Immediately understanding a lecture is much more common in high school than in college. Adjusting to your new-found freedoms is tough enough without having to find out you never really “learned” how to study in high school.
Studying is a different experience for everyone, so finding your ideal methods and environment are essential to your success in the classroom and beyond.
1. Go to office hours! Your professors and teaching assistants put aside blocks of time each and every week to meet with students who seek out extra help after class ends for the day. Send a short e-mail two days before scheduled hours to notify your instructor when you will be arriving to make sure they are not meeting with another student at the same time.
And be prepared! Have specific questions rather than simply saying, “I just don’t understand this entire concept.” Bring your notes and your book, and be sure to say thank you before you leave. Your teachers want you to succeed, and are happy to help students who take initiative.
2. Study the way you learn. Are you a visual learner? Draw diagrams, or mind maps, are make pretty color coded note sheets before your exams. Are you an auditory learner? Record your lectures, if allowed, and listen to them again later to reinforce concepts. Do you learn through action? Practice additional math problems, and pay close attention in lab sessions, where concepts often come to life.
3. Find what works for you. Some students like to study in groups, or in noisy coffee shops, or in comfortable chairs. Some like to type up their notes while others write by hand. Some play pop music, or classical piano, or prefer the silence found in quiet spaces and libraries. What works for your best friend may not work for you, or you may find that one method works well for one subject but not well for another. This is a process of trial and error, but it’s worth a few weeks of effort to develop skills that will last a lifetime.
4. Utilize university services. Most schools have a writing center on campus, and also organize peer-led or TA-led tutoring sessions. These services are there for you, so it’s a waste of your tuition dollars to ignore them when you find yourself struggling with a particular subject.
Check the learning center hours, find out if you have to sign up before each session, and go to a few different tutors to find the one who present the materials in a way that you best understand.
5. Be patient. Suddenly being in a situation where everything doesn’t click like it usually does for you can be really frustrating, but it’s something that will keep happening, in both the class room and in your career.
There will always be people who know more than you, or are better at something than you are, but that doesn’t mean that you should give up before you even start trying. Ask for help!
Learning how to study was one of the most important things I took away from my college career. Learning how to ask for help can be tough for some of us, but getting help can bring so much success, even if you still don’t find yourself at the top of the class.
Creating relationships with tutors, professors, and TAs can create a network that will be useful in your job search, or when you find yourself in need of a recommendation.
Embrace the process and find what works for you as an individual and good luck on your exams!
Discussion: What’s your best studying tip?