September 9th, 2009 Jamie
I love getting feedback from you guys in comments, emails, and poll responses, and one of the biggest concerns this year is getting good grades–which is exactly what you should be focused on in college. So right on.
The nice thing is that when it comes to studying, a little effort goes a long way. Here’s how to get ahead of the game this year.
Get out your pen and paper–or your laptop–and pay attention during class. I know it’s tempting to email, chat, and surf the web when class gets slow, but none of those things will help you score well on a test.
Figure out your ideal note-taking style not for speed but for processing. Class should be your first “study time” so don’t settle for mindlessly copying down the notes. Try to really absorb what your professor is saying so that when you go to study later, its all review.
Some people process really well working on a laptop, but many of us are more visual and need to physically write notes and draw diagrams to keep the info stuck in our brains. Be honest with yourself about which type you are and you’ll find studying gets way easier.
When you find yourself with free time during the day, skip the iPhone Wheel of Fortune and go over your notes from class that day. Just read through them once or twice, make notes about things you don’t understand, and plan what to go over in depth later.
Sometimes going over things right before bed is a good way to help them stick in your head–your brain keeps processing this information while you sleep at night (but you might start dreaming in calculus equations. You win some, you lose some.).
If you’re feeling antsy about spending daylight studying, remember that studying in the day means you’re free to go out and be social at night.
Schedule some Alone Time (with your books)
Scheduling study time is crucial, especially as you start adding more activities and work hours to your day. Map out a couple weeks before your finals week starts, planning when (and what) to study, when to work, and when to take breaks. Give yourself a couple extra days, too, because good studying usually takes longer than you expect it to (sorry).
The “alone” part is crucial, too. Spending time with a study group can be really helpful–especially if you’re still learning the material–but it is also really distracting (especially if your crush happens to be studying with you…). So if you decide to go the group route, pencil in some private study time, too. This will give you a chance to go over the things you personally struggle with.
Still freaking out about your first test of the year? Here’s an oldie but a goodie that really applies to any test: 10 Finals Week Survival Tips. :) Deborah Fox, founder of Fox College Funding (and author of our sister site, the Pay for College Blog!) highly recommends the book, How to Become a Straight-A Student: The Unconventional Strategies Real College Students Use to Score High While Studying Less by Cal Newport. She told me her son, a college sophomore, has found it to be extremely helpful.
More study tips to come. And don’t forget to take some brain breaks!
Entry Filed under: academics