College is important, but to most people it is not everything and that is okay. For those who really believe in higher education, like myself, we often have educational goals we want to meet. Some college students forget what their goals are as the years pass or their goals change. It’s completely normal and even a little expected. No matter what your goals are, you should always keep in mind the most likely reasons you chose to go to college were to get a degree and to get a higher paying job once you graduated. Well, studying for success is going to help you get those two things.
College can be fun, hard, boring, exciting, and overwhelming. You only make it harder on yourself when you don’t study. How are you supposed to get a degree if your grades are too low? How will you get a well-paid job if you don’t get that degree? It is possible, but having a degree certainly makes it a bit easier, but only a bit so remember that. A college degree isn’t the answer to everything, but it can be the start of something. Even so, I like to think the following – “Get that Degree, Get that Money!”
Throughout all the craziness of college life, studying seems to get pushed to the background. It’s understandable that life gets so busy sometimes and you can’t do everything, especially things that might take up most of your time, like studying. You read a few textbook chapters and think you understand the lesson, but then you forget what you read. You take notes during class and think you understand the lecture, but everything that was said went in one ear and out the other. You attend a few tutoring sessions and you think you’re doing yourself a favor, but then you still don’t know what you are learning in class. These issues are why studying is so important.
How does one study? When you study something, you are trying to cultivate knowledge and get your brain to process that information. You are trying to make sense of whatever it is you are studying. The first thing you need to know about studying is that it is different for everyone. People learn in different ways, at different paces, and in different stages. For me, I like to read, highlight, take notes on what I highlighted, and then find examples or a way to apply all of what I’ve done to real life situations. I identify principles and then focus on understanding through practical application. Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t. Also, it sounds like a lot, but I can assure you that it isn’t.
There are a ton of different strategies and approaches to studying, but simply doing the bare minimum without the intention to truly understand is not studying. For example, reading a textbook passage and then trying to memorize the key terms and featured facts is doing the bare minimum and doesn’t usually work out too well. When you do such things, you are exercising your short term memory and hoping that the benefits of your long term memory will prevail. It’s like trying to force your brain to just know something without having a grasp on it and then hoping that your instincts and second nature take over for you to get it right.
To study for success, you can use various noted strategies or take on a trial-by-error approach until you find what is right for you. Some common methods include the following:
- Dual Coding – pictures and words, verbal and visual
- Paronomasia – “play on words or pun, often used as a rhetorical device to exploit the confusion of words with similar sounds but different meanings” (Source: literarydevices.net)
- Mnemonic Devices – memory techniques to help retain information, usually by using the first letters of words in phrases and creating a name that is easy to recall. Most common is ROYGBIV (the rainbow) or EGBDF (Every Good Boy Does Fine; for those learning the treble clef lines on the piano)
I could mention a million different study techniques, but I really think people should do their own research to find what works best for them. So, please do your research if you feel like the way you study isn’t working for you! I will offer 4 tips for Studying for Success, though…
- Choose an environment where you are comfortable. The library is always a good place, but some people feel like it is too clinical and causes too much pressure. Your bedroom/dorm can be a good place as long as you can overcome major distractions, like your bed.
- Silence is not always Golden. No one says you have to study in silence. Sometimes an environment that is too quiet is a major distraction. If you need to play some music or listen to the television while studying then do so. The key to studying successfully with background noise is to make sure that the noise is at a comfortable level that doesn’t distract you. If you find yourself paying too much attention to what is on television or you start singing and dancing more than you are studying, then readjust the noise level and carry on.
- Take Breaks. It is okay to take a break from studying for 5 – 10 minutes. Consistent, but short breaks give you time to process what you were studying and they take the pressure off by allowing you to relax and recharge for a moment. This is especially important if what you are studying is on a computer screen, as your eyes need to rest just like your mind does.
- The success of your study session relies solely on you! This, to me, is a very important tip to remember. No one is responsible for giving you the perfect environment for studying. No one is going to force you to study, and no one is going to stop you from studying (hopefully). If it’s too loud and distracting in your room, dorm, house, etc. then it’s on you to find a calming environment (this can be especially important to remember when you have a roommate – which I will cover in a different blog post). If you have too many things going on, like school, work, family responsibilities, then you need to find the right time to study and make it a priority. If studying and getting good grades is important to you, then you need to find a way to make it work. Do not rely on other people to stay quiet, to give you space, to remind you to study, or to be on your schedule when you need to study. It’s not their jobs to make sure you succeed, although it would be nice if they cared enough to help you succeed.
What tips do you have for studying? I would love to know how you study and why you think it works for you. Comment below to share!