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Successful Studying
For a lot of students, ‘studying’ takes on a new meaning once they enter college. While many might picture themselves pouring over a stack of books in the library for hours on end, attempting to memorize as much as possible, what most people refer to as ‘studying’ in college is far less intense. Studying in college basically means just doing your work – reading every chapter, turning in every assignment and asking questions when you have them.

Not that bad, right? Right – as long as you develop the proper skills. While no two students are exactly alike, here are some time-tested tricks to help keep you on the track to successful studying. If these don’t seem to work for you, make an appointment with Malik Stewart to design a personalized study plan.

Go to class...

If it sounds obvious, it’s because it is. Going to class – every class, on time – is the absolute easiest way to stay on top of your studies. Beyond the passive learning you’ll be doing just by sitting there, you will also develop a relationship with your instructor and build your reputation as a student. Being in class is also the only reliable way to make sure you know exactly what is due when, if there are any changes to the syllabus, and what your instructor expects of you. If that’s not enough encouragement for you, consider: in many classes, attendance is required – so don’t let your grade slip just so you can sleep in!
Action Item: Go to class. Every class. On time.
Action Item: Either don’t bring your cell phone or don’t touch it during class.

 
Fight the urge to sleep in or start your weekend early – as one professor puts it, “Just showing up to class is half the battle. Show up, pay attention, and you’ll be just fine.”
 
Do more than just go to class...
Ok, so now you’re awake and in class, right? Good – but you’ve just begun. To really get the most out of your courses, you need to pay attention and engage in what is going on. (Sitting in the front and middle ‘T’ of the room improves your chances of doing that!) ‘Engaging’ means that you aren’t just hearing words from your instructor, but you really understand what they’re saying. And if you don’t understand? Ask! Raise your hand to pose a question, or ask that they clarify a point you missed. You’ll benefit yourself and your fellow students, and your instructor will be impressed that you are trying to follow along.
Action Item: Sit in the ‘T.’
Action Item: Pay attention and ask questions.
   
Take (good!) notes...

Now that you’re in class and paying attention, what else should you be doing? Taking notes! Even if your instructor provides the PowerPoint slides or lecture notes online, be sure you are also writing things down as they are said. This way, you won’t miss an anecdote that helps you remember a difficult concept, and you will be able to jot down questions or ideas as you have them. Don’t worry too much about what your notes look like; if your handwriting really bothers you, you can always rewrite them – which, by the way, is an excellent way to review what you covered.

Rewrite? But I have a computer! It’s true – some instructors allow you to use your computer, but be careful: an open computer on your desk is a big temptation. Yes, you can type your notes faster than you can write them out by hand; but a pen and paper can’t check Facebook or your fantasy football scores, can’t shop online and can’t chat with the friend sitting two rows behind you.

Action Item: Take notes the old-fashioned way: pen and paper.
Action Item: Write down anything that may help you remember later.
Action Item: Watch for ‘cues’ – illustrations, phrases repeated often.

   
Cell phones: Leave your cell phone in your pocket, purse, dorm, car or backpack. Put it on silent (not vibrate – come on, everybody can hear that) and put it away. The easiest way to annoy your instructor is to text during class; and annoying your instructor is not conducive to academic success.
   
Review what you covered...

Did you know that you could lose up to 80 percent of what you learned in the first 24 hours if you don’t reinforce it? Reading over your notes is critical to committing them to memory. When you get home for the day, or while you’re waiting for your friends to go to dinner, or when you’re unpacking your bag to prepare for the next class, read over what you’ve written. Even a quick review like this will help you learn.

Later, read over your notes again alongside the textbook, PowerPoint or handout, if possible. Seeing things repeatedly and finding the connections will make your life much easier down the road. This is also a good time to rewrite your notes; cross-reference what you have with those around you to see if you may have missed something. If you have a question about something you’ve written, don’t be afraid to e-mail your instructor! He or she will be impressed that you took so much initiative, and it will help build your reputation as a student.
Action Item: Go over your notes whenever you have a couple minutes.
Action Item: Review with a classmate and literally compare notes.
Action Item: Check your notes against other materials from the class.

   
Do your homework...
For some classes, your homework will be reading; for other classes, you may need to write an essay or complete a problem set. Whatever the assignment is, complete it – even if it’s not graded. After your first history test, you will understand the importance of reading every assignment; the night before is no time to catch up on six long chapters. Problem sets for math may seem boring, but the repetition and practice will be invaluable to you later. And, since many subjects build on previously taught knowledge, getting even a little behind on your work will make catching up incredibly difficult. Homework isn’t always fun, so working with a study group or a classmate can help keep it interesting – just be sure to focus!
Action Item: Do every assignment, even if it isn’t graded.
   
Do all of the busy work, even if you think it is pointless. Remember: Repetition – reinforcement – results!
   
Prep for class...
Before walking into your next class, check the syllabus to see what you’ll be covering. Skimming the textbook before class, or looking up an unfamiliar phrase before you discuss it, will make you feel more prepared and ahead of the game; it will also pre-enforce what you’re about to learn, which will make remembering it even easier!
Action Item: Check the syllabus and skim any readings before class.
   
Get to know your professors...

Nothing will impress your instructors more quickly than showing up to their office hours with a question about class. Make a point to visit every professor at least once during the first couple weeks of class. It won’t make you a ‘teacher’s pet’; it will make you a good student.
Action Item: Visit your professors during their office hours.

 

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Last updated: 6/15/12
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