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Essential Study Tips for Successful College Students


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The transition from high school to college can seem overwhelming - even to the best of students. From packed lecture halls to the new-found freedom of a flexible schedule, life as a college student demands skills related to time management, motivation - and, most importantly - smart study habits.

Below you'll find a complete list of resources to help you build the study skills and lifestyle habits you need to experience success in college.

Learning To Learn

The study habits and strategies that were effective in high school may not cut it in college. At first, many new college students find it necessary to spend a bit of time cultivating new skills in order to find success as a college student. From figuring out your learning style to creating the ideal study environment, check out the resources below for expert tips in becoming a better student.

Set the stage: When hitting the books, your surroundings set the stage - and can determine whether or not you have an effective and productive study session. While the ideal study environment varies from student to student, this resource will help you identify the key characteristics of your optimal learning atmosphere.

Figure out your learning style: When it comes learning, different students have different styles and strengths. Some may prefer to read and write while others benefit most from more applied, hands-on experiences. Determining the style of learning that suits your needs can unlock the secret to successful study strategies. This link provides detailed information about various learning skills, styles, and preferences, along with key tips for identifying your own unique strengths inside the classroom.

Assess your skills: Unlike high school, college learning involves a great deal of independence and personal accountability. Without the close student-teacher interaction that's typical of high school, many college students struggle when it comes to finding a study pattern hat works for them. Thankfully, these tips can help you organize an effective way of studying and learning.

Evaluate your study habits: To find success in college level learning, experts have identified six critical study skills: textbook reading, note taking, memory, test preparation, concentration, and time management. Where are you at when it comes to each of these skills? This inventory will help you target your strengths and weaknesses - an essential starting point on the path to becoming a better college student.

Improve reading skills:  Reading proficiency is the foundation of effective studying - and one of the most significant struggles among new college students. This resource from Dartmouth College details the importance of reading comprehension, and offers expert tips for improving reading rate, retention, and comprehension. 

Enhance your memory and concentration: The typical college student has a lot to juggle - from social events and activities to exams and group projects. Concentration and memory are two crucial components to successful studying. Mindfulness can enhance concentration, memory, and focus for better overall performance as a college student.

In The Lecture Hall

Effective study skills start in the lecture hall. From active listening to taking notes, discover the skills to a successful classroom experience.

Learning to listen: Did you know that listening is an essential skill for studying and learning? For some students, the art of listening is a skill that can make or break success in the classroom. This link provides an easy mnemonic device for improving listening skills in the lecture hall.

The art of active listening: Once you master the art of listening, you can extend this skill into better classroom performance. Take a look at this guide to help you develop or improve your active listening skills while learning key strategies for better note taking and post-lecture reviews.

The Cornell method of note taking: When it comes to taking notes, there are many different strategies to choose from. But the Cornell method is hailed as one of the easiest and most effective note taking frameworks, providing a systematic format for synthesizing and organizing your class notes. This link provides a detailed how-to for mastering the Cornell method of note taking for more effective studying and better academic performance.

Before-during-after lecture note taking strategy: Taking notes is an activity that isn't restricted to the lecture hall. In fact, experts advise that becoming an effective note taker requires some key steps before, during, and after a lecture. Adopting this comprehensive strategy can result in better studying as well as improved comprehension and retention. Visit this link to learn more.

Beyond The Books

When it comes to finding success as a college student, there are a number of factors that can make or break your efforts. In addition to smart study habits, it's also essential to master the art of time management, find time for sleep, and avoid the temptation of procrastination. Below are top resources for going beyond the books to find success in college.

Master time management: One of the first challenges faced by many first-time college students is balancing a busy schedule. In addition to classes, the typical college student's calendar will quickly fill with extra-curricular activities including work, clubs, athletic, and social events. Although many college students' schedules are surprisingly flexible, finding time to squeeze in studying takes a smart approach to time management. This link will help new college students master the art of time management to create a well-balanced schedule that leaves plenty of time to hit the books.

Set your schedule:  A daily schedule that follows a consistent pattern of sleeping, eating, exercising, and studying can actually optimize your mental function and physical health. But setting a schedule is a tough task for most college students. This link provides all of the essential tips to help carve out a manageable daily routine that balances sleeping and studying with the more exciting aspects of college life, including socializing and stress-reducing activities that enhance well being. 

Stress relieving tips to manage your time: One of the most common complaints among new college students? Too much stress. But don't let feelings of anxiety and pressure distract you from studying or hold you back from achieving the success you know you can achieve. From the importance of getting enough sleep to how essential it is to attend class, this link provides five effective strategies for minimizing stress through better time management and smart daily habits.

Steer clear of procrastination: As your calendar fills with due dates, deadlines, and other demands, it's easy to start putting off projects and study sessions. But staying on top your work is an important part of finding success in college. Whether you feel overwhelmed, or lack the motivation to get things done, it's essential to avoid procrastination at all costs. Here is a detailed link that provides the secrets behind staying ahead of the game while optimizing time management and minimizing stress for a more successful college career.

The secret power of sleep: When it comes to sleep, college is synonymous with staying up all night. But although late night study sessions and last minute cramming are tempting strategies for staying on top of your work, a lack of sleep can quickly derail your college career and undermine all of your studying efforts. This resource from Dartmouth College explains why sleep is a key ingredient to a successful college career and includes smart tips for squeezing more shut-eye into your busy student schedule.

General Resources For Smarter Study Skills

10 essential study habits: Taking a bit of time to learn the process of studying is a worthwhile investment that can lead to better learning and an enhanced academic performance. This link provides top tips that will prepare you to optimize your college learning experience, including the basic principles behind time management, organization, and prioritization.

Mastering math: For many college students, math is a difficult subject that consumes a lot of time while causing undue stress. But with a little extra time and attention, you can develop some special study skills that will help you experience success in math. This resource features hints, ideas, and activities for modifying your study skills to achieve greater understanding - and higher scores - in your college level math course.

From finding much-needed motivation to sidestepping procrastination, effective college study habits demand a suite of skills that aren't always intuitive to the typical college student. With these links, you'll be on the fast-track to developing the skills and habits that will lead to better success in the college classroom.


About the Author
Jennifer Biederman has a PhD in Conservation Biology and a Master’s Degree in Education. She has been a full-time university instructor for 8 years and regularly teaches a course that introduces study skills to college students.

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