Many new college freshmen assume they know the ropes when it comes to studying. They've just completed four years of high school and are confident that college will be more of the same.
But high school classes are often small, there are daily assignments, teachers remind students of due dates, and grades are based on a variety of factors such as attendance, homework, quizzes, and multiple tests during the grading period. In contrast, college classes are sometimes large, there are few daily assignments, the class syllabus may be the only reminder of due dates, and course grades may be based largely on one major paper and a final exam.
These differences mean studying in college can be a challenge for first-year students. A few tips will help you meet that challenge and stay on top of your studies from the first day of classes.
- Go to class. This seems obvious, but when professors don't take attendance, the temptation to skip class can be overwhelming. Showing up for class helps you understand the material and, more importantly, helps you understand what the professor considers most important. When it comes time to take the test, you'll be glad you were in class ready to take notes.
- Take good notes. Take both reading notes and lecture notes. Doing so helps you remember the material and find connections between the reading and the lecture. Focus on points that may be covered in the exam. One hint is to write down anything the instructor writes on the board, overhead, or references on a PowerPoint.
- Set aside time to study. If you set aside just two hours to study for every hour spent in class, you won't find yourself cramming for tests or pulling all-nighters trying to write major papers at the last minute. Set aside blocks of time to study, and mark them in your planner just as you would a class or any other scheduled activity.
- Get to know your professors. Take the time to visit your professors during their office hours. Most professors enjoy getting to know their students, and getting to know your professor makes it easier to ask questions in class, to participate in discussions, and to ask for help on assignments.
- Ask for help. Attend study groups, if they are available. Get to know other students in your classes; if you miss a class, it will be easier to ask around for lecture notes. If you find yourself needing extra help with a class, visit the Learning Center and meet with a tutor. Don't be afraid to ask for help when you need it.
- Take time to have fun. Life is about balance. If you spend too much time studying, you'll burn out—or drop out. Go to a game, visit the gym, or join a student organization. These activities are also part of the college experience. See the campus calendar for things to do.