Prep for College Part III: How to Study

In the previous posts, I’ve touched upon the subject of what to have and what to generally do in college for those who are just fresh out of high school, and here is the last post of the series which aims to give you some tips on how to study more effectively.

Now, I’m no expert on the subject, and without saying, here are just suggestions. You are more than welcome to adopt or scoff at them, but I urge you to at least give it a try because studying right makes matter much easier in college. That’s for sure.

  1. you need to plan your time and energy efficiently. In high school, you pretty much have your days planned out by either your school’s schedule, or your parents. However, in college, you’re given more freedom to choose how to use your time. I believe with great freedom comes an equally great responsibility. And nothing is as liberating or as challenging as our attempt to control how we spend our time. Annie Dillard said, “How we spend our days is of course, how we spend our lives,” and God knows there are a few struggle more challenging, or more rewarding than learning to spend our lives correctly.

Here are some of the few tools I’ve found helpful in helping me to plan my time:

  • Have a calendar: you can either note your schedule down in your pc, phone or the good-old notebook and pen. I find myself being more motivated if I note down my days on paper, but try them all out to see what you prefer the best.6e7b076c7b89acb59bb379a4211abf07
  • Block time for the most important things: In his book, First Things First, the legendary self-improvement guru, Stephen Covey said if you had a bottle and you put small stones in first, you won’t be able to fit in the bigger ones. However, if you put the bigger ones in, and put the small ones in later, the smaller ones will disperse and find nooks and crannies to settle into. When you schedule your time, block solid chunks of time for your most prioritized tasks. Since this is a post about studying, I’m assuming you’d like to get better grades or study more efficiently, so yeah, block time for your classes. I’d encourage you to show up in classes that are worthy of your time.
  • Block off time for your reading time: your lecturer wouldn’t be able to cover an entire subject in the span of 40+ hours assigned for their courses per semester, if you want to really attain knowledge, read the textbooks, recommended readings, and whatever the hell you can grab your hands on. I like to read the night before class. Reading before actually studying it in class also helps you question. Write your questions down and ask your lecturer during the class.
  • Block off time for review and note writing: after each class, it’s ideal if you can just review the notes, and main points in the lecture. See if your pre-class questions are all answered to your satisfaction, and if not, aim to ask your lecturer later. Also, if you regularly review your notes, it will make it way easier when the exam comes. The material sticks better than being crammed in a short amount of time, say, 1 night before the actual exam.
  • Set smaller deadlines: you’re not in college if you don’t get big group assignments. Talk to your teammates as soon as your group is formed. Set the final deadline on your calendar, then reverse engineer the project by dividing the tasks. For example, if it’s to write a paper that’s due in three weeks. You should set smaller deadlines for brainstorming, researching and draft writing. Say, you will have to finish brainstorming in a week, and researching in two weeks.
  • Use the Pomodoro Technique: basically, it’s found out that we can’t possibly pay attention all the time. Most people find it effective to pay solid attention for 45 minutes, then take a 15 minute break, and repeat the process. I find it helpful myself to pay attention for 30 minutes at a time, and take smaller 5 minutes break between the 30 minute chucks. It’s all about trying and finding out what’s best fit your attention span. I like to use Tide because it’s just all sorts of wonderful in customizing your focus time without needing you to be connected to the internet.
  1. Now that’s all the time management thing you have to deal with, on to the real study.
  • Before class:
    • Read before class. Don’t just read passively and highlight half the text though. Practice active reading by asking questions all the time. A useful technique for me is pre-brainstorm before the actual studying. I like to ask myself what I know of the topic beforehand. For example, if the topic is about ancient philosophy, I would spend a couple of minutes just trying to recall what I know of ancient philosophy. With these fresh knowledge in mind, reading makes it easier for me to detect any new knowledge and add it to to the existing store of information.
    • Learn to skim. Skimming is essentially reading fast to get the general idea of something. Of course, you will have to practice it wisely because some courses require slow and critical reading. This comes in handy when you have to read long texts from a boring book that won’t really give you any new information except for its bold headers.
    • Read notes from your previous class and highlights from your reading just to make sure your brain is prepared for the actual class.
    • Do you homework: of course, it’s up to you, really, to do the homework assigned or not. If the class is easy, you don’t really need to do it. However, for classes you find difficult, doing homework and asking your lecturer where you went wrong will help tremendously.
  • During class time:
    • Attend the lectures: again, this is not absolute. Maybe you are already well-versed in a subject, then there’s really no reason to show up. For classes you’re struggling with though, show up! Show up and pay attention to what the lecturer teaches.
    • Sit in front: I can’t stress how much this is ignored. If you sit at the back, you have the chance to slack off. Sitting in the front of the class will 1) make sure your lecturer actually know who you are, especially in big classes. This might come in handy when you need their help either in class material, or for, say, reference for a project.
    • Take notes: take notes of the important information during class. If you’ve read your chapter before class, you should know which info is in the book and which is extra info from your lecturer.
    • Ask questions: if you have any doubt over anything at all, ask questions to your lecturer. Chances are, they are more than happy to answer.
    • Grab chances to discuss: discussions can be boring, or it can be mind opening; it just depends on the people, to be honest. Take initiative in discussion by trying to put your thoughts as eloquently as possible, ad also try to listen and understand other people’s arguments. This is what you can’t get from reading books alone.
  • After class:
    • Revise your notes: put together your book notes and lecture notes. If you have the time, it would help tremendously to combine the notes and write them down neatly. It will surely help prevent cramming for exams.
    • Talk out loud: it’s actually very helpful to recite out loud what you’re learning with your own words. Bonus if it is to teach another person. If you can’t make something simple, you don’t understand it yet.

Well, these are all the tips I’ve tried and found helpful! Tell me yours in the comments! Have fun studying!

Complimentary reading on: how to be more productive  and how to deal with challenges.

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