These are practical tips to help you study more efficiently and improve your grade. Sadly, there are no free rides in college and you will have to earn that degree. However, most classes are not as tough as people would have them out to be and can be mastered if the material is studied correctly.
1. Avoid Burning Out
Ah, the bane of every college student: end-of-the-semester burnout. Common symptoms include apathy toward grades, missed assignments, skipped classes, and a complete and utter lack of motivation. Burnout is something that happens to even the best of students, and can be avoided.
Hit the ground running, yes, but not sprinting. Study for every class, but don’t try to read the entire textbook in a week. If outlining a chapter helps you study, then by all means, outline, but don’t also highlight important passages and work every single practice problem and research relevant topics. This all may sound like a fantastic way to work, and you may have A’s around the board, but come mid-semester, your eyes will begin to glass over when you see lecture notes, and your grades will suffer.
2. Stop Procrastinating
It’s been said before: it’s much easier to study for a test over several weeks than cram the night before. It’s almost clichÃ?Â© these days, but for a reason.
Cramming is no fun. You will arrive in class smelling of Cheetos and coffee with dark circles under your eyes for – listen closely – nothing. Studies have shown that even going without studying, or studying inadequate notes, is better than attempting an all-nighter the night before.
3. Know Your Professor
Two words: office hours. They are the best-kept secrets in college (even though professors have been known to jump up and down announcing them) and always work out in your best benefit. Think about it: a professor has set aside hours in which they promise to be sitting in their office waiting for you to swing by. It’s a fabulous concept, really; what a pity that students rarely utilize them.
Contrary to popular belief, professors are people too, and intelligent ones at that. Well, usually. At the very least, they have complete control over your grade and it is therefore in your best interest to have them know your face. Even if you’re doing a fantastic job in their class and enjoy every second of it and don’t need any help whatsoever, it is a good idea to swing by with a question or two, or even a short statement about how you enjoyed a particular lecture. Professors rarely tire of having their egos stroked.
4. Study the Right Way
Three hours of studying the right way will beat out an entire week of studying incorrectly. What does it mean to study the right way? It means knowing what your professor is looking for – feel free to ask them in their office hours; professors are egomaniacs like the rest of us and usually love to hear that someone is making a concentrated effort in their class – and studying what will be on the test. For example, is this professor a number-cruncher who gets his or her jollies from quizzing over data found in graphs, or does he or she prefer to test over ideas and definitions? It pays to know.
Different people learn different ways. Some people are more visual, others auditory, and others kinesthetic. Most of us are something of a mix. For example, I am an avid outliner. I highlight text in the book and then type the highlighted sections out on my computer in outline form. When I see everything in a linear fashion, it helps me to concentrate. A friend of mine is an auditory learner, and because of this he reads his text out loud – yes, really – to himself and this helps him remember the material.
Another important part of studying the right way is learning how to detect and ignore “fluff”. Fluff is the unimportant, usually redundant parts of the book. I have an idea that textbook editors are paid per word, because they just love to restate the same sentence a different way about three times. (Which is great, I guess, if you’re a visual learner, but it generally just manages to confuse the rest of us.) Here’s a general rule to go by: every paragraph (or, in some cases, every other paragraph) has one important sentence. The rest of the paragraph is simply padding to make the author look knowledgeable. Read that sentence and study it, but don’t worry about the rest of the words.