Zareen Wajid, Talent Acquisition Specialist
Connect with me via. LinkedIn
The anticipation of starting college is exciting.. oh the freedom from your parents, the parties with your friends and frenemies, pulling all-nighters to cram before every single physics exam. You have heard all of your uncle’s stories about his best pals in college, about your cousin finding her true love, even about your neighbor’s raging frat parties, and of course, your goody two-shoes aunt who graduated a year early with a 4.0. Now it’s your turn- what adventures will you tell your children and grandchildren about?
Before you work on leaving your mark on your college campus, take a moment to realize your true purpose of going to college. Above all, your biggest goal is to graduate with a good GPA. That means you need to figure out how to study. Trust me, it’s not what you think it is.
In college, professors get together every semester and plan out how they all can possibly give you exams in the same week. Not only that, they deviously plan out the same day your lab is due, your presentation needs to be presented, the 20-page paper that needs to be submitted (with 30 references, of course), and whether to give you a multiple choice answer e) none of the above and f) A and B. This planning process is called “Taking Over the World One College Student at a Time.” You have been warned.
So, first things first. What type of a learner are you?
- Auditory: You are a listener, easily obtaining information that you have listened to.
- Visual: You need to see pictures, graphs, diagrams, etc. to not only understand what you are studying, but also to retain the new information you just acquired.
- Kinesthetic: You like to “move it, move it”. You learn best through actions and movements.
It is pretty simple to figure out how you learn best. You don’t have to fit into one category; you can learn through one, two, or all three types. The point is to understand your strengths. For example, if you are an auditory learner only, recording lectures and then listening to them later, like when sitting on a bus, before a class, during lunch etc., will help you retain the information. However, if you are a visual and kinesthetic learner like I am, you will probably learn concepts by staring at a diagram for an awkward length of time, and then, explaining the diagram to yourself excitedly while waving your arms around to emphasize the important points… you definitely won’t learn by listening to the lecture repeatedly.
Next, use these tips as you see fit. Remember, if you are an auditory learner, don’t waste your time color-coordinating your notes because your brain doesn’t care. Similarly, if you are a kinesthetic learner, you will learn and retain a lot by walking around reading note cards (but you will look ridiculous running on a treadmill with your calculus book and a graphing calculator).
- Record lectures, and then, listen to them before your next class
- Read lectures notes and concepts aloud
- Explain lecture notes and concepts aloud to your friends (or to yourself if you don’t have friends)
- Listen to music while reading
- Use colorful pens, highlighters, and post-its to take notes (this is not to say you should paint the world; also, don’t highlight bold words- they are already emphasized)
- Explain diagrams and concepts aloud to your friends (or to your mom)
- Make flashcards with word and picture on one side, and the definition/meaning/concept on the other side
- Utilize PowerPoint- most professors present lectures through PowerPoint
- Make flashcards, and study them while walking
- Explain lecture notes and concepts aloud to your imaginary friends
- Doodle while taking notes and studying
- Write important concepts in short-hand on post-its and post on your wall/door (or on the wall in front of your toilet or on your fridge- any place you pass by most frequently)
As you begin to understand your learning style, you can incorporate some heavy-duty fun into your studying habits. These tricks are designed to make you study efficiently. Please do keep in mind that these tricks are not one-size fits all- keep experimenting and figure out what works best for you.
- Study with noise. If the “not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse” is not your type of study environment, consider having some background music while you read and/or study. If words bother you, listen to music only (movie and TV show sound tracks are designed to help viewers concentrate). Listening to music will not only sharpen your mind, but it will also help you retain what you study by making you associate a concept with a certain song. If you prefer background noise, download a “White Noise” app.
- Study with breaks. Apps like “Pomodoro” work like a timer, allowing you to time your study for 25 minutes with a 5-minute break, and then resetting automatically. You can also time your own study breaks. Another aspect to keep in mind is to study in different locations- breaking your “stuck in a rut” habit. For example, explore different libraries, computer centers, coffee shops, or even campus grasses on a nice, sunny day.
- Study with rewards. Place gummy bears or your favorite and preferably a semi-healthy snack at the end of each paragraph in your chapter. When you reach this snack, nom nom nom. Then, move to the next paragraph. One thing to keep in mind is to have these rewards obtainable in the short-term, meaning while you are studying. That way, you are more motivated.
- Study killing two birds with one stone. Try to take a break every 20-30 minutes of studying. During this break, do a mini-workout (this method works best with Kinesthetic learners). Do 10 pushups, 20 situps, 30 lunges on each leg. Not only will you be getting a great workout, your mind will be refreshed when you resume studying. As a post-graduate adult, I still do this trick when I microwave food. Specifically, I do lunges until the timer runs out.
- Study smart. There are limitless resources on the internet for you to utilize. Try KhanAcademy.com for your Physics, Chemistry, Calculus, History etc. classes. Alternatively, for practice questions, search “site:edu [subject] exam”
- Study while reviewing. Basically, review what you are studying. Retention rates increase as you review, so reviewing should be an integral part of your studying habits. For example, as you finish each section in a chapter, look away from your book and explain to yourself what you have just read. Once you have finished the chapter, skim through and take notes on separate paper. Use these notes when you study for the exam- that way, you won’t have to reread the chapter.
- Study in groups. Study with those who are taking a class with you. You will be able to learn the course material from others’ perspectives. You will also get a chance to explain lecture material and course concepts to your group members. Teaching others is one of the best ways to learn and retain information.
As you can probably guess, learning how to study is no easy feat. It is, however, single-handedly the most important aspect of your college career. Did you ever realize your uncle’s best buds are all engineers like him, or that your cousin met her husband in Physical Chemistry lab, or that your neighbor partied after every exam (not before)? Perhaps you may even find a way to leave your mark if you aren’t stressed about that 1.9 GPA!
Good luck, grasshopper.