1. What worked in high school will not necessarily work in college. I made thousands of flash cards in high school and that was what worked for me, every time. Then I got to college and couldn’t understand why I was doing so poorly on exams. Well, in the business school not everything can be put on a flash card, and…brace yourself….college is big kid school. They don’t just expect you to memorize and regurgitate information. They want you to understand things on a conceptual level. Sure, you memorized that definition but what is the bigger picture? Your study habits will have to vary by teacher now – they are all different, and they will all test you differently. Period.
2. Office hours. Every person you ever ask about studying in college will tell you this, and you will roll your eyes every time about halfway through your sophomore year when you finally get it. Go to office hours. There are endless benefits from this simple little concept. Your teacher gets to know who you are personally, you can ask them about exam or quiz questions that you missed (crucial if they don’t let you keep the test, and most teachers won’t), and they can clear up any questions you have before an exam. I am only a junior and I have now had my grade bumped up three times at the end of the semester by teachers who I took the time and effort to go see during office hours. (My grade was on the border of an A- and a B+ but they knew how much effort I was putting into their class, and it mattered).
3. When studying for exams, re-do any homework assignments, and if there have been quizzes go to office hours with any questions you missed just to review what was on it. Quizzes are typically a really good indicator of what the exam will look like.
4. Do your research. Look up your teacher on rate my professors and ask around from anyone who’s had the class before – you might get the inside scoop on where they pull their test questions from, or that your teacher loves to throw in essay questions at the end. Knowing what to expect is half the battle.
5. Spread your studying out. It is much easier (and less painful) to study for an hour each day for four or five days, than to cram the night before the test, piling in 5 hours of studying on top of your other assignments and binge drinking red bull. (Even though I am totally guilty of the latter sometimes). Your teachers give you a syllabus the first day with the exam dates, so you have plenty of advance notice to plan ahead.
6. If you have a tendency to over-highlight (like me) try to keep in mind that the more you highlight, the more you have to write down in your notes later on. Look for things that reinforce what your teacher said during the lectures. If you’ve never heard your professor mention it, that’s probably something they don’t find as important and won’t be on the test. If you’re really unsure, just ask them before or after class if its something you should look over, or overlook.
7. Don’t let the brochures fool you – the library in college is social hour. I tend to get more socializing and catching up than actual studying in mine! It becomes an event – go get coffee with your friends, sit down at a table with them, oh hey there’s Madison over there you have to go say hi! Unless you can find a quiet spot alone on a quiet floor of your library, it really may not be the best study spot for you. My favorite places to go are empty classrooms or just my desk at home. Empty classrooms are great for group study sessions because you can utilize the board and whatever technology is available – if you can get the same classroom your exam or quiz will be given, that’s even better!
8. Write it down. College has only a fraction of the structure high school had, and they aren’t going to remind you every day of when assignments are due. That first day during syllabus week when your teaching is rambling on about nothing, start copying down all of the assignments and exams into your planner so you never miss a beat. (Keep in mind though that sometimes these dates are subject to change, so check for updates through email or on your school’s academic site!) I’ve had some teachers that put things on the syllabus and then never mention it again – they don’t even ask you to hand it in, they just expect you to do it sometime that class period, or you get a zero.
What are your studying tricks for college?