13 Study Tips for College Students and Test Prep

Below you will find a list of the best study tips for college students that work. Many people think that by the time you get to college, you know exactly how to study. However, effective study habits are something that many college students struggle with. Especially if when in high school they didn’t have to study. Often, high school students make their way through high school without ever actually creating a study routine, or worse; they don’t even know where to begin.

college students study stips

Fast forward to college, and students are presented with many new classes and courses that do not come so easily to them anymore, and panic sets it. How do I study? How much time do I need? Do I take notes on paper? And the list of questions goes on. But here, we have all of the tips and tricks of the trade to help you through those study days.

Why Know How to Study?

As one that has been through high school, received a four-year degree, as well as a graduate and post-graduate degree, I have had my fair share of hard lessons. What I mean is, I didn’t study in high school, and college gave me a swift kick in the rear when it came to preparing for my courses. I needed a study plan, and I needed it quickly.

Once you figure out how to study the best way to learn, nothing will trip you up!

1.Take Good Notes!

Wow, that seems like an undeniable point. It surpasses the common sense of many! Especially now in education, where virtually everything is recorded, and one can rewind and replay.

Don’t be afraid to make annotations in that expensive textbook because you aren’t going to get your money’s worth back out of it from the bookstore anyway. Type or write (I prefer handwriting notes…I’ll explain later) your notes from your latest lecture. Lastly, if you can go back and listen again to the lecture or lesson, do so and take more notes. 

2. Figure Out a Good Place to Study

One of the best study tips for college students on this entire list will be finding a study place that is comfortable to study in. It takes a lot of mental energy to study for anything, and being somewhere that is uncomfortable or has constant interruptions will not work. In the end, you will be frustrated and feel like you’ve wasted time without the right spot.

While sitting in bed may seem like a great place to be comfortable and study, your mind automatically assimilates bed and sleep…go figure. So find somewhere comfortable, but not too comfortable. Sit on a stability ball and study to keep your attention going. If you need to be still and be quiet, get yourself a privacy desk divider or go to your local library or the university library. Maybe your mom’s house is the best place. Just find a good spot.

If you can board with the study spot that you have found, a change of scenery is always a good idea. Sometimes switching up where you are studying can make your brain more alert and absorb more information.

3. Set a Day for Studying

Since many college students are working and attending school simultaneously, finding time for studying may be difficult. Studying a little bit every day, even if for only 30 minutes, would be the best option. However, the reality is it’s not likely to work realistically. In this particular case, find one day of the week and claim it as your study day.

If the weekends are too crazy and you have too many plans, make a night during the week to sit down for a few hours and have an actual study session that is effective. Even more effective would be to set a specific amount of time that you’re going to study for. Lastly, allow yourself time to take a break while you were studying. Studying for long periods without a break is ineffective, and you will not retain as much information.

4. Be Consistent 

OK, you have claimed your studying night…now stick to it! It is essential to your success that you are consistent with your study time. Many students use excuse after excuse for the reasons they did not study, but really, it lacks the consistency that lands them into having to retake a college course. Don’t be that student. Be consistent and stick to your plan.

5. Study by Yourself (For the Most Part)

Winning college, you’ll find many opportunities to study with other people within the same courses that you are in. However, you may find that this is not an effective way to retain the material being studied. When you study yourself, several things can happen: you learn how you best retain information and learn new material. There is no time wasted by talking about unrelated subjects with other people, and you have an opportunity to reflect on areas that need growth and notes.

6. Avoid Distractions

Distractions are everywhere, and they don’t just live with the people that you are around. The biggest distraction in today’s learning environment is that little handheld device often in your purse or pocket. Especially true if there are social media apps on your phone that make sure to notify you every time a “like” or new posting. As hard as it is, it works best for one to turn the device off.

Further, make sure you’re in a quiet place where people aren’t coming in and out all the time. Lastly, take into consideration if you are listening to music while you are working. While some types of music have been proven to promote learning and retention, others have proven to be distractions.

7. Have a Good Attitude

Out of all of the study tips, this one may be more important. Have a good study attitude. If you’ve ever had a teacher that told you attitude is everything, they weren’t kidding. Going into the study session you’ve set up a time for with a crappy attitude will set you up for failure. So go into the study session with a good attitude and the mindset that success is the only option.

8. Know Where to Start

Knowing where to start with your notes and material will be one of the most difficult parts of your study routine. I always tell my students to start where they’re struggling the most. For example, let’s say there was an exam in one of your classes, and the grade on that exam was far less than desirable. That failed exam could be one of your biggest resources in improving your understanding of the information.

Sit down at an organized study desk and take the opportunity to review missed questions, then go back and look at your notes and create flashcards. Possibly, take the time to create flashcards from your notes and courses that you’re struggling with the most. Either way, start at the bottom and work your way up.

9. Go to Every Class

There will be periods in your academic career where you do not want to go to class. You might be so incredibly tired that you don’t think you can even make it there…but you can. You never know what kind of important information or material you could be missing out on!

10. Don’t Procrastinate!

I feel slightly out of place saying not to procrastinate because I have been the queen of procrastination. However, I have learned the error of my ways and can only encourage you to create good study habits, including not procrastinating. When you procrastinate, you don’t allow your brain the amount of time it needs to process information and give a proper representation of your understanding. This results in half-done work.

11. Go Old School

When I was in college (which wasn’t more than a few years ago), I hardly ever saw anyone with a pencil and paper. Everyone had their MacBooks and their chrome books or whatever device they were using to take notes on. Many people absorb information better when they are writing it down on a piece of paper. If you haven’t tried this yet, I would recommend it and see if it works for you.

12. Don’t Be Afraid to Ask For Help

If studying by yourself isn’t working for a subject that you are struggling with, reach out for help. Many colleges have tutors that are ready to help students in any subject matter. Maybe set up a student study group for a tough upcoming exam. Sometimes, in some cases, study groups have present different skillsets and study tips to help college students in courses.

13. Have a Study Group

If you do choose, in certain cases, to study with a group of people, make sure that you have planned study sessions. Further, these sessions should be timed. Putting time on the session creates boundaries and helps students study effectively together. Without those boundaries, students can often get off task by simply talking to other college students.

Final Thoughts

College is not an easy place. It is the place where you find who you are in life, what direction you want your life to go, and set up for the future. None of that is light or easy! Every student has to find their way when it comes to studying habits that work best for them. We hope that these study tips find you well and help you throughout your college career. I hope some of my study tips help college students could help you. Happy studying!

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