The start of a new semester is like a mini-New Years. It’s a great time to make some resolutions about your school life (that you’ll actually keep!). This can start with your study habits.
If you’ve made it this far in your education “never having to study” and getting by fine, chances are that this year of college will change that. To achieve your best potential in higher education, you’re going to need to pick up a book, or your notes, outside of class. Crazy, right? But try it out, and you’ll see some big changes in your grades.
The most basic, largest change you can make is in your schedule. Time management is what makes good students great. Look at it this way: going to school makes you a full-time student. College is, then, your full-time, nine-to-five job. Bad grades usually mean you’re not treating it like so.
This semester, try focusing on school and studying from 9:00am to 5:00pm, Monday through Friday. During this time, do something “work-related” like your imaginary manager is watching. Try to fit everything into this schedule. By assigning this time out, you’ll save yourself from putting things off. You’ll get your weekends and evenings all to yourself. There’s an added bonus that this is great practice for being a normal person with a normal job (something we all hope to be some day).
During your classes, think about how you take notes. If you’re not writing down much, that means you’re not saving much for later. The common advice is to write down as much as you can, as fast as you can. Use some shorthand abbreviations and whatever drawings you need. Your notes are for your own use, and you don’t get points for neatness. As long as you can read it, you’re set.
Writing down as much of what the professor is saying as you can has some benefits. For one, it will keep you awake and engaged. “Just listening” is code for falling asleep in a long lecture. Note-taking will also give something to reference later. Using the textbook and the professor’s own notes, if available, as back-up, you can get the full story of a lecture when you go back to study.
Outside of class, show the same amount of effort. Use whatever motivation works best for you to sit down and focus. For some, it’s a treat in between each section of notes you read. For others, setting an alarm for a short, controlled break gets them to read. No matter what, just avoid the classic college study traps that can lead you to doing something else, with a book open nearby. Having a book open next to you is not studying.
Find the place where you can focus best and shut out distractions. A corner of the library claimed as your own, an unused classroom, or your own room with the electronics unplugged, are all great options. This along with the 9-5 schedule and in-class habits, combine to form a powerful studying routine.
Finally, seal these habits off with a set of objectives. Make goals, large and small, that you can work towards. Set a grade goal for a class or a GPA goal for a whole semester. Think about what you’d have to change in order to achieve those goals. Keep track of them and compare your progress to previous years. Chances are, just thinking about what you want in a goal-oriented way will set you on the right track.
Another thing to remember is that, you’re surrounded by other students in the same situation as you. So reach out for some accountability and encouragement. This way, you’ll be able to share tips and strategies.
While you’re on campus, check out your local Cru movement (which can be found easily using cru.org!) for some more encouragement and personal growth.
Combining all this, you’ll be more proud of your grades, and you’ll answer with confidence when your parents ask for a report of the semester over break.
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