College Study Skills Tips

Mary Gormandy White
Study hard but study smart too!

If you're struggling to make the transition from high school senior to college freshman, you may need a crash course on developing good study habits. Here are some important tips to keep in mind as you adjust to the rigors of a higher education academic schedule.

Study Skill Tips for College Students

Although everyone has a slightly different method of studying, there are a few basic tips you should keep in mind.

Make a Schedule

When it comes to completing your college coursework, schedules are a necessity. Schedules help you stay on top of your assignments. They keep you from wasting time watching TV, playing video games, or chatting with your friends. It doesn't matter whether your schedule is written on a Post-It or neatly mapped out on your online calendar. Just make a plan and stick to it.

Set Goals

Schedules help keep us motivated, but goals give us something to work for. Study skills experts recommend you set both short-term and long-term goals. Short-term goals may include reading 100 pages per week, finding sources for an end-of-the-semester project, or contacting a classmate to obtain copies of notes from a class you missed. Long-term goals could include making the Dean's List or being admitted to a specific academic major.

Go to Class

Without your mom acting as your alarm clock, it's tempting to blow off your morning psychology class. But going to lectures will help you keep your grades up. If you're too tired to take accurate notes, bring a small tape recorder to help fill in the gaps.

Pick the Right Time to Study

Study skills experts agree there's no set time when you must study. Some people feel more alert and refreshed in the morning, while others prefer to hit the books in the evening hours. Pick the time that's best for you.

Choose the Right Environment

Choose a study location that works for you. Some students can study in their dorm rooms while others prefer the library or a diner with free coffee refills. Some need complete silent while ambient noise is beneficial to others. Keep mind of the lighting where you study. If it is too bright or too dim, it can be a distraction. A nice desk light or ambient lighting like in most libraries can often be the best fit for studying. Choosing the right environment is a key to study success. Just pick the spot that works best for you and make sure you have access to all of the supplies that you might need during your study sessions.

Organize the Information

Before anything else, logically separate the information you need to learn. For some courses, it makes sense to separate information by chapter (like for a history test). For other courses, it makes more sense to separate by topic (like language courses where you need to learn vocabulary and grammar skills). Some students find outlining to be one of the most helpful techniques for studying. If this doesn't work best for you, consider just outlining important information you need to cover briefly to give yourself some direction. Allot a certain amount of time to each area. Compartmentalizing like this can make things seem more manageable.

Use the SQ3R Method

As you're studying, use the SQ3R Method:

  • Survey: Surveying the assignment
  • Question: Developing comprehension questions
  • Read: Reading carefully while highlighting or taking notes
  • Recite: Reciting the answers to your questions
  • Review: Reviewing important points before your next class

Using this strategy will help ensure you gain a thorough understanding of the material you are trying to master.

Improve Your Reading Speed

If you're struggling to keep up with your reading assignments, you may need to work on improving your reading speed. The average person reads about 200 words per minute, but even increasing your speed to 250 words per minute will save you a significant amount of time each week. Take a free speed reading test online to learn more about how improving your reading speed will help you excel in the classroom.

Take Notes While Reading

Many students look through text for what they can underline or highlight. This makes it so that you're not really paying the best attention you can. It also means you do more highlighting of unnecessary information than anything else. Instead of relying on a writing tool to mark what's important, write the important points on a separate piece of paper yourself. This will help you focus on the truly important information and provide reinforcement for what you have read.

Know When to Ask for Help

Contrary to popular belief, there's no shame in asking for help. Don't be afraid to seek out the help of your teachers; while they won't give you the answers, they can help you focus better if you are really lost.Nobody will think you're stupid or uncool if you admit you're struggling with the course material. In fact, with college tuition prices rising more each year, it only makes sense to take advantage of the professors, teaching assistants, tutors, and academic advisors who are paid to help you succeed.

Get the Grades You Deserve

College is a time to discover your full potential. There's no need to waste your time with ineffective study skills. Acquiring a few new study skills can help make studying more manageable. Most students know that studying is one of the most important things that you can do to make sure your college learning really sticks. Not only does it help you pass tests, answer questions in class and spend less time on assignments, but it makes it so that you are more likely to remember information after the semester has ended. Learn a few new college study skills tips and you'll likely hate studying just a little bit less.

College Study Skills Tips