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The 10 Most Effective Study Tips for College Students

Kimberly Hirsch

November 7, 2022

 "The only place where success comes before work is in the dictionary." -Vince Lombardi

It's exam day. You're completely exhausted and running on fumes. Last night's study cram session kept you awake well into the early morning. You are grateful for the coffee that got you through. You fish around your bag for a sharp pencil as you look around and see your well-rested peers ready to take the exam. Your mind goes blank, and you're in panic mode as you read the first few questions. You vaguely remember reading about this last night, but that's as far as your brainpower can extend. 

Sound familiar? If so, then you, my friend, need to learn these ten effective study tips, and you need to learn them fast so you'll never find yourself in that situation again. 

Tip #1: Take Good Notes

 If you take one important thing away from this blog, here it is: take good notes! Don't skimp on note-taking in class, reading a textbook, or listening to an audio recording. Note-taking doesn't come easy to everyone, but it is an incredibly powerful tool because it forces you to comprehend the information by condensing it into smaller parts. Students who take the time to take notes tend to do better in class because they actively participate in learning. The research on note-taking over the past few decades all point in one direction--its effectiveness. The studies encourage students to add visuals to their notes, take lengthy notes, and even improve their note-taking skills by taking courses.  

Tip #2: Do Your Reading

While textbook reading can be laborious and less exciting, it's essential. Your professors assign reading passages for you to gain knowledge for their class; if you skip even one, they will pile up fast. If you miss them all, you will be unprepared for your exams, and your assignments could suffer too. Getting those readings done is the best way to keep on top of the course and be fully prepared. If you incorporate note-taking as you read, you will gain an even deeper understanding of the material resulting in better exam scores. Find a routine for reading and stick to it. Break the assignment into smaller chunks, use a highlighter or sticky notes as tools to help you comprehend, and consider audiobooks on occasion if they are available. 

Tip #3: Rewrite Your Notes

I might start sounding like a broken record, but note-taking is effective, and rewriting your notes can be even more effective. Synthesizing and summarizing are methods of comprehension that can be very effective. Sometimes when you're writing your notes the first time, you may write so quickly to get the information down that you didn't fully comprehend it, or you may have even left bits of pieces out that are still in your memory. Rewriting your notes within 24 hours will ensure the information is fresh in your memory and allow you to fill in any gaps. 

Tip #4: Join a Study Group

There's knowledge in numbers! Pooling the ability of your classmates can be a mighty thing. You can keep each other accountable for studying; some classmates may bring different perspectives or a deeper understanding of the course content to the group. Just be wary of who you invite to your study groups because you don't want it to turn into a social event. Limit social chat and stay focused on what you came to do. Take turns or designate one person to lead the group and stay on track.  

Tip #5: Get Enough Sleep 

If you're finding it hard to stay focused when you study, difficult to concentrate on schoolwork, and your overall academic performance could use a boost, ask yourself if you're getting enough sleep at night. Chances are, the answer is no. College students are notorious for being sleep-deprived. Sleep is often a sacrifice because of the demands of college, working on the side, and making time for friends. According to studies, college students should get 7-9 hours of sleep each night, but most do not. Sleep deprivation has many consequences, especially when it becomes a habit. According to a publication by Harvard Summer School, "College students who prioritize sleep are likely to see any improvement in their academic performance" and improvements in many other areas as well. So take a mental note now to make sleep a priority.

Tip #6: Set up Your Study Space 

Sometimes it's the simple things that make life more enjoyable. The same is true for studying. A few simple things can make learning pleasant and more effective. If you know you've got a lengthy study session, set yourself up first. You'll want a space that's comfortable, quiet, and free of distractions. If you prefer to study with music, set that up for yourself too. Have snacks and coffee within reach and any study tools like highlighters, sticky notes, books, notebooks, and pencils. You don't want to find yourself deep into studying only to have to stop to find your supplies or grab a snack. A great tip is to set up a small aromatherapy diffuser nearby to diffuse essential oils that will help promote concentration and focus while studying. Peppermint, rosemary, lavender, eucalyptus, lemon, and ylang-ylang are all effective study aids.  

Tip #7: Stay Organized 

Keeping yourself organized helps save you a ton of time and sanity. For starters, grab yourself a high-quality planner. Write down when your exams are and when assignments are due. Pencil in your study groups and get ahead of your plans. Knowing when important dates are coming up allows you to schedule specific dates and times for studying. Maybe every morning with your coffee for 30 minutes. Or After dinner in the library on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays. Whatever your schedule is, having it written down in a planner makes you much more likely to follow through on it and more likely that you will make studying a routine.

 When it comes to your classes, keep a separate notebook for each. Nothing is more disorganized than a notebook with random notes from different courses on each page. It's not only illogical but very confusing. 

Tip #8: Limit Distractions 

While this one is so obvious, it's so easy to overlook. Cell phones, friends, and noise can all enter your study environment so quickly, forcing you to pause your studying and possibly never get back to it. Go into studying with the full intention of limiting all distractions. Put a sign on your door, silence your cell phone, or go to the library. Whatever you need to do to limit those distractions, do them. If social media is your downfall, try downloading the Forest App. It encourages you to stay off your phone by rewarding you virtually when you do. You plant seeds and watch them grow into trees. If you cave and leave the app, your tree will die. It's a clever and effective way to stay off your phone for an intended amount of time to focus on studying. 

Tip #9: Use "Active Study" Techniques 

If you are a visual learner like me, active studying can be your best friend in college. There have been many studies done to show just how effective active study techniques are. Using mnemonic devices, study cards, memory, mind maps, and other active learning techniques "requires students to think, discuss, challenge, and analyze information" more than passive learning. If you are still determining which active studying strategy to use, try them all at different times and see what works best for you.

Tip #10: Use Campus Resources

Colleges and Universities are for college students! They want to see you succeed, and part of that is providing you with all the resources you need, so take advantage of them all. It will probably be the only time in your life when most of the resources available are free (well, included in your tuition may be more like it). Use the library regularly to familiarize yourself with what it can offer you. Get to know your professor after class and visit him during office hours to see what he can help with. He may have additional information or may be able to offer you some study aids or practice tests. If you are struggling to perform well academically, you don't have to go at it alone. There are likely tutors available for you to seek out. And if stress and anxiety are taking a toll on your studies, seek out mental health resources immediately. The key to finding great help is to ask.


There you have it! If you are struggling to get into a solid habit of studying, start by implementing a few of these right away and continue to up your study game by adding in a few more until you're satisfied with your academic performance. Just know that everyone learns differently, so what might work for your roommate may not work for you. The key is finding what does work and turning it into a routine. 

Do you know someone who could use these tips? Don't hesitate to share this post with them too.



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