Studying for college or university classes often presents a different challenge than studying for high school classes. College courses often present a great deal more information, and the information is more detailed. There are more activities to take part in outside of class, more people to spend time with, and often a job schedule to contend with.
Many students feel overwhelmed when trying to study for college and university level courses. The following three steps of the studying process will help you keep your studies on the right track:
Step One: Organization
Schedules – Create a daily schedule that shows class times, work time, and available study times. Being able to clearly see where you need to be and when will help you make better use of your time. If you can readily see that you have two hours available in the evening, then you can plan your study time to make the best of it.
Plan ahead – List the tasks that need to be completed for each class each week. Put these tasks in order of due dates. Plan your study time so you can work on each assignment in the order it is due. Allot time for each assignment, then add 20% to the time in case there are emergencies or interruptions.
Environment – Choose a study environment where you can stay awake and alert. Make sure distractions and interruptions are minimal, and the temperature is comfortable. If you are constantly interrupted or falling asleep, your study time will not be productive. Make sure you have everything you need before you start, which prevents the constant need to move away from your study area in search of something.
Step Two: Gathering Information
Listening – Think about the topic as you are listening to the lecture. Pay attention to how the lecture is organized, and take note of important points. Watch for nonverbal cues from your professor, such as pacing while lecturing but stopping when emphasizing certain points. These will help you identify the important information. Don’t judge the information until you have all of it -the time you spend judging and thinking of arguments could cause you to miss vital information. Keep your pencil or pen in your hand, ready to take notes.
Take notes – Don’t try to write down every word. List main points and subpoints, like you are writing an outline. Write what you need to be able to refresh your mind on the topic when reviewing your notes. As soon as possible, read over your notes. Make notes in the margin for anything extra you may need to recall or any questions that you will need to look up later.
Read the text – Pay attention to section headings in the chapter, as well as any questions or objectives listed in each section. Try to answer these, either as you’re reading or when you are finished. If you find yourself constantly re-reading in order to understand, slow down and take time to think about the material.
Step Three: Processing
Chunks and blocks – Break the information into chunks or blocks. Rather than trying to study everything at once, study sections until you understand them. Once you understand the parts, you only need to review the whole.
Memory tricks – Also known as mnemonics, you can use memory devices to help you remember difficult information. These may be acronyms, such as FOIL (first, outer, inner, last), or they can be sentences and/or rhymes, like Please Excuse My Dear Aunt Sally (Parentheses, Exponents, Multiplication, Division, Addition, Subtraction). Some people even use pictures, drawn or mental, to help them remember information.
It doesn’t matter if you are just starting college or you are well into your program, these tips and advice can help you make the most of your time and tuition money. Stay focused, set goals, and manage your time wisely.