Study Tips and How College is Different from High School

Thursday, November 03, 2016
Lecture Hall Hands Up

Jordan Green
NSHSS Student Council
University of Arizona

Okay, you made it. For four straight years you studied hard, you passed, and now you’ve graduated high school. You’re in the clear. You walked with your class, earned your diploma, and you’re headed off to college.

You’ve probably heard it before, but know: college is different from high school. Here are some study tips for succeeding:

1. Allocate more time than you think you need to study.

In high school, you were probably in school for six or more hours per day. You probably had some class worksheets, some group projects, some homework (a good portion of which you got done in study hall), and spent a couple of hours a week studying for that test. In college, most of your “school” work will be done outside of class times. Especially in larger, more general freshman level classes, often you will sit down and listen to lecture for an hour or so, and leave with the expectation to do the readings, take the quiz, and write the paper entirely on your own time. Basically, almost all of your work will be homework. This doesn’t mean it will consume all your time, it just means that even though you might only have two or three hours of class on a particular day, you should still expect to do a few more hours’ worth of work outside of that.

2. Go to sleep.

I’m not telling you that you have to sleep properly because I’m obligated to as a Neuroscience major; I’m saying it because it really is important for your health and your grades. In college, depending on your chosen schedule, you might not have class starting at the same time every day. Some days you might study later than others. Your daily routine won’t be as regular as it likely was in high school, so you’ll have to put more conscious effort into maintaining good sleeping habits. This means trying not to watch TV until the early hours of the morning, and not getting a coffee at night unless you absolutely have to study late. Sometimes being well-rested for an exam is more valuable than staying up all night cramming if it means you end up a zombie in the morning. If your roommates are noisy, talk to your RA or invest in some earplugs and a mask; you’ll thank yourself. Also, this is a personal preference, but I would advise against 8am’s when you can avoid them.

3. Write things down.

Everyone has their own system: sticky notes, agenda logs, wall calendars, electronic calendars, etc. Whatever method works for you, make sure you write things down. Write down your assignments, their due dates, your exams, your labs, your club meetings, and that day you’re going out to lunch with your roommate. Keeping a written log of everything you’ve got to do or have done is extremely helpful in staying organized and therefore staying on top of your studies. Just important as writing things down, though, is reading them (I’m bad at this part.) Make sure you check over your written agenda or other medium daily so you don’t forget anything.

4. Join a study group.

There’s always that one class, that one professor, or that one exam that it seems like everyone you know struggles with. So why do it alone? Join or create a study group! In high school, you probably had some classes or study hall periods with your friends, so studying in a group wasn’t uncommon. But in college, your schedule will likely be more varied from those of the people you know, so it’s important to reach out to others to organize study groups. A study group can meet every week or just before the final, be composed of a couple of people or half the class. Study groups can help keep you focused and motivated on learning the material with your peers there to hold you accountable and discuss ideas with you.

5. Manage your time and energy.

Classes can be challenging and exams might be tough, but I think one of the hardest and most important parts of adjusting to college is learning to manage your time. All of the above – scheduling time to study, using an agenda, meeting with a group, sleeping – are part of it. You’ll be busy, and managing your time is maybe the most important thing you can do to be successful in college. Learn to set aside time for important tasks, not put things off for too long, and maintain a balance of schoolwork and other activities. Also important is not spreading yourself too thin. It’s probably not the best idea to take on 20 credit hours of courses and at the same time join three clubs, make a sports team, and apply for a job, because your performance in all of them will suffer if you juggle too many things to devote enough time and effort to each individual one. Talk to your advisors and peers to figure out the best balance of activities for you.