People, Places, and Preparation: A Student’s “Study” Guide

You may have been one of “those” students in high school. The ones who claim that they didn’t need to study, that they had a great memory or were simply a good “test taker.” Or, you could have been one of those students who went into a test telling yourself (and everyone around you) that you’re absolutely, positively going to fail…only to walk away with a nice, fat “A” on your exam. If you are one of those students (or even if you aren’t), you may be in for a rude awakening come college time. Many students don’t realize the importance of actually studying and preparing for a college level exam. You may have been able to slide by without studying in high school, but be warned: College classes move more quickly, go further in-depth, and won’t wait for you to catch up if you fall behind.

Here’s how to start off your college career by studying productively and efficiently:

  •  Use a Professor’s Office Hours, Know your Teacher Assistants, and Join Study Groups

As ironic as it may seem, sometimes there’s no lonelier place than a lecture hall of 400 students. And there’s no worse feeling than looking around and wondering why everyone else just seems to be “getting it” when you just… don’t. Even if you aren’t struggling, but feel as if you need clarification or extra practice with a concept, there are many people who want to help you succeed. Many professors offer office hours for students who need extra help. During these pre-determined times during the week, professors will stay in their office and students can walk in and talk about class material and receive extra, one-on-one help. If you attend a larger institution, classes may also have Teacher Assistants, or “TAs.” These TAs are often upperclassmen or graduate students who have taken the class before, and who are there to assist the professor, grade your assignments, and answer questions about class material. They often provide their contact information early on, and since they are students themselves, they can be easier to relate to than a professor. Lastly, your classmates can be a great resource to use, especially if you feel intimidated by your professors or TAs. By joining a study group, you can go over what you’ve learned with your classmates, answer each other’s questions, and quiz each other before an exam.

  •  Find the Ideal Study Environment

 Some students study with music. Some prefer silence. Others will only study in their dorm rooms, while some head off to a café or the library. My roommate and I had completely different study habits. My roommate preferred to study in our room, and noise didn’t bother her. On the other hand, I needed it to be completely quiet. My parents would joke that I “lived” at the library. And, when I wasn’t in a library cubicle, I was studying on my bed with the soundproof headphones I bought on Amazon. Sure, they looked silly, but they got the job done. It’s important to figure out the best environment for you, and set aside time (free of distraction) to study there. However, you may find that after finding a seemingly “perfect” spot to study, it is possible to become anxious or bored with it.  I found myself going to different study spots whenever I could, while still making sure that each place had the same fundamental aspects as far as noise level, lighting, etc.

  •  Get an Early Start 

As important as the environment is, it is just as important to spread out study times and find time to take breaks from studying. While it might seem like a good idea to spend an entire day in the library cramming for a test that’s scheduled for the next day, you will eventually burn out and stop absorbing the material. Instead, start studying for a test at least a week in advance, even if it’s only for a few minutes each day. Then, keep reviewing the exam material as the exam date gets closer. I found flashcards to be very helpful in this way. I would make flashcards each day, and then review the older ones after making my new ones. Using this method made it easy for the material to stick in my mind. Additionally, make sure that you take breaks every thirty minutes or so to eat a snack, stretch your legs, or go for a quick walk. Your brain needs time to rest and absorb all of the information before it can retain more.

If you strive to form good study habits from the time you step on campus, you’ll save yourself the shock of realizing that college is a world apart from high school. Your high school teachers won’t be there to look out for you and make sure you are getting the help you need. And, sliding by without studying just won’t cut it anymore. However, college does provide all the resources you need to form good study habits. Use them, and the “A’s” are sure to follow.

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Emma Weissmann

Emma Weissmann

Emma Weissmann is a sophomore at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign pursuing a degree in News-Editorial Journalism with an interdisciplinary minor in Leadership Studies. Emma enjoys traveling, trying new foods, and snuggling up on the couch with her cat, “Louie.” She also spends her time volunteering and hanging out with family and friends.
Emma Weissmann

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