How to Develop Good Study Habits for College

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.


[Edit]Getting Organized to Study

  1. Create a dedicated study space. Find a quiet space in your dorm room or somewhere on campus where you can focus. Studying in the same place every day trains your brain to associate a certain environment with work. This will help you get into the zone when you start studying.[1]
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    • 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.
  2. Find a regular time for studying. If you study at the same time each day, your brain will be prepped for learning when you sit down. Review your schedule and see when you have free time. Schedule an hour or two for studying during those times each day.[2]
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    • 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.
  3. Organize your materials. Make sure you have everything you need to study at your study space. If you're studying in a place in your home, keep things like your books, pencils, pens, and scrap paper in that area. If you go out to study, invest in a book bag with a lot of compartments and keep all your study supplies stored there.[3]
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    • 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.
  4. Eliminate distractions. When readying your study space, it's important to keep it distraction free. Remove any technologies that will take your mind off your work, like your smartphone. You can even use apps to block distracting websites like Facebook while you're studying, forcing you to focus on academic websites instead.[4]
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    • 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.
  5. Figure out your needs via trial and error. College is all about experimentation. It can take awhile to find your groove when it comes to studying. For a few weeks at the beginning of the semester, experiment with studying at different times and places until you figure out when and where you're more productive.[5]
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    • 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.

[Edit]Using Good Study Techniques

  1. Create one goal for each session. Your study sessions are most effective if they have some direction. Just blindly studying can be overwhelming and you may waste time fumbling to figure out where to start. Before each study session, figure out what topics are most pressing and set goals.[6]
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    • 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.
  2. Start with difficult material first. You'll be most energetic at the beginning of your study period. Therefore, it makes sense to begin by studying the most challenging materials. Tackle the most difficult subjects and topics first before targeting your strong points.[7]
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    • 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.
  3. Rewrite your notes. Studying requires a lot of memorization. It can help to simply rewrite your notes and reword them as you go. Read over all your notes for one session and then rewrite them on a separate sheet of paper. This will force you to engage with the material and write it in your own words again, which increases understanding and helps you remember what you've learned.[8]
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  4. Use memory games. Memory games can help you remember tough concepts and terms. You can use visualization techniques or string together words that help you remember concepts. These can be highly useful for an exam.[9]
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    • 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.
  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.[10]
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    • 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.
  6. Study with a positive attitude. If you see studying as a chore, you're likely to get frustrated and burn out. Instead of seeing studying as something you have to do, look at the positives. Think of this as a way to improve your skills and abilities and get the most out of your education.[11]
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    • 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."
  7. Give yourself rewards. Studying feels easier if you have something to look forward to when you're done. Develop a reward system for yourself so you're motivated to get through your work.[12]
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    • 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.

[Edit]Seeking Outside Resources

  1. Refer to your syllabus as needed. It's important you understand the expectations of your course as you're studying. Use the syllabus as your guide if you feel overwhelmed or lost while studying. The syllabus will outline major concepts, grade breakdowns, and so on.[13]
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    • 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.
  2. Form a study group. Find peers who are hard workers and do well in the course. Ask them to form a study group. The right study group can really help you stay focused and engaged and gain a better understanding of course material.[14]
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    • 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.
  3. Go to your professors with questions. There is nothing to be embarrassed about if you have questions. Everyone gets confused sometimes and needs some extra help. If you have questions on a concept or subject, e-mail your professor or go to office hours. They may be able to offer you tips and tricks to better understand the material.[15]
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    • 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.
  4. Go to review sessions if they are offered. Some teachers have review sessions each week or before an exam. Always make a habit of going if you have time in your schedule. Review sessions can help you gain a better understanding of course materials. They can also be a great place to ask professors or teaching assistants questions.
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    • 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.
  5. Use a tutor. If your campus has tutoring centers, make use of them if you ever need help. You can also look for a private tutor in your area online. A little one-on-one help can go a long way if you're confused about a subject.
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    • 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.

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