Study Smarter, Not Harder

Posted by Veronica O'Brien on

Ah studying; a seemingly endless task that accompanies college life. The key to college success starts with study techniques because if you lack efficient study skills, then you will find college challenging. Many students quickly discover that their tried and true study habits that were developed throughout high school are no longer effective in the college world. Reading becomes more arduous, exams and assignments have more stake, and there is more personal accountability to stay on top of the course content. Struggling to transition from high school study habits to college study habits is not an anomaly, and there’s nothing wrong with you for facing this challenge. College is simply a new environment with different expectations and like every other transition in life, some modifications can go a long way. 

What’s the Best Tip for Studying Smarter, Not Harder?

Active study is far superior than simply reading and re-reading your text. Re-reading material can create confirmation bias where you believe you know the material because it’s familiar; however, come exam time, you may find that you don’t actually know the concepts. In contrast, actively engaging in the materials allows you to develop meaning from the readings and connect concepts to real-life examples. There are a bunch of ways one can engage in active studying such as creating your own quizzes, teach someone the material, and relate the material to personal experiences. For more technical classes you can work through a problem and then think about each step, explain how you completed the step and why it worked. 

How Often Should I Study?

Research shows that studying for short durations over a period of several days is more effective than cramming last minute. As we sleep, our short-term memories are converted into long-term memories, so studying over the course of several days allows your brain to adequately store the information. If you are someone who struggles with sleep, then it’s important to work on that, as sleep is highly correlated to college success. Consider sleep solutions such as a mattress topper if you are someone who deals with insomnia. 

There is no golden duration for those study durations, but if you use the active studying techniques described above, your sessions will be more efficient. Consider keeping a running list of tasks you’d like to complete each day and try to do something for each class each day you do school work. Some are able to study for as little as 15-20 minutes a day and come out of their courses successful; it’s all about how you study. 

What Else do I Need to Know?

Multitasking is the detriment to all well-intended study sessions. To maximize your time, your attention must be on the material, not distractions. Consider putting your phone and laptop in “do not disturb” mode so you aren’t tempted by notifications. As a step further, you can turn your phone off during study sessions to further prevent temptation. Some say that one can reward themselves with social media breaks after a set amount of time intensively study; from experience, five minutes quickly turns into twenty, so it may be best to reward yourself with a snack instead. 

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