Study Tips for New College Students From a College Professor

Study Tips for New College Students From a College Professor

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Advice from a college professor I know:

Jeremy was an honor roll student throughout middle and high school. But during his first semester he quickly found himself falling behind.

Nothing in his previous educational experience prepared him for the amount and type of work he was required to do in college. By the time he came to talk to me he was overwhelmed, discouraged, and considering dropping out.

Jeremy is not alone in his struggle. First year college students and adults who are returning to college to complete their degrees often discover that their study habits are woefully inadequate for college coursework.

The good news is that anyone can learn new habits and with just a few simple tweaks can turn their academic careers around. Here are my three recommendations for how to turn your study time into academic success.

1.) Read the syllabus and course requirements

As a college professor I am stunned by the number of students who simply don’t read the syllabus and other written instructions about the course requirements.

The syllabus gives information about the textbooks and assignments required for the course. But it will also lay out the learning objectives for the course.

These objectives will tell you what you need to focus on learning during the class. In other words, they give you the big picture so that you have a framework to guide your study.

2.) Read with purpose and direction

When my students are struggling I always ask them about their reading habits. Many times, I discover that either they are not reading at all or they lack structure in their reading.

Instead of sitting down and just reading straight through a chapter, try the following method.

First, skim through the chapter just reading the first sentence or two of each paragraph. Pay attention to things like sub-headings or bold text. If the chapter has an introduction and conclusion, read them.

Then look to see if there are any study questions at the end of the chapter, if so read through them. The goal here is just to get the big picture in mind.

Then go back and read the chapter completely. As you read, underline or highlight answers to any of the study questions.

Then put the book down and either rest or exercise. Studies have shown that by turning your mind from a focused mode (reading) to a diffuse mode (resting or exercising) you allow your subconscious to continue to work.

The next day, go back to the chapter and try to answer the study questions. If you can’t answer them, search for the answers in the textbook.

Once you’ve answered all of the questions, quickly skim through the chapter again. Then go rest. You’ll be amazed at how much your reading retention will increase. Plus, the more you practice this method the more you will retain.

3.) Return to old school note taking

Electronics are everywhere and increasingly students are turning to electronic means for note taking. My experience, however, has shown me that old fashioned manual note taking is better for most students.

My hunch is that writing with pen and paper, slows the brain down and allows the student to concentrate better. But it also helps to eliminate the distractions presented by electronics.

When I met with Jeremy towards the middle of his first semester he was almost ready to give up. But he took my advice, stayed in school and started using these three simple steps to improve his studying. He began to see immediate results.

That first semester he didn’t make the deans list, but he did every semester after that until he graduated. Jeremy is now pursuing a graduate degree in education. He says that he plans to teach all of his future students these three simple study habits.

Jeremy’s story reminds us that little tweaks can make a big difference in your study habits. Just give them a try and then help someone else by sharing this article.

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