First semester of college is right around the corner and that means more late nights, more classes and more prioritizing! College is tough, especially if you’re trying to balance your studies and a part-time or full-time job. Last semester I had to learn how to juggle working 50 hours a week and taking 4 classes, somehow I was still able to score a 4.0. Sounds insane right? it doesn’t have to be. Especially if you don’t have to work as many hours. Setting your self up for a successful school year should be your main focus. No matter where you are in school, you can always improve your study habits. Below are tips that I have used to keep a 4.0 GPA throughout the craziness of life.
First off, if you’re new to college life, understand that college is NOTHING like high school. In high school, I memorized my notes, took the test, and forgot everything I had just crammed into my brain. This absolutely will not fly in college! So during the first week of school, get familiarized with your resources. Meet with an advisor and ask about some great tips for taking notes and studying. The advice will help you do better in your classes and be less stressed about school.
1. Keep a Planner
During the school year, I keep two planners. One is for school work (due dates, test dates, homework) and one is for my life (work, doctor appointments, organization meetings). This keeps me super organized. At the beginning of the semester, I take my syllabus and write down all the test dates and due dates. I color code each class to make it easier to read. Each Sunday, I plan out my week. I write details about my homework on the daily section of my planner and make sure my study time, work time, and other commitments don’t overlap. Having both an overview for the month and details for the week helps me stay organized and not become overwhelmed.
2. Take Notes That Work for You
I usually take notes on my computer with the help of bullet points. I will put the biggest idea at the top and when a detail is introduced, I indent the following bullet point. It helps me keep track of the big ideas and understand how everything fits together. This works really well for me, but maybe you don’t think that way. I once knew a girl who only drew pictures during the lecture. That’s how she learned and remembered the information. If you’re a STEM major, you might be writing out equations in your notes so a paper and pencil might be best for you. Try different note taking techniques until you find the right one for you!
3. Start Studying Five days Before the Test
I know what you’re thinking. Five days? Really? Isn’t that a little much? Nope, it’s the perfect amount. Break your notes into four sections. You can do this by chapter, lecture, or by difficulty. Start with the chapter or lecture you learned the longest time ago. If you divided your sections by difficulty, start with the most difficult section. Then, follow this guide:
Day 1: Study section one.
Day 2: Study section two and quickly review section one.
Day 3: Study section three and quickly review sections one and two.
Day 4: Study section four and quickly review sections one, two, and three.
Day 5: You have studied everything. Use this day to review everything one last time or to spend more time on the most difficult section
By starting to study five days before your test, you will feel prepared and a whole lot less stressed once test day comes. You also won’t be cramming or pulling an all-nighter the day before the test.
4. Ask yourself questions
Before you even start studying, ask yourself these questions.
- How do I study best?
- Where do I study best?
- What study methods help me the most?
As you go through your notes, ask yourself even more questions.
- When should I use this formula/strategy/concept/etc?
- Do I understand this?
- How did I get to this answer?
- Why did that formula/strategy/etc work?
- Why does this concept work?
- What grade do I think I will get on this test? Why?
- What can I do to get an A? (plan this and carry it out)
For every question, answer as specifically as you can. This will help you tremendously. Talk to yourself!
5. Study Groups
If talking to yourself isn’t your thing, try study groups. They are a great way to learn from others as well as test your own knowledge by teaching others. To make study groups effective, prepare before you meet with your group. Do some studying on your own first, that way you can contribute. Also, prepare some questions to quiz those in your study group and bring any questions you have about the material. By the time you leave, you should have all your questions answered and really understand the material.
Creating a group text with your class can also be really helpful! Almost every class I have been in has had a GroupMe chat. Through that, you can ask questions about due dates, the lectures, and get notes if you missed a day.
6. Apply What You Learn to the Real World
As you go through your notes, find ways to connect what you learned to what happens in your day to day life or what is happening in pop culture. This helps you understand the material further. As you make these connections, be sure to explain how and why they connect. You will be thinking about the material on a deeper level. When you get to the test, it will be easier to remember a concept or term because it now applies to you.
7. Take Care of Yourself
While it’s important to study hard, don’t forget to take care of yourself. Eat nutritious food, drink lots of water, get some exercise, and get plenty of sleep. While you are studying, be sure to take breaks. Our brain can only hold so much information. Last, but not least, think positive. It sounds silly, but those who believe that they can accomplish a goal are often the ones who do. You’ve been studying hard, you’re going to ace this test!
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