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20 Effective, Good Study Habits For College Students To Develop

Developing good study habits for college is essential if you want to not make the most of the knowledge available to you in college. This post covers 20 effective habits to develop as a college student.

College is a time of transition and change, especially when it comes to academics. Students are faced with new challenges and responsibilities, often without the guidance of parents or teachers.

It’s not high school anymore! You’ll need new study skills to get and keep good grades here. Developing good study habits is crucial for success in college and beyond. It’s the best way to ensure you have a good daily routine that encourages your success in college life.

In this post, we will cover in depth 20 good study habits for college students to develop and refine that will ultimately lead to academic success.

good study habits for college

20 Good Study Habits For College Students To Develop

Developing effective study habits is crucial for success in college. Here are 20 good study habits that can help you excel academically:

Set Clear Goals:

Define what you want to achieve in each study session and for the semester as a whole. This will help you stay focused and motivated.

how can you set clear goals for studying? Start by setting specific, achievable goals for each study session. This could be completing a certain number of practice problems or reading a set number of pages in your textbook. For the semester, set overall goals such as maintaining a certain GPA or mastering a particular subject.

Understand Your Learning Style:

Learning styles refer to the ways individuals prefer to approach and process information. While there are several different models, one of the most widely recognized categorizes learning styles into four main types:

  1. Visual Learners (Spatial Learners):
    • Characteristics: Visual learners prefer information that is presented in visual formats like diagrams, charts, graphs, and images. They tend to think in pictures and may have a good sense of direction.
    • Study Tips: Use visual aids, create mind maps, and make use of color coding. Watch educational videos and utilize flashcards.
  2. Auditory Learners:
    • Characteristics: Auditory learners grasp information best when they hear it. They prefer verbal instructions, discussions, and lectures. They may have a strong affinity for music.
    • Study Tips: Engage in discussions, attend lectures, and participate in study groups. Read aloud and record yourself explaining concepts.
  3. Kinesthetic Learners (Tactile Learners):
    • Characteristics: Kinesthetic learners learn best through hands-on experiences and physical activities. They enjoy touching and manipulating objects to understand concepts.
    • Study Tips: Use hands-on activities, conduct experiments, and engage in role-playing. Take breaks during study sessions to move around.
  4. Reading/Writing Learners:
    • Characteristics: These learners prefer reading and writing to absorb information. They enjoy textbooks, articles, written instructions, and taking good notes.
    • Study Tips: Summarize information in writing, create outlines and lists. Rewrite notes in your own words, and make use of written resources like textbooks and articles.

It’s important to note that many people exhibit a combination of these learning styles, with one style often being dominant. Additionally, some models propose additional learning styles, such as social learners (who thrive in group settings) and solitary learners (who prefer independent study).

Understanding your preferred learning style can help you tailor your study strategies to be more effective. However, it’s also important to be flexible and experiment with different methods, as different subjects or tasks may benefit from different approaches. A well-rounded approach that incorporates elements from various learning styles can often lead to the most comprehensive understanding and retention of information.

good study habits for college

Create a Study Schedule:

Creating a study schedule is a crucial step in managing your time effectively and ensuring productive study sessions. Here are some effective ways to create a study schedule:

