The summer is over (unfortunately). As hard as it is to admit, it is time to get back into the swing of having a set schedule everyday. Starting my third year in college, I found that the key to having a great college experience is being able balance academics, extracurricular activities, and your social life. The beginning of the semester is the most important time to get organized. The first few weeks its difficult to get out of that lazy summer mode and set some strict self-discipline. Eventually, however, the organization becomes a habit. Here are six of my best study tips to have a great semester!
1. Buy a planner
In high school, I would use a school-given planner to write down my homework, assignments, exams, etc. I only took it out to do my homework and it sat in my backpack the rest of the time. Now in college, I use a planner for everything- my class assignments, workout schedule, grocery lists, and my doctor’s appointments. I color-code each event depending on whether it is related to school, work, UChic, personal, or sorority! I recently got into the habit of noting when I should study and what time. It becomes 100x less stressful to study when you note when you should start studying for an exam, or start writing a paper, versus trying to leave it up to your memory.
2. Keep technology to a minimum
I have noticed that all of my studying behaviors directly relate to my classroom behaviors. If you paid attention, took good notes, and at least have a general understanding of the exam topics by the time you sit down to study, chances are that you will do well. I made a personal vow this semester to go back to the high school way and physically write my notes whenever possible. When I don’t use my laptop or tablet to take notes, I find that I pay attention better- I’m not distracted by my messages and social media, I actually listen to the professor rather than blindly type notes, and I have a base for understanding that helps me study later. When I look back on my notes when it comes time to study, I remember the lecture 100x better.
3. Utilize your resources
There are tons of resources available that could help you study. As a high school student I would use review books that my school sold, old study guides from previous students, and if I really needed help, just go to the teacher. In high school it is so much easier to approach a teacher due to smaller class sizes and the frequency that you see your teacher. You actually get to know your teacher on a more personal level, rather than a professor in a 400-person lecture.
In college, ask your TA for help or go to office hours. The school gives you these resources to use, so you might as well take advantage of them. If your professor posts slides online, print them and take notes on what the professor says rather than worrying about copying the slide. Utilize different websites to study rather than notes and in-class materials. My roommate used to use YouTube to study for her science exams. She would enter what kind of science problem and watch videos of professors and students solving them. I have found the best way for me to study is by doing practice questions. There are a ton of websites out there that allow you to enter what school, what class and what section so you can share study guides and practice questions with other students in the class. Everyone’s study habits are different, you just have to find what works best for you!
4. Set up your study environment
Light a candle, put on your comfiest pair of sweats, start your most relaxing Pandora station (or keep it quiet if you prefer to study in silence.) Make yourself comfortable when you study and it will help you focus. For me, I always have to make sure I have a clean and organized space, a hot latte and a little bowl of popcorn if I know I have to study for a long period of time.
5. Find a study buddy
One of the best ways to study is with a friend- it lessens the chance of outside instances distracting you and explaining something to someone can help you remember it yourself. I always get so happy if I find out that I share a class with one of my friends or sorority sisters, and when I do I find that it is so much easier for me to do well in that class. Last fall I shared a class with one of my best friends who happened to be a great student. The fact that she would hand-write her notes, not take out her phone, and pay attention in class motivated me to do the same. Studying together wasn’t a chore or a hassle because it was like we were hanging out. The end of the semester, we both finished the class with A’s!
6. Relax and reward yourself
I am not one to pull all-nighters. I need my 8 hours of sleep to be productive and energized throughout the day. If not, I get cranky, anxious and lack focus.
I am a huge believer in sleep when you are preparing for an exam and my personal motto is that if you do not remember the material the night before the exam, chances are you will not remember it the day of. Honor your body when you are planning to study and don’t break any habits that make you feel good. Still go to the gym, still go to sleep at 11pm- your study time can be taken out of the time you would spend watching TV or stalking social media.
After you finally finish that exam you have been freaking about, reward yourself! Go get a manicure, or buy that top you saw and you fell in love with. At the end every semester, I love to go get a haircut and a blowout. It is the best way for me to wind down after a stressful semester and I get my bi-annual trim!