As most (if not all) college students know, studying is a huge, important part of college. Studying in college allows you to really absorb the information you need to in order to pass classes and learn the material necessary to get a degree. Studying isn’t just reading, though - there are a lot of different study techniques to help students study and learn information more effectively. Get ready to study for college like a pro, because we’ve got 7 killer study techniques every college student needs to use.
Create an Effective Study Environment
Something that’s really important in the process of studying is the actual environment in which you choose to study. Oftentimes, environment can make or break a study session. Because of this, it’s best to make sure you’re studying in an effective environment. Effective study environments will be different for everyone, but there are some key factors to consider when deciding where to study!
What makes up a good study environment?
- A location you’re comfortable in
- Somewhere you can really focus
- A location with minimal distractions
- Somewhere with enough space for all your study materials
The study environment you choose may be a bedroom, office, living room, a library or coffee shop, or even somewhere outside. No matter where it is, once you’ve chosen your effective study environment, there are a few more things to consider. For example: do you study the best alone or in a group? This might determine if you invite others to study with you in your study environment. Also, before you start studying in your environment, make sure to have all your necessary study materials with you and easy to access to minimize distractions and loss of time. And, speaking of minimizing distractions - minimize as many distractions as you can in your study environment! Whether that be turning off the TV, leaving your phone somewhere else or shutting it off, or moving away from people who could potentially distract you - try to keep it out of your study space.
Make a Study Schedule
Creating a schedule of when, how often and how long you need to study can help you remember your schedule more easily and stay more accountable when it comes to studying. So, how do you make a study schedule? There are some things you’ll definitely want to consider:
Get a paper calendar or planner or use an app to track your study schedule.
You won’t really know what to study and when if you don’t have a way to write it down or track it - so make sure you have the materials to do that!
Decide how much you need to study.
This will depend on your course load. Typically, it’s recommended to study for two hours for every hour you spend in class. So, if you have a one hour class twice a week, it’s helpful to study that class’s material for four hours a week.
Decide your best times to study.
We’re all busy, and may have other obligations than just school and studying. So, you’ll want to decide when you can carve out the appropriate times to study. It might be for a few hours before class, or maybe in between obligations. Whatever’s best for you!
Space out your study times.
Clearly studying is important, but it’s hard for you to absorb information when you’ve got an information overload. Cramming and trying to get all your studying done at once isn’t a great study technique, and won’t help you as much to retain information as spacing out study times. So, space out your study times! Try a block of an hour or two of studying (however often you see fit), but make sure to include some breaks in between.
Focus on One Task at a Time
Wait, but isn’t multitasking important? It is, but not as much when it comes to studying. When it comes to your studies, try to say goodbye to multitasking and focus on only one task at a time. In order to do this, you may have to minimize distractions again. For example, close browser tabs that don’t apply to the subject you’re studying, and/or only keep out the study materials for the course work you’re studying. When you switch to a different task, take a break in between tasks so your brain has time to retain the information you just studied before you hop into the next thing.
Practice Good Note Taking
In probably almost every class you’ve taken or will take, note taking is involved. Note taking is pretty important when it comes to college classes and studying, so it’s obviously also pretty important to practice good note taking skills! When taking notes, it’s helpful to know the different styles of effective note taking (although you may create one that’s your own most effective style of note taking, and that’s great too):
The Structural Outline Style
Taking notes in the structural outline style is pretty self-explanatory: you build an outline of notes. These notes are usually complete with main topics, with sub topics following the main topics, then thoughts or ideas following the sub topics. Here’s an example:
The Cornell Style
You may have been taught the Cornell style of note taking in middle school or high school. It’s still useful for college, too! The Cornell style is comprised of condensing and organizing notes with space. Here’s an example of the Cornell style:
The Mind Map Style
The Mind Map style of note taking is also pretty self-explanatory: it’s a map of main points and sub topics. Here’s an example:
Remember, when it comes to taking notes, you can do it in any style you choose. Try to take notes by topic, so things are organized for you to reflect on later. Write things out multiple times if you need to - it may help you absorb the information more easily!
Actively Engage in Your Study Material
Studying is more than just reading and re-reading the material you need to know. You can surely try that as a study tactic, but it probably won’t be as helpful as other means of studying. A great way to absorb and retain study material is to actively engage in the material. What does that mean? According to The Learning Center at University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, “Active engagement is the process of constructing meaning from text that involves making connections to lectures, forming examples, and regulating your own learning.” Active engagement may mean creating study guides by topic, developing symbols that represent concepts in the material, creating examples from the study material that align with your own experiences to help you remember, and comparing and contrasting ideas to gain a better understanding of them.
Become the Teacher
No, you don’t have to literally become a teacher (unless you want to!). But when we say “become the teacher,” we mean act as if you’re the one teaching the information you’re trying to study. Talk out loud, pretend like you’re conducting a lesson, and even actually try to teach the information to someone else if you can! Doing this can help you understand the information further, and can also help you realize if there’s anything you missed or need to study more thoroughly. When you’re studying, try becoming the teacher for a little bit.
Study When You’re Tired to Retain More Information
Wait, what? How is studying when I’m tired going to help me retain more information? There’s no way! Actually it's true... and it’s scientifically proven. According to thebestcolleges.org, “Studying at your tiredest can help your brain retain higher concentrations of new skills, such as speaking a foreign language or playing an instrument. There’s even a term for it: sleep-learning. As the memory-consolidation process does its best work during slow-wave sleep, your brain could be getting both the restoration and reactivation it needs during its time of rest. All of this means that reviewing study materials before bed can help you brain learn, even in your sleep.” Studying and then going to sleep? Sounds pretty good to us.
Studying is important in college - like really important. So, make sure you’re studying effectively! Remember, studying effectively will be a piece of cake with these study techniques:
- Create an effective study environment
- Make a study schedule
- Focus on one task at a time - bye, multitasking!
- Practice good note taking
- Actively engage in your study materials
- Become the teacher (of your study materials)
Time to study well and ace those classes!