  1. Assess Your Goals and Priorities:
    • Determine your short-term and long-term academic goals. Identify which subjects or tasks require more time and attention.
  2. Choose a Calendar or Planner:
    • Use a physical planner, a digital calendar, or a specialized study app to organize your schedule. Make sure it’s easily accessible and easy to update.
  3. Block Out Fixed Commitments:
    • First, mark down your fixed commitments like classes, work hours, extracurricular activities, and any other non-negotiable responsibilities.
  4. Allocate Specific Study Blocks:
    • Divide your available time into study blocks. Aim for focused study sessions of about 25-45 minutes with short breaks in between.
  5. Consider Your Circadian Rhythms:
    • Schedule your most challenging tasks during the times of day when you feel most alert and focused. Everyone has different peak hours of productivity.
  6. Prioritize Difficult Subjects First:
    • Tackle the most challenging subjects or tasks when you’re fresh and focused. Leave lighter tasks or review for times when you might have lower energy.
  7. Set Realistic Goals for Each Session:
    • Be specific about what you want to accomplish in each study session. Avoid overloading yourself with too much material.
  8. Balance Subjects and Topics:
    • Alternate between different subjects and topics to keep your mind engaged and prevent burnout from prolonged focus on one area.
  9. Include Time for Review and Practice:
    • Allocate regular slots for reviewing previous material, practicing problem-solving, and self-assessment.
  10. Incorporate Breaks:
    • Don’t forget to schedule short breaks (5-10 minutes) between study sessions to rest and recharge. Longer breaks (15-30 minutes) can be taken every few hours.
  11. Account for Review and Preparation Before Exams:
    • In the weeks leading up to exams, allocate ample time for review sessions, practice tests, and consolidating your understanding.
  12. Be Flexible and Allow for Adjustments:
    • Life can be unpredictable, so be open to adjusting your schedule as needed. It’s important to be adaptable to changes in your routine.
  13. Include Time for Self-Care and Relaxation:
    • Factor in time for exercise, meals, relaxation, and leisure activities. Maintaining a healthy balance between study and self-care is essential for long-term success.
  14. Set Realistic Expectations:
    • Don’t over-schedule yourself. Be realistic about how much you can accomplish in a day, and avoid setting yourself up for burnout.
  15. Track Your Progress and Adapt as Needed:
    • Regularly review your schedule to see what’s working and what isn’t. Make adjustments based on your productivity levels and areas that need improvement.

Remember, a study schedule should be a helpful tool, not a source of stress. It’s important to find a balance that works for you and allows you to maintain a healthy, well-rounded lifestyle.

good study habits for college

Find a Productive Study Space:

Choose a quiet, well-lit area with minimal distractions. A well-structured study environment is the cornerstone of productive learning.

Curate a space that minimizes distractions and optimizes focus. Whether it’s finding a cozy nook in the library or setting up a dedicated workspace in your dorm, create or find an environment that fuels your academic prowess.

When you are in your study space, it’s a good idea to stay off of social media as well, as this is extremely distracting.

Organize Your Materials:

Keep your notes, textbooks, and supplies neatly organized for easy access. This seems straightforward, but make sure you have a backpack that can hold everything you need.

Keep your subjects organized by color and don’t overload yourself with unnecessary material.

Take Regular Breaks:

Short breaks during study sessions can help maintain focus and prevent burnout.

They are crucial for many reasons:

  1. Maintains Focus and Concentration:
    • Our attention span is limited. Taking breaks helps reset your focus, making you more attentive and engaged when you return to your studies.
  2. Prevents Mental Fatigue and Burnout:
    • Extended periods of continuous study can lead to mental exhaustion. Breaks help prevent burnout, allowing you to sustain a higher level of productivity over a longer period.
  3. Improves Retention and Comprehension:
    • When you take breaks, it gives your brain time to process and consolidate the information you’ve just learned. This leads to better understanding and retention of the material.
  4. Enhances Problem-Solving Skills:
    • Stepping away from a complex problem or concept for a short while can provide a fresh perspective, making it easier to find solutions or gain insight.
  5. Promotes Creativity and Critical Thinking:
    • Breaks allow your mind to wander and think creatively. This can be especially beneficial for tasks that require innovative or out-of-the-box thinking.
  6. Reduces Stress and Anxiety:
    • Continuous studying can lead to stress and anxiety. Taking breaks helps relax your mind and reduce tension, leading to a more positive and focused mindset.
  7. Supports Physical Well-Being:
    • Prolonged sitting can lead to physical discomfort or health issues. Taking breaks allows you to stretch, move around, and address any discomfort, promoting overall well-being.
  8. Encourages Time Management:
    • Knowing that you have a designated break time can help you manage your study sessions more efficiently. It can serve as a motivator to stay on track and make the most of your study time.
  9. Prevents Information Overload:
    • Constant exposure to information can lead to information overload, making it harder for your brain to process and retain what you’ve learned. Breaks provide the necessary pause to digest information.
  10. Fosters a Positive Study Environment:
    • Taking regular breaks creates a positive association with your study space. It helps prevent burnout and ensures that your study environment remains a place of productivity and focus.
  11. Sustains Long-Term Learning:
    • Studies have shown that spacing out learning over time (spaced repetition) is more effective for long-term retention than cramming. Breaks facilitate this process by allowing you to revisit material over time.

