9. Take notes. Some professors are lecturers and do not write down their notes or make a PowerPoint. Some students are comfortable listening to a lecturer and can absorb the information from the 90-minute monologue, but not everyone has this same ability. Being able to effectively take notes is imperative to success. Before a lecture, look at the syllabus and determine what the main ideas and takeaways will be. Cover any reading assignments so you have an idea of what to expect. During the lecture, watch and listen to the lecturer to determine what the main and most important points are. Notes taken in your own handwriting have been proven to help with recall of information, so get ready to write out your information and, when possible, put the ideas into your own words. Practice active and attentive listening, and don’t be afraid to ask questions at the end (or when appropriate) to help you further understand topics and concepts.
10. Take a break. We are not robots. While college is hard work, it is important to remember to take breaks. Whether this is enjoying the holidays with your family, taking a weekend break, or even just enjoying an evening out with friends, take the time to rest and rejuvenate doing things you love with people you enjoy in places that help you reset and refuel.