By Chelsea Gruber
When I first started college, one of the first things I realized was that I didn’t really know how to study. Yes, it sounds strange, but in high school I could just memorize the test material and do fine. However, my college classes had such an overwhelming amount of information that I had to go beyond just making a few flashcards. In order to do well I needed to learn how to fully comprehend and retain the material. I decided to experiment with different ways of studying to figure out how to do it effectively. After some trial-and-error with one-too-many coffees and countless late-night cramming sessions, I figured out what worked best for me and made my own system. If you’re unsure of your own study methods, experiment with different techniques until you find out what works best for you. To simplify the process of developing your own system, you can refer to the “Who, Where, When, and How” methods of studying.
Who: Solo vs. Group Studying
I tended to do more socializing than studying when I attended group study sessions, so I found it to be more effective to study on my own. If you find yourself getting distracted with groups, studying alone will help you concentrate and it allows you to go at your own pace. However, after I had a good understanding of the information, I would review with a group if I had any questions or to tie together any loose ends. Group studying can help ease the pressures of studying, and it’s a great way to get to know your classmates. Most importantly, never hesitate to go straight to your professor for any questions. They know the information better than anyone, and they will appreciate your effort in asking for help.
Where: At Home vs. The Library
Since lived in a house with eight other girls, I found it less distracting to study somewhere quiet like the campus library or a coffee shop. Studying in the library helped me stay attentive, and I could usually find a classmate studying for the same test in case I had any questions. If you’re able to concentrate without distraction at your home, then you have the benefit of studying in the comfort of your own environment. Just be sure not to get too comfortable. It’s tempting to doze off if you study on the couch in your sweatpants, so try to stay attentive by studying at a table or desk.
When: Day-by-Day vs. Prior to Test
Most professors recommend reviewing the information every night as you go because you can acquire the information in smaller portions at a time. This is definitely a good strategy, but in order to fully comprehend the material it’s important to know how the different parts you learn during each class fit together as a whole. I set aside a full day prior to each test to go through all of the material from beginning-to-end to connect the different topics. Additionally, it’s important to figure out what time of the day you do your best studying. I found that I could stay more attentive if I studied in the morning or early afternoon. If you’re more of a night owl, plan ahead to set aside specific hours so you don’t end up pulling an “all-nighter”. Believe me, there is no amount of coffee that can cure you before a test if you’ve lost a full night of sleep.
How: Visual Learner vs. Auditory Learner
Depending on if you’re a visual learner or auditory learner, there are different ways to utilize your learning style to maximize your study sessions. I was a visual learner, so I found it the most effective to read the chapters straight from the textbook and then create an outline to organize the topics. Creating a visual of the topics in a compressed, organized format helped me comprehend the information, and writing everything down helped me retain it in my memory. If you’re also a visual learner, you can try making flashcards, highlighting main points in the chapters, or drawing diagrams that connect the points together. In addition, using a color scheme on your study guide can help you retain and recall information. If you’re an auditory learner, you may find studying with a group to be more effective. However, if you prefer to study alone, you can try reading the material allowed to yourself or playing music in the background while you study. Sometimes professors post video or audio lectures on the class’s website, so take advantage of those if they’re available.
Knowing how to study effectively is an important skill to develop in college. The ability to comprehend and retain a large amount of complex information will benefit you far beyond college and into your career. Studying isn’t the most exciting part college, but knowing how to do it effectively will make the ride much smoother. Happy Studying!