Remember, the key to effective breaks is to use them wisely. Engage in activities that truly help you relax and recharge, whether it’s taking a short walk, doing some light stretching, or practicing deep breathing exercises.

Avoid activities that might lead to distractions or make it harder to refocus on your studies.

good study habits for college

Use Active Learning Techniques:

Engage with the material actively through techniques like summarizing, asking questions, and making connections.

Active learning techniques engage students in the learning process through activities that require them to think critically, solve problems, and apply knowledge.

Here are some effective active learning techniques:

  1. Think-Pair-Share:
    • Students first think about a question or prompt individually, then discuss their thoughts with a partner, and finally share their ideas with the class.
  2. Peer Teaching:
    • Students take turns teaching each other about a topic or concept. This reinforces understanding and allows for different perspectives to be shared.
  3. Concept Mapping:
    • Students create visual representations of concepts and their relationships. This helps them organize information and see the big picture.
  4. Debates and Discussions:
    • Students engage in structured debates or discussions about a topic, presenting arguments and defending their positions.
  5. Flipped Classroom:
    • Students review content independently before class and then use class time for activities, discussions, and application of the material.
  6. One-Minute Papers:
    • At the end of a class or session, students write a brief response to a specific question or prompt, summarizing their main takeaways.
  7. Socratic Seminars:
    • Students engage in a guided discussion where they ask and answer open-ended questions to explore a text or topic in-depth.
  8. Quick-Writes or Journaling:
    • Students respond to prompts or questions in writing, allowing for reflection and deeper understanding of the material.

These techniques promote active engagement, critical thinking, and deeper understanding of the material. They also encourage collaboration and peer-to-peer learning, creating a more dynamic and interactive learning environment.

Utilize Multiple Learning Styles:

Incorporate visual, auditory, and kinesthetic learning methods to cater to different learning preferences. This might involve reading your notes and drawing diagrams, listening to a lecture, and/or making a hands-on 3D model to get a feel for the subject matter.

Avoid Multitasking:

Multitasking, often hailed as a time-saving strategy, can actually hinder productivity and quality of work. When we divide our attention between multiple tasks, we sacrifice depth of focus. This leads to increased errors, reduced comprehension, and a longer completion time for each task.

Moreover, constantly switching between tasks can cause mental fatigue and stress, ultimately impacting mental well-being. It impedes the brain’s ability to form strong neural connections and retain information effectively.

In essence, multitasking may give an illusion of productivity, but in reality, it diminishes the quality of our work and our overall cognitive performance.

You can use the Pomodoro Technique (working for 25 minutes and then taking a 5 minute break) to give yourself something to look forward to in between getting study tasks done.

good study habits for college

Practice Retrieval:

Test yourself on the material you’ve learned to reinforce memory and comprehension.

Students can practice memory retrieval using a variety of techniques that engage their recall abilities. Here are some effective strategies:

  1. Spaced Repetition: Reviewing information at increasing intervals over time helps reinforce long-term memory.
  2. Flashcards: Create flashcards with questions or prompts on one side and answers on the other. Use them for self-testing.
  3. Recall Practice: After reading a section or completing a topic, close the book and try to recall the key points or concepts.
  4. Concept Mapping: Create visual representations of information to connect and organize concepts in your mind.
  5. Retrieval Practice Questions: Use past exam questions or create your own to test your understanding.
  6. Teach Someone Else: Explain a concept or idea to a friend or family member. Teaching reinforces your own understanding.
  7. Reflective Journaling: Write about what you’ve learned, trying to recall specific details and connections to previous knowledge.
  8. Mind Palace Technique: Visualize a familiar place and associate pieces of information with specific locations.
  9. Self-Quizzing: Create a list of questions or prompts and answer them without referring to your notes or textbooks.
  10. Mnemonic Devices: Create acronyms, rhymes, or visual associations to aid memory recall.
  11. Chunking: Break information into smaller, manageable chunks or groups to make it easier to remember.
  12. Active Retrieval: Engage in activities like discussions, debates, or problem-solving sessions that require recalling information.
  13. Summarizing: After reading or studying, try to summarize the main points in your own words.
  14. Spacing Your Study Sessions: Study a topic, take a break, study a different topic, then revisit the first topic. This reinforces memory through spaced repetition.
  15. Utilize Practice Tests: Taking practice exams under simulated exam conditions helps reinforce memory and prepares you for the actual test.
  16. Utilize Online Tools: Platforms like Quizlet and Anki offer digital flashcards and spaced repetition systems to aid in memory retrieval.
  17. Associative Techniques: Link new information to something you already know. This helps create mental connections and enhances memory retrieval.
  18. Visualization: Create mental images associated with the information you’re trying to remember.
  19. Rehearse Aloud: Recite information aloud to engage both auditory and verbal memory.
  20. Stay Active and Well-Rested: Physical exercise and sufficient sleep are crucial for optimal cognitive function and memory retention.

Remember, practice and consistency are key. Regularly incorporating these techniques into your study routine will help strengthen your memory retrieval skills over time.

good study habits for college

Set Specific, Measurable Goals:

Break larger tasks into smaller, manageable goals for a sense of accomplishment. Learn more about SMART goals here.

Stay Organized:

Keep track of assignments, due dates, and exams using a planner or digital calendar. Here are our favorite planners for college students.

Stay Active and Healthy:

Regular exercise, a balanced diet, and sufficient sleep are crucial for optimal cognitive function. Good grades are important, but taking care of yourself is important too.

Staying healthy as a college student is paramount for overall well-being and academic success. A sound physical and mental state enhances concentration, memory retention, and cognitive function. It bolsters immunity, reducing susceptibility to illnesses.

Regular exercise releases endorphins, combating stress and anxiety. Adequate sleep improves mood, memory consolidation, and problem-solving abilities. A balanced diet provides essential nutrients vital for optimal brain function. In addition to maintaining a balanced diet, there are other strategies to enhance cognitive function and foster mental clarity. One such method involves considering the supplementation of your diet with nootropics, which are substances known to support healthy brain functions. If you’re interested, you can read more about nootropics to gain a deeper understanding of how they can contribute to your overall brain health.

Moreover, a healthy lifestyle fosters discipline and time management skills, positively impacting academic performance. By prioritizing health, students lay the foundation for a thriving, balanced life that supports not only their academic pursuits but also their long-term personal and professional goals.

good study habits for college

Participate in Class:

Actively engage in lectures, discussions, and activities to reinforce learning.

Seek Clarification:

Don’t hesitate to ask questions if you’re unclear about a concept. Use office hours and online resources for additional help.

Review and Revise:

Regularly go over your notes and readings to reinforce your understanding. This can be an especially useful to do right before a big exam.

Form Study Groups:

Collaborate with classmates to discuss concepts, solve problems, and share perspectives. A study group can be a great way to collaborate with your fellow students and strengthen your areas of knowledge that at lacking.

Effective studying often involves collaboration. Meet up in a coffee shop, a public library, or your dorm room to go over course material together.

two students reading books

Minimize Distractions:

Minimizing distractions is crucial for maintaining focus and productivity in college. Here are some easy ways for college students to do so:

  1. Turn Off Notifications:
    • Silence or disable notifications on your phone, computer, and other devices to avoid constant interruptions.
  2. Time Management Techniques:
    • Use techniques like the Pomodoro Technique, which involves focused work sessions followed by short breaks.
  3. Eliminate Clutter:
    • Keep your study area organized and free from unnecessary items to reduce visual distractions.
  4. Use Focus-Enhancing Tools:
    • Tools like noise-cancelling headphones or calming background music can help create a conducive study environment.
  5. Set Boundaries with Roommates or Family:
    • Communicate your study hours to others and request their cooperation in minimizing disruptions.
  6. Limit Personal Tasks During Study Time:
    • Reserve study sessions for academic activities, and save personal tasks for designated break times.
  7. Use Productivity Apps:
    • Utilize apps like Trello, Evernote, or Google Keep to organize tasks and set reminders.
  8. Minimize Background Noise:
    • If possible, choose a study location with minimal noise, or use noise-cancelling headphones to block out distractions.

By implementing these strategies, college students can create an environment that supports focused, distraction-free studying. Remember, it’s about finding what works best for you and adapting as needed.

Practice Time Management:

Prioritize tasks, and avoid procrastination to make the most of your study time. Strengthening your time management skills takes time! And it often means prioritizing your schoolwork over other fun things.

student in the library

Use Effective Study Aids:

Effective study aids can significantly enhance learning and retention. Here are some valuable study aids to use as a college student:

  1. Flashcards: Ideal for memorization, flashcards help reinforce key concepts and terms.
  2. Textbooks and Course Materials: Essential references for in-depth understanding of subjects.
  3. Online Resources: Websites, forums, and educational platforms offer supplemental materials, tutorials, and forums for discussions.
  4. Note-taking Tools: Quality notebooks, digital note-taking apps, or voice recording devices facilitate organized and comprehensive note-taking.
  5. Highlighters and Pens: Essential for annotating textbooks, marking important points, and creating visual cues for revisiting information.
  6. Post-it Notes: Useful for jotting down quick reminders or important points for easy reference.
  7. Sticky Tabs or Page Markers: Aid in quickly locating specific pages or sections in textbooks.
  8. Digital Resources (eBooks, PDFs): Convenient for easy access to reading materials, especially when on the go.
  9. Index Cards: Versatile for creating study aids, including flashcards and summarizations.
  10. Educational Apps: Specialized apps for flashcards, note-taking, language learning, and more can be valuable study tools.
  11. Online Databases and Journals: Critical for research and accessing scholarly articles and academic papers.
  12. Mind Mapping Software: Tools like XMind or MindMeister facilitate visual organization of ideas and concepts.
  13. Planners and Calendars: Essential for organizing tasks, assignments, exams, and study schedules.

Remember, the best study aids depend on your individual learning style and the specific requirements of the course. Experimenting with different aids can help identify what works best for you.

Stay Consistent and Persistent:

Success in college requires dedication and perseverance. Don’t be discouraged by setbacks. Keep on keeping on. If a technique is not working for you, try something else! There is no such thing as failure – just information gathering.

four women in a study group

Final Thoughts on Study Habits To Develop in College

Remember, it’s essential to adapt these good habits to your individual learning style and preferences. Experiment with different techniques to find what works best for you.

Additionally, be open to adjusting your study habits as needed to accommodate different courses and assignments. Good luck!

About the Author

Nicole Booz

Nicole Booz is the founder and Editor-in-Chief of GenTwenty, GenThirty, and The Capsule Collab. She has a Bachelor of Science in Psychology and is the author of The Kidult Handbook (Simon & Schuster May 2018). She currently lives in Pennsylvania with her husband and two sons. When she’s not reading or writing, she’s probably hiking, eating brunch, or planning her next great adventure.

Website: genthirty.com